Prince Charles was '100% behind offer to help Saudi gain citizenship'
Prince Charles was ‘100% behind’ offer to help Saudi billionaire gain British citizenship as ‘reward and recognition’ for donating £1.5m to his charities
- Allegation made by William Bortrick, a paid advisor to Saudi tycoon Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz
- Charles’s former valet Michael Fawcett has been forced to step down as chief of the Prince’s Foundation
- String of allegations have been made about 58-year-old Mr Fawcett’s conduct while running the charity
- It includes claim he offered to ‘support’ Dr bin Mahfouz in efforts to secure knighthood and UK citizenship
Prince Charles was ‘100 per cent’ behind an offer to help Saudi tycoon Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz secure UK citizenship, a former fixer claimed as the royal faced mounting pressure to cut ties with his closest aide.
The allegation by William Bortrick – a paid advisor to Dr bin Mahfouz, who is a major donor to Charles’s charities – comes as the Prince’s former valet Michael Fawcett was forced to step down as chief of the Prince’s Foundation.
A string of claims about 58-year-old Mr Fawcett’s conduct while running the charity included the allegation that he had offered to ‘support’ Dr bin Mahfouz in his efforts to secure both a knighthood and British citizenship.
And new allegations about Charles’s apparent involvement have emerged in a draft letter from Mr Bortrick to Dr bin Mahfouz, who donated more than £1.5million to Charles’s charities.
The letter by Burke’s Peerage publisher Mr Bortrick, which was drafted in May 2014 and revealed by The Times today, said that Dr bin Mahfouz’s application for citizenship would ‘now take the highest priority’.
It added: ‘His Royal Highness supports these applications 100 per cent, as there is no greater example of contribution [than] yours, therefore this should be rewarded and recognised accordingly.’
Prince Charles awards a CBE to Saudi tycoon Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz at Buckingham Palace in November 2016
Burke’s Peerage publisher William Bortrick, a paid advisor to Dr bin Mahfouz, who is a major donor to Charles’s charities
Charles’s former valet Michael Fawcett is pictured outside his London home today walking his dog with his wife Debbie Burke
Mr Bortrick also suggested in the draft letter that Dr bin Mahfouz would get the opportunity to meet the Queen ‘in the next few months’, and receive the ‘special honours’ of a knighthood before full House of Lords membership.
However, the newspaper reported that there was no evidence of whether the letter was sent or agreed by Charles’s advisers – and MailOnline has contacted a Clarence House spokesman for comment this morning.
Mr Fawcett was pictured outside his home in London this morning walking his dog with his wife Debbie Burke.
Prince’s Foundation beefs up investigation into ‘cash for honours’ claims
When allegations surfaced a week ago about how wealthy donors could pay £100,000 to secure a dinner with Prince Charles and a stay at Dumfries House, an internal investigation was launched.
The Prince’s Foundation beefed up the probe yesterday after more serious ‘cash for honours’ claims, this time about Michael Fawcett, surfaced.
The charity has arranged for a senior forensic accountant from a ‘big four’ firm for carry out and independent review.
But critics believe the inquiry should be handled by an fully independent commission or a police force.
It is understood that the Scottish Charity Regulator has been informed, because the allegations relate to north of the border. But it is unclear if any action is being taken by the body.
Former Minister Norman Baker said he would be writing to Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick today and asking her to investigate a potential breach of the 1925 Honours Act.
Only once person has never been convicted under this act – and this was back in 1933.
It follows reports that a letter on headed notepaper made clear that Mr Fawcett was prepared to assist in bumping up the tycoon’s honorary CBE to a knighthood.
Dr bin Mahfouz has been one of the most prolific donors to the prince’s charities, giving more than £1.5million to help fund renovations of residences supported by Charles.
The prince is understood to have ‘known nothing’ of either Mr Fawcett’s letter or of emails from fixers about the prospect of an honour.
Indeed, the Mail understands that he was ‘so surprised’ by the claims that he ‘couldn’t believe them’ at first.
However, the revelations in The Mail on Sunday and The Sunday Times represented the third time the future king has found himself facing a scandal involving Mr Fawcett – who has twice before been forced to resign from royal service.
Mr Fawcett – at his own suggestion – has agreed to ‘temporarily’ step down from his £95,000-a-year role with the Foundation while an investigation is carried out. The future king, crucially, is said to be ‘supportive’ of this.
