The Queen’s jubilee year is not shaping up to be a smooth one. As Queen Elizabeth battles COVID, heir apparent Charles has become the latest royal to be swept up in controversy. The Prince’s charity is currently under investigation by Scotland Yard over the so-called ‘cash for honours’ scandal.
The official investigation was announced last week, and will be carried out by the same division that is looking into Downing Street parties held during lockdown.
Last year, allegations emerged that The Prince’s Foundation had accepted money from a Saudi billionaire in exchange for a UK citizenship and a knighthood. Michael Fawcett, former chief executive of the Foundation and long-time aide to Charles, resigned over these claims.
An initial probe conducted by auditing firm Ernst & Young in 2021 revealed Fawcett had coordinated with fixers to carry out a deal with Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz. Mahfouz made a donation of over £1.5 million ($2.8 million) to heritage restoration projects of interest to the Prince, including residences Charles utilised.
In return, the Foundation allegedly helped Mahfouz acquire British citizenship, and Charles awarded him an honorary CBE in a private ceremony in 2016. A letter from Fawcett to Mahfouz written in 2017 proclaims the Foundation would be “happy and willing” to use its powers to help him.
Fawcett resigned in October last year, agreeing to assist in the investigation into wrongdoing. He was previously accused of selling unwanted royal gifts in 2003, but was cleared of all charges.
Mahfouz has not acknowledged any wrongdoing, and Prince Charles maintains he had ‘no knowledge’ of any deals. Scotland Yard have not asked to interview Charles as part of their investigation.
The case speaks to the changing relationship between the royal family and the media. Royal finances are being scrutinised more publicly than ever before.
Disgraced royal Prince Andrew recently settled his rape case through a $13 million payment to his accuser Virginia Giuffre.It’s unclear who will help him pay it out, as he can’t do it on his own, and many are speculating over whether the queen will assist.
Ed Owens, a royal historian, foreshadows, “The fact that there is this lack of transparency [around royal finances] is going to become increasingly difficult in this social media-driven world. People are more sensitive to the obfuscation.”
To be clear, it is the prince’s Foundation, not Charles himself, that is being investigated. Still, any personal involvement uncovered would be devastating for Prince Charles. Even incriminating material on his aides and staff will interfere with a smooth road to ascension.
As former BBC royal correspondent Peter Hunt has observed, “the clock is ticking…They’re desperately trying to clear the path for Charles. Now, on that path is suddenly strewn Michael Fawcett.”
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