Fake Prince Albert cons elite in Monaco: report

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Nice (France) (AFP)

Crooks are impersonating top personalities in Monaco, including even Prince Albert II, to scam money from high-flying victims, reports said Saturday in the Mediterranean principality.

A Prince Albert lookalike had used a video contact supposedly from the ruler's own office to target the elite, the Monaco-Matin newspaper said.

The government of the millionaires' playground issued a statement confirming such stings but without naming the prince, who boasts a fortune estimated at some two billion euros ($2.4 billion).

"For several weeks, individuals who are part of organised groups, have been stealing the identities of high-ranking personalities in the principality and trying to establish personal contact with them ... notably through electronic messages, SMS or video-conferencing via a WhatsApp type of application," the statement said.

It described the targets are "leaders of society or people with responsibility".

Headed notepaper from official bodies in Monaco signed apparently by the relevant people have been transmitted and calls can appear to come from the real numbers for the institution, the government added.

"All this is intended to obtain, under the pretext of an urgent financial need, money transfers from foreign bank accounts, particularly in Asia," the government added.

Monaco-Matin said a journalist had been targeted last autumn in one such con with a fake prince supposedly trying to negotiate the release of a local man kidnapped by an Islamist group.

Police launched an investigation but the con trick seems still to be going on.

Albert took over as ruler of Monaco's 32,000 population after the death of his father Prince Rainier in April 2005.