The Metropolitan police has been asked to consider allegations Prince Charles received €3m (£2.6m) in cash for his charities from a billionaire Qatari sheikh as part of the force’s so-called “cash-for-honours” investigation.
The call comes as the Charity Commission reviews whether it should mount its own investigation into claims Charles personally accepted three donations, reportedly stuffed in a suitcase, a holdall and a Fortnum & Mason carrier bag, between 2011 and 2015.
Clarence House accepts the donations were made, insisting correct processes were carried out and the money donated to the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund, though it disputes some details in the allegations made in the Sunday Times.
But Norman Baker, a former Liberal Democrat cabinet minister, said the “grubby” and “peculiar” way Charles accepted the donations from former Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani – known as “HBJ” – contradicted Clarence House’s previous claims that Charles did not involve himself directly in fundraising for his charities.
Baker said Clarence House insisted Charles was not directly involved in fundraising following claims, now being investigated by the Met, that a Saudi millionaire was offered help by the The Prince’s Foundation to obtain a knighthood and UK citizenship in exchange for generous donations.
In a letter to the Met today, Baker wrote: “The fact that the Prince has now, in the vernacular, been caught red-handed doing precisely that in the case of the sheikh to my mind casts considerable doubt on that defence when it comes to the dealings with Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz, and that is a matter I suggest you may wish to consider as part of your ongoing criminal investigation.”
Baker, author of What Do You Do? What The Royal Family Don’t Want You To Know, also said Charles had attended 95 meetings with Middle Eastern monarchies since 2011, and it was right to ask on how many occasions the heir to the throne had received money in those meetings for his good causes, and whether any request for help were made for any donations.
“I want the Met Police to take into account the fact that Prince Charles is dealing with these matters personally, when he gave an assurance in public that he wasn’t involved directly in these matters. He appears to be very greatly involved in these matters,” Baker told the BBC’s World at One.
Although there is no suggestion of any illegality, or that Charles offered anything in return for the generous donations, critics have said it raises serious concerns about the future king’s personal judgment, especially given Qatar’s record on human rights.
The campaign group Republic today said it had written to the Charity Commission in connection with the cash donations, asking a number of questions. Graham Smith, from Republic, said: “It isn’t enough to simply be reassured by Charles and the charity that no rules were broken. These payments raise serious and legitimate questions that could damage the reputation of Britain’s charity sector.”
“There is clearly a danger that such payments, in cash and from a questionable source, could be connected to money laundering or other criminal activity.”
“Given recent allegations of cash for honours in connection with another of Prince Charles’s charities, there are also questions to be asked about any possible favour being requested or granted in return for these donations.”
In a statement the Charity Commission has said: “We are aware of reports about donations received by The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation. We will review the information to determine whether there is any role for the Commission in this matter”.
Clarence House has said: “Charitable donations received from Sheikh bin Jassim were passed immediately to one of the prince’s charities, who carried out the appropriate governance and have assured us that all the correct processes were followed.”