Journalists accused of blackmailing Morocco king

PARIS • Two French journalists have been charged in Paris with trying to blackmail the king of Morocco, legal sources said yesterday.

Eric Laurent and Catherine Graciet, who have been held since Thursday, were released on bail, the sources said.

The pair, who are working on a book about King Mohammed VI, were arrested after a meeting with a Moroccan official at which they were given money, a source close to the French investigation told AFP, confirming remarks made by a lawyer for the Moroccan government. "A sum of money was handed over and accepted," the source said, adding that the journalists were being probed for attempted extortion and attempted blackmail.

Mr Eric Dupond-Moretti, a lawyer for the Moroccan government, told RTL radio that Laurent contacted the palace last month, saying he was writing a book on the king. The journalist allegedly demanded three million euros (S$4.8 million) in hush money not to publish the book, which reportedly contains damaging revelations.

Graciet's lawyer, Mr Eric Moutet, confirmed the existence of a "financial deal" but said his client had been caught in a "trap".

The publisher, Editions du Seuil, said that the pair, who already have one title about the Moroccan leader under their belt, were working on another for publication "in January or February".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 30, 2015, with the headline 'Journalists accused of blackmailing Morocco king'. Print Edition | Subscribe