Duchess of York in tabloid sting

The Duchess of York is “devastated”
and “regretful” after she was filmed in a tabloid newspaper sting apparently
offering to sell access to her ex-husband Prince Andrew for £500,000, her spokeswoman
said today.

The Duchess, currently en route to
Los Angeles, told a reporter posing as an Indian businessman that the payment
would “open doors” and was filmed sitting in front of a table with a large
amount of cash laid out on it.

There is no suggestion that Prince
Andrew, who works as an unpaid special representative for UK Trade &
Investment, a government agency, was ever aware of the meetings or the claims
said to have been made by the duchess.

Rumours of money troubles have
dogged the Duchess of York since her divorce from Prince Andrew in 1996.

Last month it emerged she faced
legal action over an unpaid bill of up to £100,000, and last year it was
claimed that financial concerns had led plans to celebrate her 50th birthday to
be scaled down.

The week before her birthday it had
emerged that the New York-based company Hartmoor LLC, set up to manage her US
career in publishing, public speaking and media work, was expected to close
with debts of around £600,000.

The News of the World claims the
duchess met its reporter twice, in New York on May 13 and in London last week.

In the film, the duchess is seen
telling the reporter: “£500,000 when you can, to me, open doors.” Asked if she
was referring to the Prince, she said “Yeah”, then shook hands with the
reporter before apparently accepting a US $40,000 (£27,600) cash down-payment.

She appeared to tell him how to
transfer £500,000 into her bank, saying: “Then you meet Andrew and that’s fine.
And that’s, that’s when you really open up whatever you want.”

The Prince met “the most amazing
people” in his role as special representative, but was “completely whiter than
white”, she said.

The paper said that although Prince
Andrew knew nothing of the deal, his ex-wife claimed to have discussed it with
him, saying:

“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,” she said.

The duchess also claimed she got a
divorce settlement of only £15,000.

After her divorce, the duchess
became a children’s author, a charity activist and fronted Weight Watchers’ US
operation.

Tonight she is expected to pick up
an award in Los Angeles for her work with underprivileged children at an awards
ceremony organised by children’s charity Variety.

The Duke and Duchess of York have
remained close friends.

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman
declined to comment on the allegations.

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