But last night he faced pressure to finally cut ties with his former valet if allegations of wrongdoing are found to be proven, with one source suggesting there should be a ‘timely parting of ways’.
The Prince’s Foundation is also facing the threat of a possible police inquiry.
Former minister Norman Baker, a respected author on royal finances, said the sale of honours was an offence and he would be writing to Met Commissioner Cressida Dick today to ask her to investigate.
He said: ‘The letter from Michael Fawcett seems to show there is a prima facie link being made between the donor getting an honour for money coming into Prince Charles’s charity, which is an offence.’
Mr Baker questioned whether an internal inquiry by the charity would be conducted with significant rigour, given Mr Fawcett’s elevated position.
Mr Fawcett has twice bounced back from scandals – once over bullying claims and again over the alleged sale of royal gifts – because of the prince’s reliance on him.
Charles, who prides loyalty and discretion above anything, once said he could ‘manage without just about anyone, except for Michael’.
Prince Charles is pictured with his former valet Michael Fawcett, 58, at the Castle of Mey in Caithness, Scotland, in May 2019
Prince Charles and Camilla are pictured last Tuesday on a visit to the Ballater Community and Heritage Hub in Aberdeenshire
One source said: ‘What we have seen so far is the tip of the iceberg. Just because these are charities championed by the Prince of Wales doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be subject to the same checks, balances and scrutiny as any other charity.’
Last week the Prince’s Foundation launched an investigation following other ‘cash for access’ claims. Society fixer Michael Wynne-Parker was accused of offering a dinner with Charles and an overnight stay at Dumfries House for £100,000.
Mr Fawcett has agreed to ‘temporarily’ step down from his £95,000-a-year role with the Foundation. He is pictured outside his home in London yesterday
Mr Wynne-Parker, an adviser to Dr bin Mahfouz, allegedly wrote an email saying fixers would pocket up to 25 per cent of the fees.
But the latest disclosures pose far more serious questions about the conduct of those close to the prince.
They will also prompt renewed scrutiny of the honours system and whether it is open to monetary influence.
Last night the Prince’s Foundation said it had beefed up its investigation by arranging for a senior forensic accountant from a ‘big four’ firm to carry out an independent review.
The bombshell letter was allegedly written by Mr Fawcett on August 18, 2017, to Dr bin Mahfouz’s aide Busief Lamlum.
It says: ‘In light of the ongoing and most recent generosity of His Excellency… 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 that 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.’
The letter makes no effort to disguise that support for any knighthood and citizenship application depends on Dr bin Mahfouz’s financial support.
Writing in his then capacity as chief executive of the Dumfries House Trust, Mr Fawcett added: ‘I hope that this confirmation is sufficient in allowing us to go forward.’
A year later, Mr Fawcett was put in charge of Charles’s entire charitable empire as chief executive of the Foundation.
One of his main tasks was securing donations for Dumfries House, which Charles saved for the nation in 2007 – in part through a £20million loan from his then charitable trust.
Last night Clarence House said it was taking the matter ‘very seriously’. Mr Fawcett declined to comment.
A spokesman for Dr bin 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’.
Society fixer, Burke’s Peerage publisher and Saudi tycoon: Three key characters in the Charles scandal
Dr Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz
Dr Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz, pictured meeting Prince Charles, is one of Britain’s most generous benefactors
Dr Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz is one of Britain’s most generous benefactors who holds a string of titles in the UK. The millionaire Saudi businessman’s family made their fortune in the Middle East through hotels, property and manufacturing.
In 2012 Dr Mahfouz, 51, set up the Mahfouz Foundation, a charity that aims to ‘advance the education of the public in the United Kingdom in the culture, history, language, literature and institutions of the Middle East’.
Three years later Dr Mahfouz donated £370,000 to the Queen Elizabeth Castle of Mey Trust, which Prince Charles is president of, to help renovate the estate despite the Saudi never having visited it.
He was honoured with the Mahfouz Wood, to the east of the 15th Century castle, and six benches were installed with plaques bearing the names of Dr Mahfouz, his father and four brothers will be placed around the castle’s gardens.
He has also donated a significant sum to Dumfries House, the 18th Century Palladian mansion in Ayrshire, which the Prince’s Foundation had painstakingly being working to restore.
Dr Mahfouz holds the title of Lord and Baron of Abernethy as well as his honorary CBE awarded in a private ceremony at Buckingham Palace in 2016.
