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Two charged in smear plot against Monaco prince’s entourage

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Two men have been charged with illegally accessing private information as part of an online campaign against people close to Monaco’s Prince Albert II, French prosecutors said Sunday.

The suspects face charges of “covering up attacks on an automatic data handling system”, Paris investigators told AFP, confirming a report by the weekly Journal du Dimanche (JDD).

Both men — a Belgian businessman and a Monegasque lawyer — were arrested on Tuesday as part of a probe by the Paris police’s cybercrime unit.

They are suspected of involvement in a website calling itself “Dossiers du Rocher” (“The Rock Files”, referring to Monaco by its nickname) which hosted videos, confidential email conversations, and hostile articles dealing with property development in the principality.

Huge sums of cash are at stake in property deals in Monaco, a micro-state where one square metre (11 square feet) of living space can sell for up to 100,000 euros ($100,000).

A criminal complaint was filed in November 2021 about the site by four men, the JDD reported, naming them as Albert II’s chief of staff Laurent Anselmi, lawyer and childhood friend of prince Thierry Lacoste, supreme court president Didier Linotte and the prince’s wealth manager Claude Palmero.

One source close to the investigation told the paper that the two suspects charged this week were “probably playing second fiddle in a well-orchestrated operation”.

They added that the methods used, including hacking private email inboxes as well as setting up foreign websites and artificially inflating traffic to them would require “significant financial resources”.

Prosecutors are still investigating potential crimes including fraudulently acquiring data and intercepting electronic communications.