Prince Charles makes first public appearance since 'cash for honours' probe

Prince Charles makes first public appearance since ‘cash for honours’ probe

Prince Charles appeared all smiles today as he emerged for the first time since his Covid isolation – and the launch of a police probe into the alleged ‘cash for honours scandal’. 

The heir to the throne, 73, was today seen publicly for the first time since his positive Covid test last week.

He joined his sister, Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, in presenting the Queen’s Anniversary Prizes for higher and further at St James’s Palace in London.

His appearance came as a former MP who filed a criminal complaint about the alleged ‘cash for honours’ scandal today said police should speak to Prince Charles about the claims.

Ex-Liberal Democrat minister Norman Baker, said he found it ‘inconceivable’ that Charles could have been completely ignorant of the affair.

But Prince Charles’ friend and biographer Jonathan Dimbleby mounted a defence of the royal, saying it was  ‘extraordinarily unlikely’ Prince Charles knew about the alleged ‘cash for honours’ scandal.

He also compared it to ‘smears’ that Sir Keir Starmer personally failed to prosecute Jimmy Savile.

Mr Dimbleby, whose friendship with Charles goes back decades, insisted the Prince of Wales would have had no idea one of his charities may have been helping a Saudi billionaire get a knighthood and British citizenship. 

The police probe follows the revelation that Charles’ once closest aide Michael Fawcett allegedly offered to help Saudi billionaire Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz upgrade his honorary CBE to a knighthood – and support his application for British citizenship – in exchange for ‘generous’ donations to Charles’ charitable foundation. 

Mr Fawcett was forced to resign from the foundation over the revelations reported in The Mail on Sunday, while royal sources say the Prince of Wales was not aware of any alleged deal.

But Mr Baker, the man who submitted a criminal complaint about the letter, said those investigating should speak to Mr Mubarak bin Mahfouz and the Prince about the claims. 

Speaking to ITN last night, he said: ‘I’m very pleased the police are taking this forward and formally investigating this matter.  

The heir to the throne, 73, appeared all smiles today as he was seen publicly for the first time since his positive Covid test last week

The heir to the throne, 73, appeared all smiles today as he was seen publicly for the first time since his positive Covid test last week

He joined his sister, Princess Anne, in presenting the Queen's Anniversary Prizes for higher and further at St James's Palace in London

He joined his sister, Princess Anne, in presenting the Queen’s Anniversary Prizes for higher and further at St James’s Palace in London 

Speaking to Channel 4 last night, he said: 'I'm very please the police are taking this forward and formally investigating this matter.'

Speaking to Channel 4 last night, he said: ‘I’m very please the police are taking this forward and formally investigating this matter.’

Prince Charles faces being interviewed by police over an alleged ‘cash for honours’ scandal after his aide allegedly offered to help Saudi billionaire Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz (pictured together) upgrade his honorary CBE to a knighthood in exchange for ‘generous’ donations to Charles’s charitable foundation

Prince Charles faces being interviewed by police over an alleged ‘cash for honours’ scandal after his aide allegedly offered to help Saudi billionaire Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz (pictured together) upgrade his honorary CBE to a knighthood in exchange for ‘generous’ donations to Charles’s charitable foundation

‘They clearly need to speak to the individual that wrote the letter. But they also should, in my view, speak to Prince Charles. 

‘It’s inconceivable in my view that Prince Charles was not aware of what was being done in his name. 

‘Prince Charles has a long history of meeting individuals, going back 20-25 years, who have given money to his good causes, and have done so in order to be associated with him, and sit next to him at dinner for example. 

‘Prince Charles knows that when they give money the want something in return, that’s been part of the unwritten agreement. The difference on this occasion was someone was stupid enough to put it in writing.’ 

He added: ‘If an offence has been committed it’s corruption and it’s important we eliminate corruption in public life, no matter who is involved. Everyone in the country should be held to the same standard.’ 

It comes as Prince Charles’ friend Mr Dimbleby today insisted that it is ‘extraordinarily unlikely’ the royal knew about the alleged ‘cash for honours’ scandal.

Mr Dimbleby, whose friendship with Charles goes back decades, has insisted the Prince of Wales would have had no idea one of his charities may have been helping a Saudi billionaire get a knighthood and British citizenship.

