Every dubious donation Charles received risked degrading monarchy

Every dubious donation Prince Charles received risked degrading the monarchy, writes KATE MANSEY

The only solution to Charles’ scandals is to disclose everyone who has donated to his charity and how much, writes KATE MANSEY

A Saudi tycoon who was promised help to get a knighthood, a former Kremlin banker whose money mysteriously vanished and a suitcase stuffed full of cash and handed directly to the future King.

It sounds like a far-fetched Sunday night drama, but these are all allegations which have rocked the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation in the past year alone.

Two middlemen were dismissed and Charles’s closest aide sacked – not as a result of the Prince’s own findings, but out of embarrassment that The Mail on Sunday made the bombshell revelations public.

When Charles accepted £2.5 million in cash from a Qatari sheik, much of it was in €500 notes – a denomination dubbed the ‘Bin Laden banknote’ because of its association with money-laundering and since scrapped.

Last night, the name, which will forever be associated with terrorism, has another resonance at Clarence House. For it has now been revealed the Prince’s charity accepted a £1million donation from the Bin Laden family themselves. A source close to the Prince’s Foundation desperately sought to explain away the donation, saying the charity’s trustees had decided the evil wrought by Osama Bin Laden, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, ought not to impact on the reputation of the rest of the family.

Why, they reasoned, should the Bin Ladens become global pariahs due to one bad apple? The money provided by wealthy Bin Laden brothers Bakr and Shafiq was above board, they decided. The charitable goals of the Prince of Wales would be one step closer to being realised thanks to this benevolent cash injection.

Let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth. After all, the public would probably never find out, because donations to Charles’s charity were not disclosed. There’s no suggestion anyone benefited personally from all the cash swilling around the Foundation. Yet it was Charles who decided where it was spent.

He has decided that it is right and proper for millions to be spent on Dumfries House, the Ayrshire mansion he ‘saved for the nation’, for example. It boasts a Japanese garden, an allotment in the shape of the Union Flag, an arboretum and a maze. Inside, gold leaf adorns the walls of the house itself. There is a wellness centre funded by a Chinese-American plastic surgeon who stars on a reality TV show.

And as Charles’s ambitions for his charitable empire grew, so did his desire for the cash to fund it. Desperate to make his mark as a lifelong King-in-waiting, he expended ever more energy on trying to secure his legacy.

Once, upon returning from an official visit to Birmingham where he saw a group of excluded school children watching a performance of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Charles set up a new charity: Children & the Arts.

YET even that was engulfed in a scandal when The Mail on Sunday revealed it had been forced to close, swallowing £200,000 from a former Kremlin banker who believed he was gifting the money to another good cause.

It seems Charles’s sons William and Harry had their suspicions about the ever-expanding tentacles of their father’s charitable kingdom some time ago. Rather than join him, they established their own foundation at Kensington Palace.

This was designed to be completely separate to the myriad of charitable ventures established by their father and which by then required a small army of staff to keep them ticking over. Earlier this year, Harry appeared to distance himself from some of his father’s associates, having reportedly raised ‘major concerns’ in an email.

But Charles’s thirst for donations is perhaps best illustrated in a cache of letters currently on sale in America. Revealed by this newspaper earlier this month, the letters show Charles writing incessantly to his American fundraiser, Robert Higdon, to check whether wealthy philanthropists were paying up.

It was Higdon who first designed the plan that Charles would not sit down with donors until they had parted with the cash. No more indigestion from fearing whether a meal with the ghastly nouveau riche was ‘a waste of my time’.

Charles’s aide Michael Fawcett took up Higdon’s blueprint. On August 18, 2017, Mr Fawcett wrote to Busief Lamlum, an aide to Saudi billionaire Mahfouz Marei Mubarak Bin Mahfouz, saying: ‘In light of the … generosity of His Excellency… I am happy to confirm to you, in confidence, that we are willing and happy to support and contribute to the application for Citizenship. I can further confirm that we are willing to make [an] application to increase His Excellency’s honour from Honorary CBE to that of KBE.’

The letter, on official headed paper and published in The Mail on Sunday, is now at the heart of an investigation by the Met police.

Charles has been accused of meddling in politics. Now, in using his position to draw in money for his pet projects, he risks the same criticism. For it’s not his fundraising that is the problem. It is his willingness to degrade his office in exchange for cash for causes that he – and he alone – considers worthy.

It is naivety at best and, at worst, shows a worrying lack of judgment from our future King.

During this Platinum Jubilee year, the only plausible way out of this mess now is to publish a full list of those who have donated to his charities and how much.

Why didn’t he see the danger? Prince Charles’ judgment is questioned yet again after £1m gift from 9/11 terror chief Bin Laden’s half-brothers

By Mark Hookham and Kate Mansey for the Mail on Sunday

Prince Charles was plunged into a fresh fundraising scandal last night after it emerged that his charity accepted £1million from the family of Osama Bin Laden.

The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation (PWCF) secured the huge payment from Bakr and Shafiq Bin Laden, half-brothers of the mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks, it was reported last night. 

The donation came after Charles held a private meeting with Bakr, 76, at Clarence House in 2013 – two years after Bin Laden was killed by US special forces. 

Last night, Royal sources denied claims that Charles personally brokered the controversial deal or that he accepted the money despite objections from advisers. 

They also disputed a report that one of his advisers warned the Prince that ‘it would not be good for anybody’ if it emerged that he had accepted money from the family of the founder of Al Qaeda.

But the revelation in The Sunday Times that the Prince’s charity accepted money from the family of the man behind the worst terror attack in history raises yet more questions about his judgment and the fundraising activities of his charities. 

