Fri, Oct 22, 2004 - Page 3 News List

`Prince of Byzantium' defends honor

SCAM ARTIST?A self-proclaimed imperial prince and the people he has granted titles to are upset over recent reports that he is a fake and that the titles are meaningless

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

A self-described descendent of Byzantine emperors yesterday denied media reports that he sold fake titles of nobility to Taiwanese celebrities for profit under the cover of charity work.

The man, who calls himself Prince Henri Constantine de Vigo Aleramico Lascaris Paleologo, Head of the Imperial House of Byzantium, accused Next magazine and several TV channels of smearing his humanitarian activities in Taiwan.

A report in the Oct. 7 issue of the Next magazine said Henri is a scam artist who knights celebrities who are willing to pay exorbitant sums for aristocratic titles in the defunct empire.

"The Byzantine Emperor met his demise in the 15th century. How can this Henri, who claims to be an heir to the Imperial House of Byzantine, still knight people around the world?" asked an Ettoday TV report.

The reports also said that in 2000, Chinese policemen found that Sara Kuo (郭莎拉), whom Henri appointed as his "Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Asia Pacific Area," was a gang member in Hong Kong and Shenzhen.

Lin Jyr-yih (林直義), a chief consultant of the Imperial Byzantine Order of the Star of Asia -- a title bestowed by Henri -- called a press conference to defend the "prince's" reputation and said Henri was shocked by the media reports.

An English-language letter written by Henri, who is currently in Europe, was read at the press conference. The letter, however, contained numerous grammatical mistakes.

The prince said in the letter that his "ambassador" in Taiwan sent him a report saying some media outlets in this countey published "untrue and libelous" reports about him and his royal house.

"I feel shock very much; what [is] even more incredible is how come such kind of report have come up in a highly intelligent, Taiwanese society," the letter said.

Truth or con?

* Prince Henri Constantine de Vigo Aleramico Lascaris Paleologo claims to be the head of the Imperial House of Byzantium

* `Next' magazine said Henri is a con artist who knights celebrities willing to pay for aristocratic titles

* A cursory search of the Internet shows numerous reports questioning the veracity of Henri's claims

"However, the contents of those reports are so inaccurate about European culture and international relevant information, and I deeply feel so regret [sic] and sorrow about their extremely smear [sic] to the humanity [sic]," the letter said.

Henri said the "international society" recognized his royal status and right to confer titles of nobility.

He said he seriously declared to "those media which did [sic] the untrue reports to do the rectify and correcting report in fully true details, and to publish a public apology so that the public will know the whole truth."

"However, holding the dignity and justice, I preserve the right of lawsuit to the media [sic] which published the untrue reports," the letter said.

Kuo, who did not appear at the press conference, also wrote a letter to the press expressing her "sadness" over the media reports.

On May 26, 2002, Henri and his wife "knighted" nine Taiwanese, including the influential Master Hsing Yu (星雲), in a ceremony at Taipei's Grand Hotel.

Lin, who was also "knighted" in the ceremony, displayed a collection of photocopies of historical records, letters and legal documents to prove Henri's identity.

The documents contained numerous factual, spelling and grammatical errors.

Lin Fu-shen (林福順), a former law professor at National Taiwan University and presidential advi-sor, who attended the press conference, said he had studied several libel suits that Henri had filed against "a number of European media outlets" that had said the prince was a fraud.

"Courts in France, Italy and Russia all ruled Prince Henri winner of the cases and said that he is an authentic prince," said the professor, who was fired from the university for sexual harassment.

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