The cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Michael of Kent, was willing to use his royal status for personal gain and to seek favors from Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to an investigative report by British media.
Prince Michael, who has denied the claims, is the latest British royal who has come under public scrutiny.
The report also comes at a time of deteriorating relations between the UK and Russia, notably after the 2018 poisoning of a former Russian spy in England.
What did the reports uncover?
Channel 4's "Dispatches" program and the weekly The Sunday Times newspaper set up a fake South Korean gold company — House of Haedong — with reporters posing as investors seeking to collaborate and extend their business in Russia.
The reports say the 78-year-old prince was caught offering to sell the fake investors access to the Kremlin.
The prince's business partner Simon Reading, the Marquess of Reading, described the prince as "Her Majesty's unofficial ambassador to Russia."
Reading reportedly told the undercover investors that Prince Michael could be hired for 10,000 pounds ($14,000; €11,000) a day to make "confidential" representations on behalf of the House of Haedong to Putin.
"We're talking relatively discreetly here because we wouldn't want the world to know that he is seeing Putin purely for business reasons," Reading reportedly 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,'' he added. "It just opens the door, you know, which is so helpful."
Prince Michael also allegedly told the reporters via Zoom call that he would give their company his royal endorsement in a recorded speech for a $200,000 charge, with his home in Kensington Palace as a backdrop for the endorsement.
Royal has "strong interest" in Russia
The prince and his wife, Princess Michael of Kent, are not working members of the royal family but have represented the Queen in the past.
According to the Royal Family website, the prince is "connected to Russia through his maternal grandmother" and has "a strong interest in the country."
The biography said he "became the first member of the Royal Family to learn Russian, ultimately qualifying as a Russian interpreter."
mvb/rs (AP, AFP)