The Metropolitan Police have launched an investigation into an alleged cash-for-honours scandal after the Prince of Wales and his former close aide Michael Fawcett were reported to police over the claims

The Metropolitan Police have launched an investigation into an alleged cash-for-honours scandal after the Prince of Wales and his former close aide Michael Fawcett were reported to police over the claims

Prince Charles' friend and biographer Jonathan Dimbleby (pictured together in 1994) dismissed any links between the Prince of Wales and the cash for honours scandal

Prince Charles’ friend and biographer Jonathan Dimbleby (pictured together in 1994) dismissed any links between the Prince of Wales and the cash for honours scandal

The broadcaster compared it to claims Keir Starmer personally failed to prosecute Jimmy Savile while DPP The broadcaster compared it to claims Keir Starmer personally failed to prosecute Jimmy Savile while DPP

The broadcaster compared it to claims Keir Starmer personally failed to prosecute Jimmy Savile while DPP

Prince Harry could be interviewed by police in ‘cash for honours’ probe about his ‘concern’ over Saudi billionaire who was allegedly promised knighthood by Charles’ aide 

Prince Harry could be quizzed as a witness in the cash for honours investigation launched by Scotland Yard, it emerged today.

The Duke of Sussex was accused of throwing his father under the bus last year after claiming he raised concerns about a Saudi billionaire donor. Charles’ senior aide Michael Fawcett was forced to resign as head of The Prince’s Foundation over his role in the scandal.

In December Harry said he had ‘severed ties’ with Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz a year before Prince Charles presented the controversial Saudi billionaire with a CBE. 

Clarence House has repeatedly said that Charles had ‘no knowledge’ of the ‘cash for access’ allegations, but it did not comment on whether Harry raised concerns with him about Mr Mahfouz. 

Now the Metropolitan Police are investigating, their detectives could choose to question him over what his concerns were, and who he told in 2015, according to the Mirror. MailOnline has asked Prince Harry to comment.

Harry said he had ‘concerns’ over the businessman’s ‘motives’. He made the comments after it was revealed that he had held a private meeting with Mr Mahfouz, who has given tens of thousands of pounds to charities associated with the duke. 

The billionaire is embroiled in claims that he showered money on charitable causes close to the Prince of Wales in the hope of obtaining an honour and British citizenship.

Harry is said to have become concerned about Mr Mahfouz in 2014 and wound down their relationship the following year, having met him twice.

But in an extraordinary statement, Harry said just before Christmas that he had no involvement in what he described as the ‘CBE scandal’, insisted he had concerns about the Saudi businessman’s ‘motives’ and claimed he ‘expressed his concerns’ about him.

Charles has been engulfed by criticism owing to his relationship with Mr Mahfouz and the hundreds of thousands of pounds the billionaire donated to the royal’s pet projects via his charitable trust. He could now be interviewed by police. 

An independent investigation found Mr Fawcett had colluded with ‘fixers’ representing Mr Mahfouz who were trying to secure an honour in exchange for donations.

Mr Mahfouz is thought to have donated at least £1.5 million to royal charities.

The Duke of Sussex said that when he cut ties with Mr Mahfouz in 2015, he ‘expressed his concerns about the donor’. But his statement did not make clear to whom he voiced these qualms.

The following year, Charles presented the Saudi billionaire with an ‘honorary’ CBE in a private ceremony at Buckingham Palace. The Prince of Wales and Mr Mahfouz also held private meetings in Scotland and Saudi Arabia.  

Harry first met Mr Mahfouz in 2013 at a pub in Chelsea, west London, owned by Mark Dyer, a former royal equerry, The Sunday Times revealed yesterday.

They discussed the duke’s charity Sentebale, set up in 2006 to help people in Lesotho and Botswana affected by Aids, following his gap year in Africa.

The newspaper reported the pair met again at Clarence House the following year after Charles had also met Mr Mahfouz, where Harry allegedly joked: ‘Has father beaten me to it and got the money?’

In February 2013, Mr Mahfouz donated £50,000 to Sentebale. Later that year he gave £10,000 to Walking With The Wounded, another charity of which Harry was patron.

A spokesman for the duke said: ‘The duke had one planned meeting with this donor eight years ago, did not introduce him to any members of the Royal Family, and expressed his concerns about the donor.’

