WITH just a week to go before the royal wedding, Meghan Markleâ€™s father is accused of secretly collaborating with a British paparazzi photographer to stage a series of fake pictures.
The images â€” which appeared to show a lonely Thomas Markle browsing images of his daughter and her future husband Prince Harry in an internet cafe â€” have allegedly netted up to $180,000.
Other images apparently showed Mr Markle browsing a coffee-table book entitled Images of Britain as well as getting measured up for his wedding suit.
According to British media reports, the pictures were staged by Thomas Markle and photographer Jeff Rayner near the father of the brideâ€™s home in Rosarito, Mexico.
Another picture appeared to show a rotund Mr Markle lifting weights during an apparent outdoor training session in a bid to get in shape for the big day.
The photographs shocked the world when they were released last week to newspapers, magazines and websites.
But Britainâ€™s Mail on Sunday alleges CCTV footage shows Mr Markle â€” who is set to walk his daughter down the aisle in front of an audience of millions next Saturday â€” setting up the photographs.
In one frame, the Mail on Sunday reports, the photographer is seen aiming his camera at Mr Markle as he looks at an image on-screen of the royal couple.
Witnesses who worked in the businesses where the photographs were taken told the newspaper they saw Mr Markle and the photographer setting up the images.
The latest development will enrage Kensington Palace, which issued a statement weeks ago pleading for Mr Markleâ€™s privacy to be respected after the American claimed he was being â€śharassedâ€ť by the paparazzi.
Just hours before the pictures scandal broke, representatives of Mr Markle wrote to editors around the world and Britainâ€™s Independent Press Standards Organisation saying the former Hollywood lighting director was suffering from media intrusion.
Kensington Palace has so far declined to comment on the latest allegations.
Meghan Markle has a famously fractious relationship with the paternal side of her family, with previous speculation that her father may not even walk her down the aisle.
But it was confirmed earlier this month that Thomas Markle would be taking part in the ceremony.
The father of the bride is reportedly travelling to London this week where he will meet his future son-in-law Prince Harry for the first time.
Ms Markle is extremely close to her mother, Doria Ragland, who will travel with her daughter in the car to St Georgeâ€™s Chapel.
Ms Markle has said it is important to her that both parents play a role on her special day.