Old toffs. Old tricks.

I went to boarding school back in the 60s when most of the ‘masters’ had degrees from Oxford or Cambridge and spoke with upper-class British accents. I was 12 and in my ‘formative years’.

One lesson that’s stuck with me for over half a century is what a sucker I am for that accent. So alluring is it that, whenever I meet someone with a similar accent today, I ask myself: “Are they actually saying something, or is this just dressed-up drivel?”

I was reminded of this on the weekend when I read a Times of London exposé of Prince Michael of Kent (the Queen’s first cousin) who was caught on a Zoom call selling access to Vladimir Putin of Russia. Michael speaks fluent Russian, looks like the murdered last Czar of Russia Czar Nicholas, and has done business for years in Moscow.

Reporters went undercover posing as representatives of a fake South Korean gold investment company called House of Haedong. They said the company was interested in investing in Russia and wanted royal endorsement. It’s part of a larger Times and Channel 4 investigation of Britain’s Royals selling access for personal profit.

In February, a Zoom call was set up between two so-called representatives of House of Haedong, one, a Korean woman logging on from Seoul; and the other, her British representative logging on from London. Both were undercover journalists. At the other end of the call was Prince Michael, looking all of his 78 years, and his friend and business adviser, Simon Isaacs, the 4th Marquess of Reading., also 78.

The Korean journalist wanted Prince Michael to open some doors in the Kremlin, which is viewed by Her Majesty’s Government as the No. 1 threat to Britain’s security. He eagerly agreed and set his fee at £50,000 for a four-day trip to Russia. She also asked if he could give a recorded speech endorsing House of Haedong from his home at Kensington Palace.

Said Prince Michael: “I have never had any close connection before with gold, and the idea makes me very happy.”

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