He has been made a life Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts as well as being awarded Knight Grand Cross in the Companionate of Merit of the Military and Hospitaller Order of St Lazarus of Jerusalem.
He has been elected a fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford and has a bust in his honour at Wolfson College, Cambridge.
Michael Wynne-Parker has rubbed shoulders with Prime Ministers and world leaders during a colourful life
Michael Wynne-Parker is known as a society fixer who has rubbed shoulders with Prime Ministers and world leaders during a colourful life.
Mr Wynne-Parker, 75, stood unsuccessfully as a Tory candidate in Norfolk in August 1974 before becoming a regular at the Monday Club, the Right-wing Westminster pressure group.
He quickly proved himself a masterful networker introduced Margaret Thatcher to Muammar Gadaffi’s son and meeting brewery tycoon Jonathan Guinness – now Lord Moyne.
Mr Wynne-Parker worked with Lord Moyne on his controversial consultancy firm Introcom which was investigated by the fraud squad after complaints from creditors over their failed airline, Tajik Air, in 1994.
Mr Wynne-Parker said at the time that Introcom had no financial involvement, but had only provided consultancy services.
Mr Wynne-Parker and Lord Moyne then launched Access To Justice which rented out office suites and gave free legal advice to those seeking to overturn their convictions because of alleged miscarriages of justice.
It was claimed that the firm misrepresented itself as a charity and that a convicted fraudster was involved in its operations. Margaret Beckett, then the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, obtained a court order to shut down the company in the public interest.
Both Mr Wynne-Parker and Lord Moyne were banned from being company directors for five years in 2000 because of their roles in Access To Justice.
Another of his firms, Wynne-Parker Financial Management, had also been shut down by financial watchdogs ten years earlier. He was found guilty on 16 counts of misconduct and fined £10,000 with a judge saying that it seemed the businessman had ‘the clear modus operandi of a crook’.
William Bortrick i is chairman of aristocratic guide Burke’s Peerage
William Bortrick is a family figure in London’s private clubs and is usually seen hovering in background at functions attended by society fixer Michael Wynne-Parker.
He is chairman of the once-revered aristocratic guide, Burke’s Peerage, and is also a member of the founding board of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society, which is chaired by Mr Wynne-Parker.
The organisation has faced disputed allegations that it is a front for Russian influence – but its bosses insist it is a religious and cultural organisation.
Mr Bortrick, 48, is also an adviser to the Commonwealth Sambo Association, which champions a Russian martial art and combat sport which may feature in the 2028 Olympics and is strongly backed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The fighting techniques were developed by the Soviet Red Army in the early 1920s to improve unarmed combat. Mr Wynne-Parker is presisent of the association and regularly presides over combat events.
Burke’s Peerage was established by the genealogist John Burke in 1826, expanding over the years into various editions. The firm was chaired from 1974 to 1983 by the entrepreneur Jeremy Norman, who founded the gay nightclub Heaven and established the fitness chain Soho Gyms.
Is this a scandal too far for the man Prince Charles can’t do without? Ex-valet Michael Fawcett has resigned TWICE before and sailed back into royal service… now his fate again rests in prince’s hands, writes RICHARD KAY
As the chauffeur-driven Mercedes-Maybach purred to a halt, the genial offering of a lift came from the open back window.
The voice belonged to Michael Fawcett, Prince Charles’s closest aide, who was reclining in the cosseted walnut and leather luxury of the rear passenger seat.
The scene was Tokyo where almost two years ago Fawcett, now 58, had accompanied his royal boss, representing the Queen at the enthronement of Japan’s new emperor, Naruhito.
Old friends: Prince Charles and Michael Fawcett at the Christmas Shoot at Sandringham in 1992
But while the prince was an esteemed guest at the traditional tea ceremony and other solemn rituals of the coronation, his indispensable ‘Mr Fixit’ had other business to attend to.
Yet the fact that the prince’s one-time manservant was being chauffeured around the Japanese capital in one of the world’s most exclusive – and expensive – production cars, prompted barely a raised eyebrow.
Such has been the rise (and rise) of the man of whom Charles once said: ‘I can manage without just about anyone, except for Michael.’
Now that unique bond is facing its greatest test after Fawcett’s dramatic resignation as chief executive of the Prince’s Foundation following claims he had offered to help secure a knighthood and British citizenship for a Saudi tycoon who had bankrolled Charles’s charities.