Nearly 3,000 people, including 67 Britons, were killed during the 9/11 attacks.

Charles, whose judgement is in question once again, is pictured at Sandringham Flower Show

It comes just weeks after it emerged that Charles accepted more than £2.5 million in cash – some of it stuffed into Fortnum & Mason carrier bags and a suitcase – from a former Qatari prime minister.

Osama Bin Laden’s half-brother Bakr came to Clarence House for a meeting in 2013

Bakr and Shafiq were related to Bin Laden through their billionaire father, Mohammed bin Awad Bin Laden, the founder of the BinLadin Group, a huge construction firm in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Bin Laden is believed to have around 50 siblings and his family disowned him decades ago. There is no suggestion that either Bakr or Shafiq have sponsored or been involved in terrorism.

Bakr took over the family and its business in the late 1980s, but shortly afterwards the Saudi government moved to expel Bin Laden and take away his citizenship following his criticism of the Saudi royal family.

Bakr then removed him as a shareholder in the family companies and in 1991, Bin Laden went into exile, living in Sudan and then in Afghanistan, where he plotted the 9/11 attacks.

Prince Charles was reportedly introduced to Bakr in June 2001 by Prince Khalid Al-Faisal Al-Saud, a Saudi royal. Four months later, on October 13, 2001 – four weeks after the Twin Towers attack – the Prince of Wales dined with Bakr at Highgrove, his Gloucestershire home, to discuss the Islamic faith. Charles is the patron of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, where the Bin Laden family funds a fellowship programme.

The official Court Circular reveals the pair met again at Clarence House on October 30, 2013. The Sunday Times alleges Charles ‘brokered’ the £1million payment after this meeting – a claim disputed by royal sources.

Slain Al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden was killed by US Navy SEALs in 2011

The newspaper alleged that several of Charles’s advisers, including at least one trustee, pleaded with him in person to return the money, warning that he would suffer serious reputational damage if he was associated with money from the Bin Laden family.

It is claimed they were ‘very vociferous’ with the Prince but were ‘shouted down’. These accounts are also disputed by those close to Charles. 

One source allegedly said: ‘The fact that a member of the highest level of the British Establishment was choosing to broker deals with a name and a family that not only rang alarm bells but abject horror around the world … why would you do this? I just didn’t feel any member of the British Royal Family should be involved in that sort of undertaking.’

The Mail on Sunday understands that the Foreign Office was consulted about the PWCF accepting money from the Bin Laden family and gave its approval.

Insiders say the charity’s five trustees closely examined whether to accept the money and ultimately decided to do so on the grounds that the horrific actions of Bin Laden should not tarnish his family.

Insiders claim trustees agreed it would not tarnish the charity’s name to accept Bakr’s cash

Chairman Sir Ian Cheshire said the decision to accept the donation was taken by the five trustees. 

At the time they were Dame Amelia Fawcett, a financier who chairs Kew Gardens; Sir Michael Rake, the former chairman of BT, John Varley, the former Barclays chief executive, William Nye, then Charles’s principal private secretary and Kenneth Wilson, an academic. 

Sir Ian said: ‘The donation from Sheik Bakr Bin Laden in 2013 was carefully considered by PWCF trustees at the time.

‘Due diligence was conducted, with information sought from a wide range of sources, including government. The decision to accept the donation was taken wholly by the trustees. Any attempt to suggest otherwise is misleading and inaccurate.’

A spokeswoman for Clarence House said: ‘The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund [the PWCF’s trading name] has assured us that thorough due diligence was undertaken in accepting this donation. The decision to accept was taken by the charity’s trustees alone and any attempt to characterise it otherwise is false.’

Royal biographer Angela Levin warned last night that the revelations were a ‘serious’ blow to Charles, adding that Bin Laden remained a ‘really painful name to hear’. 

‘It is a real shame that there is another allegation against his judgment – that he has made another misjudgment,’ she said. 

‘It is serious for him because there is so much chaos within the family at the moment, of people being nasty and making accusations.

‘Especially with the Queen at her age, he is very close to taking over and being King. It leaves a stain. It is not a case of just getting the money, it is obviously a case of thinking about the impression that that leaves.’

The payment represents the second fundraising scandal to hit Charles and the PWCF in as many months. 

Last month it emerged that the Prince was said to have personally received £860,000 stuffed into carrier bags from the Fortnum & Mason department store from Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani. 

It was one of three cash payments, totalling £2.58million, made between 2011 and 2015.

The Charity Commission ruled out investigating the donations and royal sources have stressed such donations would not happen now.

In a separate controversy, The Mail on Sunday revealed last September that Charles’s closest confidante, Michael Fawcett, had offered to help a Saudi billionaire obtain a knighthood and British citizenship in exchange for cash donations.

Clarence House said the Prince had ‘no knowledge’ of the alleged cash-for-honours scandal.

The latest news will throw a spotlight on those charged with advising Charles on sensitive financial matters. ‘It’s up to his aides to have warned him about this and advised him that perhaps he should get that £1million from somebody else,’ Ms Levin said.

‘He has to be extremely careful that he doesn’t put himself in a position where he is innocent but the impression is very negative.’

The Prince of Wales built up a high profile in Saudi Arabia during the 1990s because of his prominent speeches extolling Islam.

The Bin Laden family were branded the Rockefellers of Saudi Arabia because of their infrastructure projects and reaped huge wealth thanks to their proximity to the Saudi royal family. On September 19, 2001, 13 members of the family left the US with other Saudis.

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