One day, Prince Charles received from the Qatari Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani several bags from Fortnum & Mason, the famous London luxury store, which boasts a royal license to supply the heir’s house with groceries. However, no scones, crumpets or bergamot tea inside the bags but bundles of 500 euro notes. There were 2,000, for a total amount of one million euros. Another time, the same sum arrived in a suitcase, again from the man who was Prime Minister (2007-2013) and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar (1992-2013). A third time, in 2015, Charles accepted another million euros in cash, this time in a sports bag, during a meeting with the Sheikh ‘HBJ’ at Clarence House, the prince’s official residence from Wales to London.
“Questions about the judgment of the heir to the throne”
These three installments, revealed by the Sunday Times this Sunday cast a shadow over the heir to the English crown. If Clarence House asserts that all this money has been “immediately donated to the prince’s charity” and if the British newspaper notes that nothing prohibits a priori such payments for charitable purposes, it wonders about the source of the funds and possible counterparties. “These new revelations will raise serious questions about the personal judgment of the heir to the throne – including what he knew about money and his impartiality in representing Britain on the world stage,” Write the Times, which reminds that “Charles is regularly tasked with communicating the country’s foreign policy and position on issues such as human rights” and that’“he visited Qatar several times after accepting the money, including during Sheikh Hamad’s tenure.”
When he was in power, HBJ controlled Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, valued at 250 billion dollars (237 billion euros), and oversaw various investments by the Gulf state in the United Kingdom, for example in the sign luxury Harrods, for the construction of the Shard – an iconic skyscraper – or the Olympic Village in London. the Times recalls that Sheikh Hamad “also forged close ties with British royalty, with Qatar giving Charles a 147,000-pound horse [170 000 euros, ndlr] named Dark Swan and helping to maintain one of his castles in Scotland”. HBJ is accused of covering up the financing of terrorism by Qatar while he was in charge. In particular, he once said that his country had “maybe” funded the al-Nusra Front, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, but later said he knew nothing about it.
Not the first of the scandals
The newspaper also recalls that the Metropolitan Police and the Charity Commission, a public agency which monitors charities, are investigating fundraising practices at Clarence House, “including the sale of honours”, in what the Times calls a culture of “cash-for-access” – pay for an audience with the Prince of Wales. Money also poses “questions about the governance of Prince Charles’ flagship charity”, Write the Times.
Asked by the British newspaper, the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund responds through the voice of its president, Ian Cheshire: “The donor was a legitimate and verified counterparty and our auditors validated the donation after a specific investigation. There were no governance failures. The donation was made in cash, and it was the choice of the donor.”
With this revelation, the image of Prince Charles is once again damaged. “A controversy is the last thing the British crown needs right now. But, once again, the willingness of the Prince of Wales to accept large sums of money from politicians or controversial foreign businessmen plunges the heir to the throne into troubled waters. says investigative journalist Tom Bower in the Mail on Sunday. “Over the past thirty years, the prince has repeatedly exposed himself to accusations that he accepted money in exchange for privileged access and, worse, used his influence to promote those who make donations to his favorite causes,” continues the journalist. Which recalls another revelation of the Sunday Times, last year: Prince Charles’s closest aide, Michael Fawcett, presented a Saudi billionaire with an accolade in exchange for a huge charitable donation. “At best, Charles failed to control what was done in his name. At worst, he was an accomplice,” judge Tom Bower, for whom “it is no exaggeration to say that the succession to the throne could be in danger”, so much the probity of Charles is questioned.