And although it was announced that the former valet was stepping down ‘temporarily’ after being confronted with evidence in which he offered the royal charity’s influence in helping the businessman, many inside and outside the Palace were wondering if the man once dubbed ‘Fawcett the Fence’ for selling royal gifts had finally, by resigning, provided his last princely service.
For, as all-important as he undoubtedly is to the Prince of Wales, Fawcett has also at times been a liability – upsetting courtiers and being accused of bullying staff both senior and junior. But whatever the past accusations, he has remained serenely impervious to them all.
Will that be the case now?
Master and servant: Michael Fawcett (right) with Charles on royal duties in Scotland in 2019 with Lord Thurso (left)
We understand that the prince was both ‘shocked’ and ‘surprised’ by the weekend’s developments.
Initially, after being told of the existence of a letter in which Fawcett set out that the charity would be ‘happy and willing’ to use its influence to help Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz, the prince simply didn’t believe it.
‘His first reaction was that he thought it was fake,’ I was told. ‘He was totally surprised, shocked even. He didn’t know anything about it.’
While this may demonstrate the extraordinary authority with which Fawcett has operated since becoming the de-facto head of Charles’s charity empire three years ago, it also reveals how reliant the prince is on him – and therefore his judgment.
Inevitably for someone who has survived so long and risen so high in royal circles, Fawcett has made enemies, many of them envious at both his proximity to the prince and his relationship with him.
Twice before Fawcett has resigned only to swim smilingly back into his royal role after the dust has settled. This time, however, questions are being asked whether – even if he is cleared of any wrongdoing – the prince may make his resignation permanent.
There is the issue of Fawcett’s serious lack of judgment in his grandiose offer to Dr bin Mahfouz coupled with Charles’s growing proximity to the throne.
Charles has become one of the most successful charity fundraisers in the world. As Prince of Wales, he has largely been able to ignore the clamour over how and where some of the money has come from. As monarch he simply would not be able to.
‘Maybe it is time, however unpleasant he finds it, for Charles to make a clean break with Fawcett,’ says one long-standing adviser. ‘It would send out a message that he was serious about preparing for his role as king and that he understands that Michael represents a point of conflict. The question is, will he do it?’
For the best part of four decades Fawcett has been an unwavering constant in the prince’s life – as ‘non-negotiable as Camilla used to be’, observes a palace aide – while others in his household have come and gone.
Quit charity role: The former aide is pictured with his wife Debbie near their home on Sunday
‘No one understands the prince’s moods and eccentricities quite like Michael – and no one has his skill in dealing with them,’ says a close friend. ‘We are not just talking about his petty foibles, how he likes his napkins folded or just how little vermouth should go in to his dry martini, Michael has trained others to do that. It’s that he gets his sensibilities and understands him aesthetically, philosophically and commercially. They are powerful assets and it is easy to see why the prince is so reliant on him.’
Certainly there was no clearer indication of that dependence than when Charles put the man who had once squeezed paste on to his toothbrush (after the heir to the throne broke his arm playing polo in 1990) in charge of his beloved Dumfries House, the Palladian mansion in Scotland which he saved for the nation.
The costly restoration has been a labour of love for the prince, who had taken a gamble on being able to secure the fundraising to make it all happen.
Fawcett’s role in turning the historic house into a busy venue for weddings and conferences while employing as many local people as possible was crucial.
From the beginning he was there three or four days a week. ‘It was the next best thing to having the Prince of Wales do the job himself,’ one figure from those days recalled.
One of Scotland’s finest homes, Dumfries House belonged to the 7th Marquess of Bute, former racing driver Johnny Dumfries, and had been built for his ancestor, the 5th Earl of Dumfries, in the 1750s.
But some 250 years later the Marquess put it on the market, planning to auction its priceless furniture and other treasures.
Charles raised the £45million needed to save the property in the nick of time, at one stage describing how the house’s irreplaceable Chippendales were heading by lorry for auction in London when the deal was done in the middle of the night and the drivers were dramatically instructed to turn around.
Originally he had hoped to recoup his costs by building a model eco village close by – a ‘Poundbury of the North’ as it was dubbed.
But plummeting land and property values left a gaping hole in the figures. Which is where Fawcett stepped in.
Using the same silky skills he once used to sell off unwanted royal gifts from foreign dignitaries on the prince’s behalf (a practice which led to him earning the ‘Fence’ nickname), he was the vital link between the prince and wealthy donors.
The truth is he was pushing at an open door: Fawcett discovered there were many rich men – and women – prepared to pay towards this princely project in return for royal access.
