Prince Charles may face an inquiry after reports have surfaced saying he repeatedly accepted suitcases containing large sums of money from a controversial Middle Eastern politician – Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, the former prime minister of Qatar.
The reports say the future King immediately passed the money (believed to total €3 million, over the span of five years) over to one of his charitable foundations and a Clarence House representative, speaking on behalf of Charles, said the charity "carried out the appropriate governance and have assured us that all the correct processes were followed".
However, the Queen's eldest son may now face an investigation from the Charity Commission, who have said, according to The Times, that they will review information about the cash donations that took place between 2011 and 2015 and then make a call as to whether or not further action is needed.
As for why an investigation may be necessary, although it's not illegal for the Prince to have accepted cash donations (and all evidence so far indicates the money was indeed quickly deposited into the accounts of the Prince of Wales's Charitable Fund, an organisation offering grants to non-profits that Charles has an interest in), it's important that the large-scale donors are given due diligence, to avoid any sort of scandal or reputation damage for the charities.
The payments are not thought to be illegal.
It's said that royal sources have confirmed donations were made in cash and received by the Prince, but have disputed some details, such as the money being stuffed into Fortnum & Mason carrier bags.
Author and former Liberal Democrat Minister, Norman Baker, who has written extensively about royal finances said of the exchange, "A million euros in cash stuffed into bags, or shoved into a holdall or a suitcase, and handed over behind closed doors is what you might expect from a South American drug baron, not the heir to the British throne. This is grubby, scuzzy behaviour."
Guidelines from the charity commission recommend that if charities know a significant donor is "from a country or operates a business, perhaps outside of the UK, about which public concerns have been raised, then the trustees should take more steps to verify the provenance of the funds".
The sheikh has been linked to several controversies in recent years, including a suggestion that Qatar funded the Nusra Front (a branch of al-Qaeda based in Syria) whilst he was in power – something his legal team described as "distortion, exaggeration and wholesale fabrication".
The PWCF's chairman, Sir Ian Cheshire, said when asked by The Sunday Times: "At a few hours' notice from The Sunday Times, we have checked into this event in the past, and confirm that the previous trustees of PWCF discussed the governance and donor relationship, (confirming that the donor was a legitimate and verified counterparty) and our auditors signed off on the donation after a specific enquiry during the audit. There was no failure of governance... The donation was made in cash and that was the donor’s choice."
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