Mysterious £3m gift from a Qatari sheik to Charles in a suitcase and Fortnum & Mason bags | Royal | News

Prince Charles and Qatari Skeikh

Charles Admitted receiving nearly £3million in cash donations from a Qatari Sheikh (Image: Getty)

The heir to the throne, who has insisted he did nothing wrong, was given the cash in three bundles of £1million each, including one stash of notes said to have been handed over in a suitcase, by Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, a businessmen with a £2billion fortune who served as Qatar’s prime minister between 2007 and 2013.

Clarence House has been unable to explain why the donations, worth around £860,000 each, were made in cash between 2011 and 2015 and what Sheikh Hamad hoped to gain from making them.

But it has insisted they were “passed immediately” to one of Charles’s charities, the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund (PWCF), and that it carried out due diligence.

Although there is no suggestion the payments were illegal, critics said Charles, whose charitable foundation, The Prince’s Foundation, is currently facing a police investigation into allegations that it fixed an honour for a Saudi billionaire in return for donations, risked undermining trust in the monarchy.

He was also accused of risking destroying his mother the Queen’s legacy over claims he operates a cash-for-access policy when dealing with wealthy donors to his charities.

His biographer Tom Bower said: “I think his problem is, however legal that was, it looks terrible and I think more will come out. Clearly, there is a disgruntled source who saw what was happening with regard to donations and he has a real problem. Who accepts large bags of cash like that?”

“It’s never been a problem for the Queen because she doesn’t do it but Charles for the last 30 to 40 years has been running this charity business. Even his father Prince Philip warned him that his cash-for-access was going to cause trouble.”

Sir Alastair Graham, the former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said the revelations that such large sums were handed over in cash were “truly shocking”.

“I wouldn’t make a distinction between a politician and member of the Royal Family,” he told The Sunday Times, which broke the story. “If the Qatari government wants to make a gift to his foundation, then there are proper ways to do these things rather than handling large sums of cash.”

But a Government minister, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, came out in support of the Prince and said he was confident that the donations would bave been handled properly.

“This isn’t a Government issue, but what I have seen is the palace have been very clear, that all monies go through proper due process, the charities obviously go through proper due process,” he told the BBC.”

“I’m confident having had some dealings with charities, The Prince’s Trust, The Prince’s Foundation, around the palace in the past myself, that these will have gone through proper due process.”

Charles is understood to have got lawyers involved over some of the allegations.

It is understood he and his advisers dispute claims that Sheikh Hamad, 62 – known by the initials HBJ – gave one tranche of a million euros to the Prince in carrier bags from Fortnum & Mason, the luxury department store with royal warrants from the Queen and Charles.

They are also understood to have no recollection of the newspaper’s claim that two advisers hand-counted money alleged to have been given in €500 notes – a denomination once nicknamed the “bin Laden” because of its links to terrorist financing.

The newspaper quoted one of Charles’s former advisers saying: “Everyone felt very uncomfortable about the situation.”

It is accepted, however, that the donations were made in cash, handed to the charity fund and paid into a bank account at Coutts, which also insisted it did all the necessary checks.

In a statement, Clarence House said: “Charitable donations received from Sheikh Hamad 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.”

Prince Charles

Bundles of cash were handed over to Charles in a suitcase and Fortnum & Mason carrier bags (Image: Getty)

The Charity Commission, which oversees UK voluntary organisations, has no ban on charities accepting cash donations. But it warns in its guidelines: “Charities should be wary of receiving large or unexpected donations of cash other than through their own or publicly organised fundraising activities, and should take additional steps to assure themselves of the provenance of those funds.”

Staff at the PWCF are understood to have believed that there were no major concerns over Sheikh Hamad because of his standing as a prime minister and did not believe that receiving a cheque for the same sums would have made much difference.

The PWCF, founded in 1979 with a mission to transform lives and build sustainable communities, awards grants to UK registered non-profit organisations to deliver projects in the UK, the Commonwealth and overseas.

Charles and Sheikh Hamad, was his country’s foreign minister from 1992 and continued in that role while prime minister until resigning from both jobs when a new Emir took over in 2013, have enjoyed a long association stretching back decades.

The Sheikh, who controlled his country’s $250 billion sovereign wealth fund when he was prime minister and oversaw investments in Harrods, the Shard, and many other businesses in Britain, has built close ties with the Royal Family.

Charles, 73, wrote to him in 2010 and successfully lobbied HBJ to stop the £3 billion redevelopment of Chelsea Barracks in London because the proposed steel-and-glass design by state-backed Qatari Diar “made my heart sink”. Instead, an alternative design by an architect of Charles’s choosing was picked.

Sheikh Hamad has also been embroiled in controversy. He and Charles were both named in the leaked Paradise Papers, detailing how politicians, royalty, and other prominent people had investments in offshore tax-havens.

In 2015, HBJ invoked diplomatic immunity in a UK torture case in which Qatari agents acting on his behalf were alleged to have falsely imprisoned British national Fawaz al-Attiya in Doha.

In 2017, the Sheikh admitted that Qatar under his leadership might have inadvertently funded the Syrian terror group Al Nusra, an offshoot of Al Qaeda. “Look in Syria everybody did mistakes, including your country”, he told American journalist Charlie Rose.

Graham Smith, chief executive of anti-monarchy group Republic, said Charles needed to make a full disclosure about the payments.

“Sheikh Hamad faces serious accusations over human rights and has significant financial and other interests here in the UK,” Mr Smith said.

“Given that Prince Charles has direct access to the British prime minister and all government ministers, as well as all cabinet papers, this raises serious ethical questions about what the Sheikh expected in return”

“Was he able to use Charles as a channel for influencing the UK government or to gain inside knowledge of government business?”

“This also adds to the serious questions about Prince Charles’s judgement, following from other accusations of cash-for-access and cash-for-honours.”

Comment by Richard Palmer a Royal Correspondent

There may be nothing sinister about Prince Charles accepting £2.58 million in cash bundles from a wealthy donor but it is not a good look.

The latest revelations about the heir to the throne’s fundraising prompts the question of whether there should be a register of interests for royals in the same way that MPs are required to detail any financial interests or benefits they receive in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

Charles, 73, is one of Britain’s greatest philanthropists and has contributed much to national life through charities such as The Prince’s Trust and his efforts to highlight the dangers our planet faces from climate change and other environmental crises.

But, as wealthy as he is, he does not have the money to do it all on his own and, like other members of his family, part of his role is to cajole others into supporting charity initiatives that help the disadvantaged and dispossessed in our society.

Members of the Royal Family host dinners, receptions, polo matches, and other events at which wealthy individuals pledge money to their favourite projects in return for getting the chance to bask in the company of the Windsors.

The Queen and Philip did that up to a point. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge do it.

But there is a line between accepting cash for charity projects and promising people honours or other benefits for donations.

And the case of Prince Andrew, who enjoyed the company of a wealthy paedophile and mixed official duties abroad with business schemes to enrich himself, shows that the royals have to be very careful about who they mix with and their motives for giving them money.

Charles and other senior members of the Royal Family regularly meet politicians, foreign statesmen and dignitaries, billionaires and business leaders, and privately lobby those in power over their pet projects and key issues they think need airing.

If the monarchy is to survive and thrive after the reign of Elizabeth II, it is vital that the British public have confidence that their Royal Family is transparent and not in the pocket of those seeking to influence the UK’s approach at home and abroad.

Leave a Comment