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Charles’ judgement under fresh scrutiny over bags of cash
The cartoon image of Prince Charles rubbing his hands with glee while chucking shopping bags stuffed full of banknotes into the back of his wine-powered Aston Martin like something out of the irreverent British comedy The Windsors is on the Royalist’s mind today.
The image follows the astonishing revelation that the heir to the throne was personally handed a suitcase containing €1m (just over $1.05m) by a politician representing a rich oil-producing Arab statelet.
“It was one of three lots of cash, totaling €3 million ($3.2m), which Prince Charles personally received from Sheik Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, the former prime minister of Qatar who is nicknamed ‘HBJ,’ between 2011 and 2015,” the London Sunday Times reports.
The story, described as “truly shocking” by a senior ethics official, will cement in many minds Charles’ reputation for financial indiscipline. While it may be a little too much to say it jeopardizes his succession, it certainly poses urgent and new questions about the judgement of the heir to the throne when it comes to money matters.
Late last year, Charles lost his key aide Michael Fawcett, who was forced to stand down from Charles’ foundation after it was revealed he arranged an honor for a billionaire Saudi donor, explicitly in return for donations. Charles denied any knowledge of the transactional arrangement but a reported police investigation into the matter has provided no answers, being discreet to the point of invisibility. Prince Harry pointedly accused his father of being involved in what he described as a “scandal” over the affair.
In the latest self-inflicted disaster to hit Charles, the Sunday Times has revealed that Sheik Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, personally gave Charles bags of cash on three separate occasions between 2011 and 2015.
On each occasion, HBJ is said to have given the prince €1 million in €500 notes—sometimes dubbed ‘bin Ladens’ because of their use by terrorist-linked organized crime gangs. One time the money was stuffed into plastic shopping bags from the luxury Chelsea grocer and department store Fortnum & Mason, which holds a royal charter from the prince. Another time the money was in a suitcase, and the third time it was in a holdall.
Clarence House insisted to the Times that it makes no difference that the money, which was deposited into an account at exclusive bankers Coutts, just happened to arrive in cash and that “all the correct processes were followed.”
However a source described as “one of Charles’s former advisers who handled some of the cash,” told the Sunday Times that “everyone felt very uncomfortable about the situation,” adding that the, “only thing we could do was to count the money and make a mutual record of what we’d done. And then call the bank.”
HBJ, a member of Qatar’s ruling al-Thani family, is a hugely controversial figure, with an estimated personal wealth of $12 billion, having served as Qatar’s prime minister between 2007 and 2013, during which time he cultivated close links with the U.K., which saw the country’s vast sovereign wealth fund invest in Harrods and the iconic London skyscraper the Shard.
Charles was believed to have used his influence to get the Qataris to pull out of the redevelopment of a high profile site in Chelsea called Chelsea Barracks. The High Court said Charles’s involvement in the matter was “unexpected and unwelcome.”
Sir Alistair Graham, former chairman of the committee on standards in public life, told the Sunday Times the revelations were “truly shocking,” saying: “I wouldn’t make a distinction between a politician and a member of the royal family. 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.”
Beatrice’s card reportedly declined at Glasto
At the other end of the financial scale, Princess Beatrice’s bank card was apparently declined three times at a bar at British music festival Glastonbury. A spy told the Daily Star: “She tried to pay by card but it got declined three times.”
Good news for her dad, Prince Andrew, on the money front, however. The Mirror reports that Author Ingrid Seward told True Royalty TV’s The Royal Beat, “They’re not going to cast him out because he will be more trouble and start talking and giving TV interviews and writing books. They don’t want that again. He will be financially secure, but I would be very surprised if he kept the Royal Lodge.”
Andrew smiles away
If Prince Andrew is worried about losing his Duke of York title—after 80% of that town said they wanted to cut their link with him—he wasn’t showing it Saturday. The Daily Mail showed him riding a horse cheerily around the Windsor Castle estate.
As The Daily Beast reported, York Central MP Rachael Maskell, has brought forward the “Removal of Titles Bill,” after polls showed that 80 percent of its citizens want to be freed of their link with the shamed royal, who has refused to stop using the title, which was given to him as a wedding present in 1986.
Maskell told the Daily Mail: “Back in February, when we had the focus on the court case, which was being brought against Andrew, my constituents responded that 80% of people wanted the association with the current Duke of York to be broken. And therefore, I met with the clerks here in the Commons to see how it can be achieved.”
She discovered there were “no mechanisms in place, even for the monarch, to remove the title. The only real way it could be done is for Andrew to no longer call himself, by choice, the Duke of York.”
She added: “Using a title like the Duke of York is an ambassadorial role, it carries the name of our city across the world.
“And it’s a city, which is a Human Rights City, the only Human Rights City in England. We are already in a culture clash when we are talking about violence against women and girls and the issues that we are really working hard on in the city, about making York a very safe place.”
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Epstein victim: Andrew photo made me “shake” in terror
Annie Farmer, a victim of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, tells the Sun that the picture of Andrew with Maxwell, his arm around Virginia Roberts Giuffre, makes her shake. Farmer, speaking in advance of Maxwell’s sentencing on Tuesday, said in an impact statement: “I remember sitting at my desk in a Houston hospital physically shaking after seeing the photo of Maxwell with Virginia Giuffre and Prince Andrew because it became clear to me how their scheme had continued.”
“I never would have met Epstein if not for you,” Farmer, who claims the abuse at Epstein and Maxwell’s hands occurred when she was 16, writes. “You opened the door to hell. And then, Ghislaine, like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, you used your femininity to betray us, and you led us all through it.” The pair did “unthinkable things” to her, Farmer says.
Royals rethink colonial legacy
A sign that the royals are at least trying to address the many horrors of Britain’s colonial past comes with the news that Prince Charles wants slavery to be accorded public recognition, in a similar vein to the annual remembrance of the Holocaust.
Charles expressed “personal sorrow” at the U.K. links to the slave trade during a visit to Rwanda last week, no doubt encouraged to speak on the issue by protests about the legacy of slavery on William and Kate’s recent tour of the Caribbean, which was criticized in some quarters as “tone-deaf.”
A senior royal source told the Sunday Times: “He is patron of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and he notes that in the U.K., we now know and learn at school all about the Holocaust, so it is something that is acknowledged and learnt at a national level. That is not true of the transatlantic slave trade, and maybe that is something that should be.
“So, just like the Holocaust Memorial Day, is there some way of doing that? Having a moment, having a way of remembering that?”
This week in royal history
July 1 is one of the strangest dates in the royal calendar, marking the birth of Princess Diana on that day in 1961, while on the same day eight years later in 1969, Prince Charles became the Prince of Wales at an investiture ceremony at Caernarvon Castle in north Wales.
If someone turned up at your house with a million dollars in cash on three separate occasions, might you not think you ought to call the authorities? This provokes the question: will the latest mystery-cash scandal prove merely embarrassing for Prince Charles, or could it get worse and wind up threatening his actual legitimacy as monarch?
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