Two men attempted to extort £50,000 from a member of the Royal Family by threatening to release sound recordings containing claims that he performed oral sex on a male aide, a court heard yesterday.
A jury at the Old Bailey in London was told that Ian Strachan and Sean McGuigan initially tried to sell the recordings of allegations made by the aide to several national newspapers before then attempting to blackmail the royal.
A reporter from the News of the World met Mr Strachan, 31, on several occasions and gave him hired recording equipment to obtain further footage of the allegations from the royal aide.
It is alleged that the aide, described by Mr Strachan as the royal's "right hand man" and close confidant, was filmed snorting cocaine and making disparaging and scurrilous remarks about other members of the Royal Family. The identity of the royal is protected from disclosure by a court order and he is being referred to during the trial as witness A.
During eight hours of audio and video recordings made early last year, the aide, who was seemingly drunk or "under the influence of other substances" for much of the time, described how his employer allegedly performed a sex act on him on a kitchen floor during a party. The recordings were made by Mr Strachan, from Fulham, west London, on a mobile phone owned by Mr McGuigan, 41, from Battersea, south London, the court heard.
The jury was told that, after the News of the World decided not to print a story about the tapes, the defendants approached The Sun, the Sunday Express, the Mail on Sunday and the publicist Max Clifford in an attempt to sell their material.
When all the papers declined to publish the material, the two men decided instead to target witness A in July 2007 and began attempts to contact him and his office, it is claimed.
Mark Ellison QC, for the prosecution, told the opening day of the trial: "What the defendants decided to do was turn their attention from the media to witness A himself, the member of the Royal Family who employed the man they had recorded and who was the one most likely to be damaged and embarrassed by the public revelation of the files."
The lawyer added there was "undoubtedly an element of subtlety" in the way the men allegedly attempted to extort money from the royal. The pair were arrested after representatives of witness A approached police and an undercover officer recorded the defendants describing the contents of the tapes at the Hilton Hotel in Park Lane, London, where they expected to collect the £50,000.
The court heard Mr McGuigan had earlier approached members of the royal's entourage claiming to want to protect him from the material being made public. Mr Strachan allegedly told a friend of the royal he had been offered £100,000 for the tapes – a claim described by Mr Ellison as a "blatant lie" – but was prepared to accept £50,000 from witness A. Both defendants deny a charge of making "an unwarranted demand with menaces".
Mr Strachan told the undercover officer that he wanted to expose the aide, referred to as witness D, for being "not a very nice person" and accused him of spiking the drinks of men, including himself, with the date rape drug Rohypnol before sexually assaulting them.
Describing the contents of the tapes, Mr Strachan said: "D drunk at parties telling stories including how A confides in him about everything and told him how angry he was with another member of the Royal Family and that another 'flashed his willy' in his face when they were in the lavatory together."
The case continues.