News of the World investigations editor Mazher Mahmood claimed possibly his biggest scalp to date after filming the Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson apparently selling access to Prince Andrew for cash.
Last night Ferguson issued a statement saying: ‘I very deeply regret the situation and the embarrassment caused. It is true that my financial situation is under stress. However, that is no excuse for a serious lapse in judgement and I am very sorry that this has happened.”
The News of the World reporting team behind the sting was led by Mahmood but also comprised chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, Carole Aye Maung, Amanda Evans, Robert Jobson, Philip Whiteside and Daniel Sanderson.
The NoW revealed on Sunday that it began its investigation after a royal associate told them that Ferguson was ‘cashing in on unknowing Andrew’by setting up deals with foreign businessmen.
Ferguson apparently agreed to meet an NoW journalist posing as an ‘international tycoon’without checking his credentials.
The first meeting was held at a New York hotel and a second meeting was held at Mosimann’s restaurant in London.
Although an advance party of assistants asked the undercover NoW reporter to sign a confidentiality agreement, the reporter declined to do so. Ferguson went to the meeting anyway. She then went to a private apartment and took $40,000 in cash while being secretly filmed.
On the video soundtrack, the Duchess tells the undercover reporter: “£500,000 when you can, to me, open doors”.
The paper said despite the prince knowing nothing about the deal, the Duchess claimed to have discussed it with him: “Andrew said to me, ‘Tell him £500,000’.
“He knows that he’s had to underwrite me up to now because I’ve got no money. So if you want to meet him in your business, look after me and he’ll look after you … you’ll get it back tenfold.”
The NoW also reported Ferguson saying that she wanted a one per cent cut of any business deals made.
As well as publishing the story in the paper the NoW yesterday put video footage of its undercover sting online.
It is not the first time Mahmood has exposed minor royals for apparently seeking to exploit their connections.
In 2001 Mahmood secretly taped the Countess of Wessex boasting of her royal connections to prospective PR clients. In 2005 he prompted Princess Michael of Kent to make a number of indiscretions about the royal family after posing as an arab businessman interested in buying her house.