Two French journalists face trial in Moroccan king blackmail case
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Two French journalists have been ordered to stand trial on charges of blackmailing the king of Morocco for allegedly demanding money to hush damaging revelations about him, court documents show.
Eric Laurent and Catherine Graciet are accused of seeking millions of euros from King Mohammed VI in 2015 to halt publication of a book about the Moroccan royal family.
In August 2015, the pair were caught by police leaving a meeting in Paris with one of the king’s envoys carrying envelopes stuffed with cash.
Laurent and Graciet, who had written a first book about the Moroccan sovereign in 2012 titled Le roi predateur (The Predator King), had recently signed a deal for a follow-up when Laurent contacted the king’s office in July 2015 to seek an interview.
One of the king’s emissaries eventually agreed to meet with him in Paris, where Laurent briefed him about the book project, telling him it contained potentially damaging claims about the monarchy.
The two sides differ on what happened next.
Laurent, a former reporter with French public radio and Le Figaro newspaper, says that the envoy offered him money to call off publication of the book but Morocco denies that, claiming that it was the reporter who suggested he could be paid off and that he demanded three million euros.
The envoy and journalist met on two further occasions, during which the pay-off was revised downwards to two million euros.
Graciet attended the final meeting in August 2015, at which she and Laurent were handed envelopes containing 40 000 euros in cash.
Unbeknown to the journalists, the envoy had been recording all the meetings and the police were waiting outside to arrest them.
The Moroccan government claims that the cash found on the journalists was the first instalment of the sum demanded by the journalists.
Laurent and Graciet deny the charges.
Their first book about Mohammed VI, which delved into his extensive business dealings, was highly critical of the king and was banned in Morocco.
The follow-up had been slated for publication in early 2016.