A well-known socialite on the London club scene has been named as one of the alleged blackmailers behind the royal sex and drugs blackmail plot.
Ian Strachan, 30, of Chelsea, and Sean McGuigan, 40, of Battersea, have been charged with attempting to blackmail the royal over video evidence, in which an aide allegedly claimed the royal performed a sex act on the assistant.
Meanwhile, the royal at the centre of the plot is facing fresh agony today as speculation about their identity was circulated on the internet.
The victim of an alleged £50,000 extortion attempt was granted anonymity by the courts. But the court order was compromised amid increasing gossip by internet discussion groups.
The possible disclosure of the identity raises serious questions over the ability of the courts to police the web.
The alleged blackmail victim is not a senior member of the royal family. The pair allegedly demanded £50,000 from the royal not to release tapes.
The footage is said to show cocaine being cut up on a coffee table with a Harrods chargecard before being snorted by a royal aide. There are also claims the aide was given an envelope marked with the royal insignia containing cocaine.
The recordings are believed to have been made by mobile phone and by hidden tape recorders at a flat near Buckingham Palace.
Strachan, 30, is a university-educated businessman and socialite who is said to be a well-known figure on the London club scene.
Originally from Aberdeen, he claims to socialise on the fringes of the Royal circle. He has told his lawyers he has met Princes William and Harry twice as well as Zara Phillips and Lord Frederick Windsor.
Strachan was born Paul Adalsteinson, but took his mother’s name after his parents separated. He lives with his mother in Chelsea.
One of McGuigan’s neighbours, on the edge of a council estate, today described him as “rough”. He said: “He is not the kind of guy I would want to get to know and no one else here would either.”
Both Strachan and McGuigan have been remanded in custody.
Rome-based lawyer Giovanni Di Stefano, representing Strachan, claimed a video of the alleged sex act had never existed.
He said: “I wish to state there is no tape of a sex act in existence. What there is in existence are tapes, both audio and visual of an assistant to a member of the royal Family boasting of how the person received a sex act from this [member of the) royal family] – whether that act took place I do not know.”
Mr Di Stefano said he was contacted by Strachan’s mother on 9 September – two days before Strachan’s arrest – while he was in Iraq representing Saddam Hussein’s deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz.
“At no time did my client call the royal household,” added Mr Di Stefano. “He in fact called the private business office of the individual concerned.
“My client denies that he asked for any money and that it was in fact the office of the individual concerned who first offered money.”
He said Strachan was being held in topsecurity Belmarsh jail.
The alleged blackmailers are understood to have contacted at least three national newspapers in a bid to sell the tapes earlier this year. It is understood a Sunday tabloid initially began investigating the claims before losing interest and alerting the royal household.
The video footage of the aide was allegedly shot in a flat in south-west London close to Buckingham Palace. When contacted, the aide, who was allegedly filmed said: “I cannot talk. I am having lunch with my friends.î
The alleged victim has refused to comment on the plot. Buckingham Palace said the allegations were “a matter for the police.”
It is thought to be the first time in more than 100 years that a member of the royal family has been targeted for blackmail.
Metropolitan Police intervened after being contacted by the royal, who is said to have received a series of threatening phone calls.
Posing as an aide, an undercover detective contacted the alleged blackmailers and arranged a rendezvous at the London Hilton in Park Lane on 11 September.
The meeting was filmed secretly by officers in an adjacent room. Parts of the blackmail video are said to have been shown before detectives seized it and arrested two men.
In a statement, Scotland Yard said yesterday: “A 30-year-old man and 40-year-old man appeared at City of Westminster magistrates’ court on 13 September, each charged with one count of blackmail.
“Both have been remanded in custody to reappear at the Old Bailey on 20 December.” The internet has been awash with the details of the alleged blackmail attempt since it was first revealed.
Because of the design of the internet, it is virtually impossible to delete information once it has appeared online, as it can be stored on thousands of different computer servers.
While large media organisations can be told to remove information, the millions of small sites are impossible to police, as servers reside in every continent and are subject to local laws.
Social networking sites such as Facebook also allow unmoderated postings, although posts can be deleted at a later date by staff. However, thousands of chatrooms and discussion groups online are completely uneditable.
On September 11, a detective from the Metropolitan Police’s kidnap and blackmail unit posing as a member of the Royal Household met the men in a suite at the Hilton hotel on Park Lane in Mayfair.
They were arrested as they played the “sex” tape.
It is understood they had material from mobile phone camera footage as well as hidden tape recorders.
The video is said to show cocaine being cut up on a coffee table with a Harrods charge card before being snorted by the royal aide.
The person in question also apparently makes allegations of a sex act which took place between the two before asking for “more cocaine”.
Mr Di Stefano said he was contacted by his client two days before his arrest. At the time he was in Iraq, where he represents Tariq Aziz, who served as deputy prime minister under Saddam Hussein’s rule and was a high-profile figure in the ousted regime.
The lawyer said he was too busy at the time and was unable to help the man accused of blackmail.
“A few days later I received a phone call from his mother telling me what had happened and asking me for help. That is how I came to be involved in the case.”
Scotland Yard confirmed that two men have been charged with blackmail.
A spokesman said: “A 30-year- old man and a 40-year-old man appeared at City of Westminster magistrates’ court on September 13, each charged with one count of blackmail.” The pair are in custody.
The hearing was held “in camera” with no members of the press or public present.
So why was the court case held in such secrecy?
Blackmail victims are routinely granted anonymity but it is rare for their cases to be held in secret.
This is because British law dictates that courts must be open to the public and Press so justice “can be seen to be done”.
But judges in blackmail cases are allowed to make an exception to this principle and hear the evidence in private if it is ruled that the victim requires such special protection.
The decision on whether to conduct proceedings “in camera” is decided on a case-by-case basis.
The Crown Prosecution Service advises the court to exercise this power only if it feels that the public’s presence “would genuinely frustrate the administration of justice”.
A CPS spokesman said last night that the decision is not based on how highprofile the victim is, but on the sensitivity of the case.
Last year, two judges who accused a Brazilian cleaner known as ‘chilli hot stuff’ of blackmailing them over a sex tape were granted anonymity.
However, unlike the royal blackmail case, the trial was still held in public.
And, in a surprise move, the court lifted the ban on 60-year-old Judge Mohammed Ilyas Khan during the trial because of his poor behaviour.
The cleaner, Roselane Driza, was jailed for stealing and threatening to sell the tape.
But her conviction was overturned on appeal in July this year amid claims that the female judge in the case was an unreliable witness.