‘Michael was not just securing the money but he was also the impresario arranging all the extravagant events where the pampered guests would get out their cheque books,’ says a former aide. ‘He’s also persuasive in a very charming manner.’
It helped that he looked the part – spit-and-polished tasselled loafers, Turnbull & Asser shirts and silk ties and hand-tailored suits. It was a style, of course, that was epitomised by the royal prince he served with such devotion, right down to the silk handkerchief poking out of his breast pocket.
He also fiddles with his cuffs, just like his royal boss, and stands with his hands clasped behind his back. Indeed when Fawcett, who these days has a well-trimmed grey beard, is in the company of Charles, it is often hard to remember that their relationship is meant to be of master and servant.
At home in Hampton, west London, where he lives with wife Debbie, a former palace housemaid, the father of two even has a portrait of himself by the royal artist Peter Kuhfeld, whose other commissions included William and Harry as small boys and a canvas of the scene inside Westminster Abbey at William and Kate’s wedding.
All in all it has been an extraordinarily meteoric rise for someone who not so long ago supplemented his meagre royal income with a Saturday job in a menswear shop in Jermyn Street.
There are scarcely any below-stairs retainers still around who can recall Michael David Fawcett’s arrival at Buckingham Palace, straight out of catering college to work as one of the Queen’s footmen in 1981, wearing a polyester pullover.
But former staff remember him as a ‘bit of a Billy Liar’ who embellished a modest background. The teenage boy from Bexley, south-east London, talked of a wealthy accountant father. In fact his father was a company cashier and his mother Joan, who died when he was young, a district nurse.
At one point he grandly styled himself ‘Buxton-Fawcett’. Buxton was his mother’s maiden name but fellow staff were unimpressed and took to addressing him as ‘Sir Michael’.
Taken under the patronage of the Queen Mother’s staff at Clarence House, he was a fast learner and rose to become Sergeant Footman.
This gave him authority over the very people who had been mocking him and it also caught the eye of the Prince of Wales, who asked him to become his assistant valet.
When the newly married Charles and Diana set up home in Kensington Palace, Fawcett went too. He and Diana, just a year his senior, got on well and were often to be found in the palace kitchen chatting over bowls of yoghurt.
This easy friendship did not last. As the royal marriage disintegrated Fawcett was firmly on Team Charles.
When the couple separated in 1992, Diana had the locks of the marital apartment changed. Not to keep out Charles but the interfering Fawcett.
In the years of the royal separation Fawcett’s influence grew. By now increasingly overbearing, Fawcett – who had been promoted from valet to personal assistant – was the subject of a complaint from other servants.
He resigned only to be reinstated after Camilla intervened.
Five years later he stepped down again after an internal inquiry found he had broken regulations by accepting and selling gifts that Charles did not want. Crucially, the investigation cleared him of any financial wrongdoing.
In resigning Fawcett took the heat from Charles, a move that endeared him even more to the prince.
Charles rewarded him with a £500,000 payoff and the unswerving loyalty that exists to this day. Fawcett set up Premier Mode, an events company with the prince as number one client, organising all his social gatherings, including the wedding party when Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall married in 2005.
According to its latest figures the company – in which his wife, son and daughter are all directors – had healthy assets of more than £141,000.
With Camilla he later oversaw the renovations of Clarence House and Birkhall near Balmoral, the two homes Charles inherited on the death of his grandmother the Queen Mother.
But it is as fundraiser extraordinaire that Fawcett has come into his own. On one occasion he was introduced to a wealthy Arab businessman who said he would be honoured to present the prince with a traditional – and valuable – gold sword. A message went back that what the prince would really appreciate were some carpets.
Not long afterwards £40,000 of new carpet was being laid at Dumfries House.
‘Only Michael can do something like this,’ says a colleague admiringly. ‘The prince is constantly amazed by what he does.’
Recently Fawcett, who will be 60 next year, has been talking about retirement. Once this seemed unlikely as he was said to be in line for a major role when Charles becomes king.
Some of the details of Charles’s coronation were expected to be in Fawcett’s hands – which might explain his presence in Japan picking up tips as the crown passed to a new emperor.
There has even been talk of him becoming Master of the Household in the new reign.
Today, thanks to the revelations about cash for honours, that looks uncertain.
Once again Michael Fawcett’s future is in Charles’s hands. The question is, does the prince have the resolve to finally part from him?
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