And in an extraordinary interview he said it was ‘bizarre’ to compare the scandal to Prince Andrew’s decision to pay off Virginia Roberts Giuffre, in an interview with the Today programme branded a ‘disgrace’ by some listeners. 

The police probe follows the revelation that Charles’ once closest aide Michael Fawcett allegedly offered to help Saudi billionaire Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz upgrade his honorary CBE to a knighthood – and support his application for British citizenship – in exchange for ‘generous’ donations to Charles’ charitable foundation. 

Mr Dimbleby, a friend and confident to Charles, defended him today – hours after it emerged the Queen’s eldest son faces being interviewed by police. He also Mr Baker’s claims that he found it ‘difficult to understand’ how Charles could have been completely ignorant of the affair.

He said: ‘That’s a very colourful thing to say. Inconceivable suggests there is no possibility other than that he knew. I think it’s extraordinarily unlikely that he knew. I think if he had know he would have immediately taken action on it. He believes in the honours system. Many thousands of people have been given investitures by him on behalf of a system that he understands and knows well. If there had been some scam, some breaking of the law, you honestly think that he would have been party to that? It beggars belief’.

The journalist then went on to draw parallels with the Prime Minister’s false claim that he personally failed to prosecute paedophile Jimmy Savile. 

He said of Keir Starmer: ‘People were rightly outraged when he was smeared for allegedly not investigating Jimmy Saville, now he was dpp [Director of Public Prosecutions]. He was the chief executive of a large organisation. The Prince of Wales is not in that position. He’s someone outside of that organisation who deeply believes and cares in its work – but is not party to its day-to-day operation’.  He added: ‘It seems bizarre that we should be giving it such attention. The idea that this is an example of an annus horribilus because its linked to his brother’s case, seems frankly bizarre’.  

Mr Dimbleby’s appearance on the Today programme was met with incredulity by some listeners. 

One said: ‘Crikey, I am a huge royalist but honestly Jonathan Dimbleby’s defence of Clarence House is simply over the top’. Another wrote: ‘Jonathan Dimbleby’s eulogy on the Prince of Wales on the Today programme just now nothing short of a disgrace, calling any investigation into his affairs frankly bizarre’.

One Twitter user said: ‘Jonathan Dimbleby going full throttle for a knighthood there’. 

The bombshell of Charles potentially facing a police interview came less than 24 hours after the abject humiliation of Prince Andrew having to pay to resolve a sexual abuse lawsuit. 

Last night, royal sources were quick to insist the Prince of Wales had no knowledge of any alleged deal – and emphasised he would be willing to speak to detectives and help with their inquiry in ‘whatever way’ he could.

But the dramatic development threatens to drag Charles into a damaging saga in the lead- up to the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations later this year.

The prince – who presented Mr Mahfouz with his honorary CBE title in a private ceremony at Buckingham Palace and held private meetings with the billionaire at a string of British embassies – is likely to be asked by police what he knew of the claims against Mr Fawcett.

News of the probe came only a day after it emerged that Prince Andrew had agreed to pay as much as £12 million to settle a sexual abuse lawsuit brought by Virginia Roberts.

Royal sources last night told of ‘genuine shock’ in Buckingham Palace that the cash-for-honours probe had come ‘on top of the Andrew fall-out’, with one predicting: ‘I can only see this getting worse.’

The developments came as the Queen made her first public appearance since last week’s Covid scare – where she appeared to remark on her own frailty. 

Welcoming the incoming Defence Services Secretary to Windsor Castle, the 95-year-old monarch – standing with a walking stick – pointed to her foot and said: ‘As you can see, I can’t move.’

Insiders were quick to stress there had been, as yet, no formal request by the police to Charles for assistance in the cash-for-honours case, but suggested he would be willing to help with the investigation – including submitting to a formal interview.

A source added: ‘He would be happy to help in whatever way.’

