Men plead not guilty to Royal blackmail charges

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Two men charged with attempting to blackmail a minor member of the Royal Family pleaded not guilty at the Old Bailey today.

Ian Strachan, 30, and Sean McGuigan, 40, were arrested in October after police mounted a sting operation.

They are alleged to have demanded £50,000 not to release a video showing an aide to a member of the Royal Family discussing engaging in oral sex with his employer.

The aide also allegedly claimed that the Royal supplied him with cocaine.

Mr Strachan and Mr McGuigan appeared in court this morning via video link from prison to plead not guilty to making demands with menaces, contrary to the Theft Act 1968.

The men were remanded in custody until their trial begins April 14th. They have been held since their arrest two months ago.

Mr Strachan and Mr McGuigan were arrested after a police officer, posing as another Royal aide, attended a meeting with them at a Hilton hotel in London.

They appeared at City of Westminster Magistrates Court on September 13th. The hearing was held in secret, and the judge issued an order banning any report that could identify the victims or witnesses.

Since The Sunday Times broke the story in October there has been widespread speculation as to the identity of the Royal Family member who is the victim of the alleged blackmail.

He has been named on TV in the US and Australia and on numerous websites.

The British press are legally restrained from revealing the identity of the person, though it has been reported that he does not carry out any public duties.

Buckingham Palace has refused to comment on the alleged blackmail plot, saying only that it is a matter for the police.

The alleged blackmailers first made contact with the Royal Household on August 2nd, claiming to have videotaped evidence of an aide snorting cocaine and discussing how he has had oral sex with a member of the Royal Family.

A senior legal adviser to the Royal Household contacted the alleged blackmailers and arranged to meet and view the tape.

Scotland Yard was alerted and detectives set up a sting operation at the Hilton Hotel in Park Lane.

The September 11th meeting was recorded by officers in an adjacent room as the alleged blackmailers showed a detective posing as a Royal aide the video.

They were then arrested.

Their trial is due to begin at the Old Bailey on Monday 14th April.