Prince Charles would ‘refuse suitcase of cash if offered to him today’

·4 min read
The Prince of Wales with Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim al Thani, at his residence outside Doha in 2013 - John Stillwell/PA Archive
The Prince of Wales with Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim al Thani, at his residence outside Doha in 2013 - John Stillwell/PA Archive

The Prince of Wales would today refuse to accept a suitcase full of cash, a senior royal source has insisted, amid a furore over donations from a Qatari sheikh totalling £2.5 million.

The Charity Commission is to review three separate cash payments donated to The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund (PWCF) by a former prime minister of the Gulf state.

The heir to the throne is alleged to have personally accepted the cash donations between 2011 and 2015 from Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, who was prime minister of Qatar between 2007 and 2013.

Aides on Wednesday attempted to distance the Prince from the controversy, stressing that the cash was “passed immediately to his charities” whose decision it was to accept the money.  “That is a decision for them,” one well-placed source said.

“It followed all the right processes, auditors looked at it.”

No longer acceptable

However, the source conceded that advice had evolved over the years and that such payments would no longer be considered acceptable.

“The Prince of Wales operates on advice,” the source added.

“Situations, contexts change over the years. I can say with certainty that for more than half a decade, with the situation as it has evolved, this has not happened and it would not happen again.

“That was then, this is now and they are not the same.”

There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by either party, but the details have raised further questions about the judgment of the future king.

On one occasion, the cash from “HBJ”, as Sheikh Hamad, 62, is known, was reportedly stuffed into Fortnum & Mason bags.

At a 2015 meeting at Clarence House, the Prince is said to have accepted a holdall containing €1 million (£800,000).

It is alleged that the cash was handed to royal aides who counted out the now-discontinued €500 notes, dubbed the “bin Laden” because of links to the funding of terrorism.

The Prince and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, entertain the sheikh at Windsor Castle in 2010 - WPA Pool/Getty Images Europe
The Prince and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, entertain the sheikh at Windsor Castle in 2010 - WPA Pool/Getty Images Europe

One former adviser who handled some of the cash said “everyone felt very uncomfortable about the situation”.

Jonathan Aitken, the disgraced former cabinet minister turned vicar, has defended the Prince, insisting that large cash transactions remain commonplace in the Middle Eastern business world, and even more so in donations to charitable causes by Gulf sheikhs and princes.

Mr Aitken, a friend of Sheikh Hamad, described him as “one of the most respected political and financial figures in the region” who would be used to making generous gifts in cash or kind.

“My guess is that Sheikh Hamad made his donations in person and in cash to the Prince's charitable fund so as to show respect to the heir to the throne,” he wrote in a letter published in The Times.

“This may sound strange to us but it would raise no eyebrows in the Gulf. If the Prince had refused the gift and handed back the cash this would have been an insult. Instead, the cash was accepted and recorded with impeccable legal propriety to the benefit of many good causes, including the employment of ex-offenders.”

Republic, the campaign group, has written to the Charity Commission to ask a number of questions in connection with the cash donations.

Graham Smith, the group’s CEO, said: “It isn’t enough to simply be reassured by Charles and the charity that no rules were broken. These payments raise serious and legitimate questions that could damage the reputation of Britain's charity sector.”

‘No knowledge’

Norman Baker, the former Liberal Democrat minister, has asked the Metropolitan Police to include the claims in its “cash for honours” investigation into allegations involving another of the Prince’s charities, the Prince's Foundation.

The probe was launched in February after Prince Charles and Michael Fawcett, his former close confidant, were reported over the claims.

Mr Fawcett was accused of promising to help secure a knighthood and British citizenship for a Saudi billionaire donor to the Prince’s Foundation.

Clarence House said the Prince had “no knowledge” of the alleged cash-for-honours scandal.

The Charity Commission said: “We are aware of reports about donations received by the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation.

“We will review the information to determine whether there is any role for the commission in this matter.”