Last night, royal sources were quick to insist the Prince of Wales had no knowledge of any alleged deal involving his former aide Michael Fawcett (pictured) – and emphasised he would be willing to speak to detectives and help with their inquiry in ‘whatever way’ he could

Last night, royal sources were quick to insist the Prince of Wales had no knowledge of any alleged deal involving his former aide Michael Fawcett (pictured) – and emphasised he would be willing to speak to detectives and help with their inquiry in ‘whatever way’ he could

The bombshell for the royals comes less than 24 hours after the abject humiliation of Prince Andrew having to pay to resolve a sexual abuse lawsuit levied by Virginia Giuffre (pictured together)

The bombshell for the royals comes less than 24 hours after the abject humiliation of Prince Andrew having to pay to resolve a sexual abuse lawsuit levied by Virginia Giuffre (pictured together) 

The Queen at an audience at Windsor Castle yesterday where she met the incoming and outgoing Defence Service Secretaries

The Queen at an audience at Windsor Castle yesterday where she met the incoming and outgoing Defence Service Secretaries

Key moments in the tale of intrigue 

April 2013: Fixers for Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz ask for protocol for being awarded an MBE and UK citizenship.

May 2013: Mahfouz introduced to Ashe Windham, chairman of Castle of Mey Trust. He later donates £20,000 to the castle.

October 2013: Mahfouz fixer writes to Charles thanking him for an ‘entertaining and instructive’ private trip to the castle.

February 2014: Fixers receive confirmation of a meeting between Mahfouz and Charles for the following month. They meet at Clarence House.

April 2014: A Mahfouz fixer tells an assistant continued ‘friendship building’ with Charles will ‘lead to further very special personal and individual honours’.

April 2014: Michael Fawcett, Charles’s close aide, writes that the prince supports Mahfouz’s UK citizenship bid ‘100 per cent’.

September 2014: Minutes of a meeting show Fawcett agreeing to supervise Mahfouz’s citizenship application.

February 2015: Charles meets the sheikh at the British embassy in Riyadh.

November 2016: Mahfouz is awarded a CBE by Charles in a private investiture.

August 2017: Fawcett says the Prince’s Foundation would be ‘happy and willing’ to use its influence to help Mahfouz obtain a knighthood and British citizenship.

September 2021: Fawcett quits as chief of The Prince’s Foundation after August 2017 letter revealed by the Mail on Sunday.

December 2: Investigation ordered by the Prince’s Foundation concludes Fawcett did work with ‘fixers’ to secure honours.

February 16 2022: The Met launches an investigation into ‘cash-for-honours’ claims.

 

Charles has been recovering from Covid, having tested positive last week. 

For the best part of four decades, Mr Fawcett was the man Charles famously could not live without. The 59-year-old former valet rose to become one of the most powerful and influential figures in the future king’s court.

But he was dogged by controversy and was twice forced to resign after being accused of bullying staff and selling unwanted royal gifts. On both occasions he was reinstated and was later awarded a lucrative contract by the prince to organise most of his official and private entertaining.

In 2007, Mr Fawcett was made chief executive of Scotland’s Dumfries House, a stately home the prince helped save for the nation.

Then in 2018, following a reorganisation of Charles’s charities, Mr Fawcett became the £95,000-a-year chief executive of the newly created The Prince’s Foundation – to the concern of some household staff. 

The cash-for-honours allegations centre around the conduct of Mr Fawcett and Mr Mahfouz’s donations to restoration projects of particular interest to Prince Charles.

The billionaire, who denies any wrongdoing, has given more than £1.5 million to The Prince’s Foundation, spent mostly on renovating two of Charles’s Scottish properties, where parts of the grounds are named after him.

Last September, a letter emerged that Mr Fawcett had written to Mr Mahfouz’s aide in 2017, in which he said: ‘In light of the ongoing and most recent generosity of His Excellency Sheikh Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz, 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 we are willing to make an application to increase His Excellency’s honour from Honorary CBE to that of KBE in accordance with Her Majesty’s Honours Committee.’ 

Mr Fawcett was forced to resign from the foundation over the revelations reported in The Mail on Sunday.

At the time of the claims, Prince Harry revealed he had cut links with Mr Mahfouz in 2015 because of ‘concerns over his motives’. 

In December, a probe by auditing firm Ernst & Young into fundraising practices found there was some evidence of communication between Mr Fawcett and ‘fixers’ regarding honorary nominations for a donor between 2014 and 2018.

A spokesman for The Prince’s Foundation said: ‘It would be inappropriate to comment on an ongoing investigation.’

A spokesman for Mr Mahfouz said he had ‘not had personal or direct communication to either request, influence or make any arrangements regarding citizenship or knighthood with Mr Fawcett, or anyone connected to HRH The Prince of Wales or the Prince’s Foundation’. 

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