Duchess of York 'Devastated' Over Tabloid Sting
The video captured by the tabloid News of the World shows Sarah Ferguson, 50, telling an undercover reporter posing as a businessman that she will help "open doors" to her ex-husband, an unpaid international trade envoy, for a fee of 500,000 pounds (about $723,500.) The footage also shows Ferguson leaving a London apartment with an initial payment of $40,000 in a black computer case.
Ferguson's spokeswoman, Kate Waddington, confirmed Sunday the recording was authentic, according to an Associated Press report, saying the duchess was "devastated" and regretted the embarrassment she had caused. Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, is Queen Elizabeth II's second son and fourth in line to the throne. He and Ferguson divorced in 1996 but have spoken about their amicable relationship.
In a statement today cited by the BBC, Buckingham Palace said: "The Duke of York categorically denies knowledge of any meeting or conversation between the Duchess of York and the News of the World journalist."
According to the video, taken Tuesday, Ferguson promises to help the man secure a "big deal" using Prince Andrew and his connections. She is seen telling him that with a wire transfer of more than half a million dollars, "you open up all the channels, whatever you need, whatever you want... then you meet Andrew."
Ferguson claimed in the video that the prince was aware of the deal but later stressed that he would not benefit financially from it.
"He never does accept a penny for anything," she told the reporter. "He does not and will not and he's completely whiter than white."
The details of the deal appeared vague, with Ferguson saying she'll connect the man to Andrew's powerful inner circle.
"He meets the most amazing people and he just throws them my way," Ferguson said.
Ferguson's financial woes have been well-documented. Hartmoor, the New York-based company she founded for her various business ventures, folded last year with debts of near $1 million. She also faces court action in the UK for unpaid bills of approximately $300,000. Her once-lucrative television appearances, including a gig as an international ambassador for Weight Watchers, have fizzled in recent years.
The Duchess generated millions of dollars of debt in the 1990s, eventually clearing them with help from profits earned with the release of her autobiography.
According to London's Guardian newspaper, the News of the World reporter who duped Fergie is the tabloid's regular undercover reporter Mazher Mahmood, who has been nicknamed the Fake Sheikh.