Prince Harry, Meghan Markle Push Back on Nigerian ‘Wanted Fugitive’ Claims

Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters
Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters
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Meghan and Harry counter ‘free flight’ claims

Sources in Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s camp have defended the couple after claims were made in the Daily Mail that they were flown around Nigeria for free “by an airline whose chairman is a fugitive wanted in the U.S.”

The Mail said that the founder of Nigerian airline Air Peace, Dr. Allen Onyema, which provided the Sussexes with air transport during their tour of Nigeria, is wanted in the US, “facing multiple charges linked to millions of dollars’ worth of alleged fraud set down in a federal indictment filed in November 2019.”

Meghan Markle Opens Up on Why She Married Prince Harry

The indictment accuses Onyema of “using his status as a prominent business leader and airline executive to launder more than $20million from Nigeria through U.S. bank accounts,” the Mail says.

But a source close to Meghan and Harry, speaking to The Daily Beast, has now sought to put the allegations in context, noting that the couple’s travel within Nigeria was organized by the Nigerian Chief of Defense Staff. The source also pointed out that Air Peace is the largest airline in Nigeria and West Africa, and has daily flights from Lagos to Britain’s London Gatwick airport.

The Mail also reports that at least one of the regional kings whom Harry and Meghan met has had major tussles with U.S. law enforcement; Oba Abdulrasheed Adewale Akanbi, the 56-year-old Oluwo of Iwoland in Western Nigeria, has been jailed and deported twice from the U.S. and convicted of fraud.

William plays wedding usher—Harry won’t

Prince William will be an usher at friend, Hugh Grosvenor, the Duke of Westminster’s wedding next month, the Sunday Times reports. Prince Harry, also a close friend of the Duke—one of Britain’s richest men with an estimated inherited fortune of around $13 billion, who is also godfather to Harry’s son, Prince Archie—won’t attend the wedding, and neither will Meghan Markle. Kate Middleton, currently receiving treatment for cancer, is not expected to attend, the paper reports, and neither will King Charles, who is Grosvenor’s godfather.

The Mail recently reported that Charles and Queen Camilla had not confirmed their attendance. “Their Majesties have not forgotten what happened at the wedding of Hugh’s sister,” a source told the paper. “There is still a lot of tension that exists.”

Prince William, Prince of Wales, gestures as he attends the Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit in New York, U.S., September 19, 2023.

Prince William, Prince of Wales, gestures as he attends the Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit in New York, U.S., September 19, 2023.

Shannon Stapleton/Pool/Reuters

The paper said the couple had turned down their invitations to the 2004 wedding of the duke’s sister, Lady Tamara Grosvenor, and Edward van Cutsem, a godson of Charles. This was because Camilla would have been forced to sit apart from Charles as at the time the couple were unmarried (they wed the following year), and she had no official royal standing. Sitting together, shock horror, would have reportedly contravened protocol, with then Queen Elizabeth as one of the guests. There was also reported beef between Camilla and the groom’s mother over criticism by both over the behavior of each other’s children, the Mail said.

Of the Sussexes’ then-likely (now confirmed) absence from the Duke of Westminster's wedding guest list, a source told the paper last December: “It’s incredibly sad it has come to this. Hugh is one of the very few close friends of William and Harry’s who has maintained strong bonds and a line of communication with both. He wishes they could put their heads together and patch things up, but realizes it’s unlikely to happen before the wedding. He wanted to avoid anything overshadowing the day, especially for Olivia, and doesn’t want any awkwardness.”

What Charles did instead of seeing Harry

The Mail on Sunday has identified one meeting that puts flesh on Prince Harry’s snippy statement that his father was too busy and had “other priorities” when Harry was in the U.K. The paper reports one of the things taking up the king’s time, rather than seeing his younger son, was Charles presenting the Duke of Norfolk, who masterminded Queen Elizabeth’s funeral and Charles’ Coronation, with a silver gilt Coronation Cup.

King Charles and Queen Camilla stand on the Buckingham Palace balcony following their coronation ceremony in London, Britain May 6, 2023.

King Charles and Queen Camilla stand on the Buckingham Palace balcony following their coronation ceremony in London, Britain May 6, 2023.

Hannah McKay/Reuters

The Duke, whose non-naming in the New Year Honors list had caused some raised eyebrows, told the Mail the gift has taken “pride of place on the mantelpiece in his medieval family home,” Arundel Castle in West Sussex. Inevitably for a British tradition, the presentation of the gilded cup goes back around 300 years; they’re handed out to Earls Marshal, “holders of the hereditary office responsible for major ceremonial state occasions.”

“After the Coronation, the King wrote a wonderful letter saying thank you, adding that a gift would be on its way,” the Duke told the Mail. “I am absolutely delighted with the Coronation Cup.”

Charles looks “amazingly well” his portraitist says

Jonathan Yeo has been interviewed for the Sunday Times following the unveiling of his new, extremely red portrait of the king, which he began in 2021. Yeo told the paper that Charles, who is fighting cancer, “looked amazingly well” at the unveiling of the picture this week.

A person looks at the new official portrait of King Charles III, painted by British artist Jonathan Yeo.

A person looks at the new official portrait of King Charles III, painted by British artist Jonathan Yeo.

Henry Nicholls/AFP/Getty Images

He clearly enjoyed spending time with Charles, saying: “He was really relaxed and I think it helped that he is interested in the process. We spent a lot of time talking about art and artists, as well as the environment.” Yeo had a near-fatal heart attack when he was midway through the project, and says it cleared any “mist” about his goals and he decided after it that finishing his portrait of Charles “was worth doing.”

He didn’t tell Charles much about his own health scare, saying: “He’s a caring, thoughtful person, and you don’t want the expression on the picture to change to one of concern for me.”

This week in royal history

Today marks the sixth wedding anniversary of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. They were married on May 19, 2018, at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor.

Unanswered questions

What will King Charles do at the ceremonial Trooping the Color on June 15? Horse, or—as now seems more likely—carriage? “Aides are already exploring ways that Charles might be able to take part within the constraints of his ongoing cancer treatment,” the Mail reports. “This could include watching the military spectacular from a podium instead of on horseback as usual, having been driven from Buckingham Palace in a carriage as his late mother used to. No firm decision will be taken until nearer the time, given the nature of His Majesty's condition, and it will be dependant on medical advice.”

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