The Metropolitan Police has contacted The Prince’s Foundation over claims that the charity’s former chief executive helped a billionaire secure an honour in return for donations.
The charity confirmed yesterday that an internal investigation had found evidence of “communication and coordination” between Michael Fawcett, the former chief executive of The Prince’s Foundation, and intermediaries seeking an honour for a Saudi donor, Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz.
The police said in a statement today that it continued to assess information in the case and had “liaised with The Prince’s Foundation regarding the findings of its independent investigation”. No investigation has been opened.
In September, the Sunday Times alleged that Fawcett had worked with representatives of Mahfouz, who received a CBE after making large donations to charities linked to the Prince of Wales.
Fawcett resigned from his role at the charity last month, having stepped aside temporarily when the allegations were first published.
A statement by trustees at The Prince’s Foundation said that its internal investigation had found that “there is evidence that communication and coordination took place between the chief executive at the time and so-called ‘fixers’ regarding honorary nominations for a donor between 2014-18”.
It added that “there is no evidence that employees or trustees of The Prince’s Foundation were aware of private dinners being ‘sold’ or arranged in exchange for money”.
The Metropolitan Police said: “On Sunday 5 September, the Metropolitan Police Service received a letter relating to this matter. Officers are carrying out an assessment of the information within the letter and are making initial inquiries. No investigation has been launched.
“Officers have liaised with The Prince’s Foundation regarding the findings of its independent investigation as part of their assessment.”
Last month, the Charity Commission announced it had opened a statutory inquiry into Mahfouz’s charity The Mahfouz Foundation, looking at whether the charity received donations intended for The Prince’s Foundation.
According to its filings with the regulator, The Mahfouz Foundation’s income was exactly £10,000 last year, meaning that it does not need to publish audited annual accounts.
The Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) opened an investigation into The Prince’s Foundation in September.
A third charity, Children and the Arts, where the Prince of Wales is a patron, referred itself to the Charity Commission after the Sunday Times claimed that donations by Russian businessman Dmitry Leus, which were rejected by The Prince’s Foundation ethics committee, were sent to Children and the Arts via The Mahfouz Foundation, without Leus’s knowledge and obscuring the origins of the money.
Activities 'undertaken without the knowledge or approval of the trustees'
Summarising the findings of its investigation, The Prince’s Foundation said that “in the case of the donation from Mr Leus, The Prince’s Foundation’s ethics committee process was followed.
“A donation of £100,000 was initially approved and accepted by the ethics committee. When further information came to light, the ethics committee decided to reject the donation and asked for the money to be returned, which it was.
“The amount received and returned by The Prince’s Foundation was £100,000 and not £500,000 as has been reported.
“In addition, the funds were received from the Mahfouz Foundation and not direct from Mr Leus, and were returned to the same source.
“The former chief executive and another senior employee were subsequently involved in directing a transfer of funds from the Mahfouz Foundation to another charity, the Children and the Arts Foundation. This activity, including written correspondence, was undertaken without the knowledge or approval of the trustees.”
Sue Bruce, the chair of trustees at The Prince’s Foundation, said: “The board of trustees agreed unequivocally that the recent allegations had to be independently investigated so that the facts could be established, and all necessary steps could be taken to address the issues identified.
“Now that the board has the findings of the investigation, trustees are considering them in conjunction with OSCR and other relevant parties.
“The board of trustees is determined that lessons will be learned to ensure that, in future, our charity maintains the highest standards in all areas and always acts with the utmost integrity and probity.
“As we move through this difficult chapter, I hope that the stories of note will begin to focus once more on the beneficial outcomes delivered by The Prince’s Foundation, and we look forward with optimism to continuing to deliver our charitable activities.”