Claims that the Queen’s cousin was willing to use his royal status to sell privileged access to Vladimir Putin’s regime have raised questions over whether he should keep his honorary position in the British army, according to Labour.
Prince Michael of Kent allegedly told undercover reporters posing as investors from South Korea that he could be hired for £10,000 a day to make “confidential” representations to the Russian president’s team.
A recording allegedly suggests Prince Michael offered his royal endorsement in exchange for a $200,000 fee during a virtual meeting and was happy to use his home in Kensington Palace as a backdrop for a speech promoting a fake South Korean gold company.
His friend, the Marquess of Reading, later described the prince as “Her Majesty’s unofficial ambassador to Russia”.
Prince Michael has denied the claims, which were made by Channel 4 Dispatches in collaboration with the Sunday Times. Reporters set up a firm called House of Haedong and approached five members of the royal family with an offer of a role.
Michael’s office insisted he had no “special relationship” with Putin and that he had had no contact with the Russian premier or his team since June 2003, when they last met.
But John Healey, the Labour MP and shadow defence secretary, said that the investigation “raises serious questions” about whether the prince should retain his position as senior colonel of the King’s Royal Hussars.
The 78-year-old, who is a first cousin of the Queen, does not receive money from the civil list and earns a living acting as chair of his own private company, which offers consultancy advice.
He was also approached about a role helping the fictitious gold firm in Russia, it was alleged.
The programme said Prince Michael’s business partner, Simon Isaacs, formally known as the Marquess of Reading, had used an event at Kensington Palace in 2013, where Prince Michael was a guest, to sell access to Putin.
The event, to promote the Russian wrestling sport of Sambo, also offered opportunities to personally meet the Russian leader at a later date, Dispatches found.
In a recorded meeting with the undercover reporters, Isaacs said: “If he [Prince Michael] is representing the House of Haedong, he could mention that to Putin and Putin would find the right person who is interested in South Korea or interested in gold. It just opens the door, you know, which is so helpful.”
He added: “I think, if I can say this, this is kind of slightly discreet, we’re talking relatively discreetly here. Because we wouldn’t want the world to know that he is seeing Putin purely for business reasons, if you follow me.”
He went on to describe Prince Michael as “Her Majesty’s unofficial ambassador to Russia” and said tension between the UK and the Russian regime has not affected Michael’s relationship with Putin. He said: “He is just generally regarded as Her Majesty’s unofficial ambassador to Russia. I mean, I say that, you know, between you and me slightly, but I mean it’s generally known that’s the case.”
Prince Michael’s office said: “Prince Michael receives no public funding and earns his own living through a consultancy company that he has run for over 40 years.
“Prince Michael has no special relationship with President Putin. They last met in June 2003 and Prince Michael has had no contact with him or his office since then.
“Lord Reading is a good friend who in trying to help made suggestions which Prince Michael would not have wanted, or been able, to fulfil.”
Isaacs said: “I thought the approach from the House of Haedong was genuine and I was only trying to facilitate an introduction to my friend Prince Michael. I made a mistake and over-promised and for that I am truly regretful. I wasn’t at my peak as I was recovering from a kidney transplant.
“For the record, the Sambo event which was eight years ago was my event and Prince Michael was simply my guest along with many other people.”
Dispatches: Royals for Hire, will air at 7.30pm on Monday on Channel 4.