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British reporters expose lax security at palace

BUCKINGHAM Palace said yesterday it had suspended a royal chauffeur alleged to have let undercover journalists enter Queen Elizabeth's London residence and sit in her car in return for a bribe.

The tabloid newspaper News of The World said two of its reporters posing as Middle East businessmen paid 1,000 pounds (US$1,580) to the chauffeur to evade security checks at the palace.

The paper said the story exposed lax security at the palace. "We could have been al-Qaida, we could have had a bomb or at least a tracking device," it said.

It said the chauffeur took them to a garage storing Bentley and Rolls-Royce limousines used by the royal family and even let a reporter sit in one of the vehicles.

The palace said it took security matters very seriously. "An individual has been suspended pending an investigation into allegations by a newspaper," a royal spokeswoman said.

Police said they would discuss the matter with royal staff. "We are naturally concerned about the issues raised by this story and are liaising with palace officials about their staff security arrangements," a Metropolitan Police spokeswoman said.

Royal residences have suffered a number of high-profile security breaches in recent years, prompting the appointment of a security supremo after Daily Mirror reporter Ryan Parry spent two months in 2003 working undercover at Buckingham Palace.

He was employed as a footman, walking the queen's corgi dogs and serving her drinks, despite having applied for the job with a false reference.

An official security report following that incident concluded that the most likely threats came from the press or individuals trying to test security measures. But it warned that weaknesses could also be exploited by terrorists.


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