Britain's Duchess of York apologises after paper sting
Britain's Duchess of York apologised Sunday for a "serious lapse in judgment" after she was caught in a newspaper sting apparently offering access to ex-husband Prince Andrew in exchange for cash.
Sarah Ferguson also admitted to financial problems after the News of the World tabloid made secret films of her allegedly agreeing to accept 500,000 pounds from a journalist posing as a businessman.
The paper said she promised to introduce the undercover reporter to the prince, who is Britain's special representative for international trade and investment, and caught her on camera apparently accepting an advance payment.
After the publication of the report Sunday, the duchess issued a full apology for her actions and also said Prince Andrew, Queen Elizabeth II's second son, had not been aware of the meetings.
"I very deeply regret the situation and the embarrassment caused," Ferguson said in a statement.
"It is true that my financial situation is under stress, however, that is no excuse for a serious lapse in judgment and I am very sorry that this has happened."
"I am sincerely sorry for my actions," she added.
Ferguson said that the prince was "not aware or involved in any of the discussions that occurred."
In a separate statement, a spokesman for Buckingham Palace said the Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, "categorically" denied having any knowledge of the meeting between his ex-wife and the undercover reporter.
The paper filmed her allegedly accepting an advance payment of 40,000 dollars (27,600 pounds, 32,000 euros) in cash last Tuesday and quotes her as saying: "I can open any door you want."
The newspaper said the prince knew nothing about it. But the video showed Ferguson saying she had discussed the deal with her former husband, telling the reporter: "Andrew said to me, 'Tell him 500,000 pounds'.
"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 was also filmed explaining that the prince meets "the most amazing people" in his role as special representative.
The couple divorced in 1996 but have remained close friends. According to the paper, the duchess said of their relationship: "We're the happiest divorced couple in the world."
The paper reported the 50-year-old duchess met the fake businessman on two occasions -- first at a New York hotel and then at the exclusive Mosimann's dining club in London.
It said she was then chauffeured with the reporter to a flat where she was shown on the video apparently shaking on a deal to introduce him to her former husband.
The allegations emerged as Ferguson was expected to arrive in Los Angeles on Sunday to pick up an award for her charity work.
Since Ferguson and the prince separated, she has been dogged by rumours of money troubles which have recently escalated.
It emerged last month she was facing legal action from a law firm over an unpaid bill thought to be as much as 100,000 pounds. Last year her plans to celebrate her 50th birthday were reportedly scaled down due to money concerns.
A company set up in the United States to manage her career there in publishing, public speaking and media work is also expected to close with debts of more than half a million pounds.
Ferguson faced a tough task to build herself a career outside Britain's royal family, but managed to carve herself a niche as a children's author and charity activist.
In 1993, she founded Children in Crisis, an organisation which helps educate youngsters around the world and is a patron of other charities.
© 2010 AFP