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Di death driver paid $180,000

Australian Herald Sun | June 16 2005

THE chauffeur who crashed the car in which Princess Diana died received almost $180,000 in the weeks leading up to the accident.

The mystery payments to Henri Paul, who also died in the 1997 Paris tunnel car crash, dwarfed his annual $47,000 salary as a driver.
The payments -- mostly from British banks -- were discovered by auditors assisting the UK investigation into Diana's death.

The revelations will fuel conspiracy theories that Mr Paul was being paid by British spymasters -- an allegation first raised by an ex-MI6 agent shortly after the crash.

Mr Paul was already known to have built up a small fortune in a global network of 13 separate bank accounts.

This was despite his modest salary as a driver at the Ritz, owned by Mohamed Al Fayed, retail tycoon and father of Diana's boyfriend, Dodi, who died with her.

The new findings are the first evidence Mr Paul received payments directly from Britain.

"The money arrived via a banker's draft and was converted into French francs from sterling," a source "close to the investigation" told Britain's Daily Express.

The British link was discovered only with new financial search powers granted in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the US.

The new laws allow finance police to probe almost any account in the world -- impossible during the initial crash investigations.

Claims that Mr Paul was in the pay of British spymasters were first raised by renegade former MI6 spy Richard Tomlinson, who said the French driver was paid for supplying Britain's intelligence service with gossip about Ritz guests.

Mr Al Fayed has led conspiracy theories suggesting MI6, working for the royals, arranged for Diana's murder by presenting the Paris crash as an accident.

The Daily Express has largely acted as a conduit for the theories of Mr Al Fayed, who owns London's Harrods.

It is also understood French police have reopened investigations into Mr Paul's blood sample amid continuing allegations that it was swapped.

The sample provided to police indicated Mr Paul was high on a cocktail of drink and drugs at the time of the crash.

The complexity of the money trail has delayed the investigation's scheduled conclusion from December last year to next January.

The Scotland Yard investigation, led by former British police chief Sir John Stevens, will precede the official British inquest on Diana.

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