NORMAN BAKER: Charles' fingerprints are all over cash for scandal mess
NORMAN BAKER: Charles can’t hide behind aides. His fingerprints are all over this mess
Cash for access. Cash for honours. And even cash for citizenship.
The Mail on Sundays’ devastating revelations about Prince Charles and his advisers, including right-hand man Michael Fawcett, will come as a shock to many.
But the real surprise should be that their activities have remained hidden from public view for quite so long.
For this is no one-off.
It is a pattern of behaviour.
It has long been normal practice for Charles to accept cash – on behalf of his charities – in return for favours.
The Mail on Sundays’ devastating revelations about Prince Charles and his advisers, including right-hand man Michael Fawcett (right), will come as a shock to many. But the real surprise should be that their activities have remained hidden from public view for quite so long
Yes, the causes championed by the Prince of Wales are worthy ones.
In particular, The Prince’s Trust, which he established in 1976, has been a great success and helped close to a million youngsters.
Dumfries House, which he decided to save for the nation, does valuable and often pioneering work.
Yet Charles has repeatedly shown he his willing to accept cheques from almost anybody and everybody, without ever seeming to realise – or, perhaps, to care – that the large cheques have been forthcoming because the donors want something back for themselves.
His own father, Prince Philip, once described Charles as ‘rent-a-Royal’.
And the greater the sum, the shadier the donor.
Enron founder Kenneth Lay was a regular guest at St James’s Palace for example. On occasion, Lay reciprocated the favour and Charles flew to Houston to have lunch with him.
Enron donated around £1 million to the Prince’s Trust between 1991 and 1999. But that was before it was revealed that Enron had fiddled the books amid a catastrophic bankruptcy that ruined countless lives.
And what should we make of Ruben Vardanyan, chief executive of a Moscow bank, Troika Dialog?
This bank managed a shell company in the British Virgin Islands, a tax haven, called Quantus Division.
Through Quantus, £200,000 made its way to Charles to help plug a gaping hole in the finances of Dumfries House.
Yet Charles has repeatedly shown he his willing to accept cheques from almost anybody and everybody, without ever seeming to realise – or, perhaps, to care – that the large cheques have been forthcoming because the donors want something back for themselves
The banker managed to raise a further £1.5 million from assorted Russian businessmen, who were duly rewarded by Charles with a black tie dinner in 2014.
No doubt Vladimir Putin would have been pleased with this top-level, scrutiny-free access to the British Establishment.
Charles seems to think that if the cause is justified, and the money rolls in, nothing else truly matters. It is an attitude that reeks of a streak of arrogance, vanity and perhaps naivety, too.
Back in the 1990s, the Tory Government was rocked by the ‘cash for questions’ scandal.
The allegation that two Conservative MPs were paid to ask parliamentary questions led to the resignation of one, Tim Smith, and the heavy defeat of the other, Neil Hamilton at the 1997 General Election.
How is this different from Prince Charles selling access to himself for money?
Yet today’s revelations – that Michael Fawcett offered to help a Saudi sheik obtain both a knighthood and a British passport – takes the issue to a whole new level.
It is a criminal offence to sell an honour under the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925. Tomorrow, I shall be writing to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, to ask her to open an investigation.
As for helping to obtain citizenship in return for cash, that was the sort of link – which I uncovered through a parliamentary answer back in 2001 – that forced Trade Secretary Peter Mandelson to resign from the Labour Government.
He had intervened with the Home Office on behalf of the Hinduja brothers, who were making a big donation to that whitest of elephants, the Millennium Dome.
How is this different from Charles soliciting money for Dumfries House in return for a promise of citizenship? It is not.
The parallels should make uncomfortable consideration for the heir to the throne – although if past behaviour is any guide, there will be little such reflection.
If the story refuses to go away, then Michael Fawcett will be forced to resign permanently. Will he then be quietly re-employed when nobody is looking? It has happened before.
But let’s be clear – this is no rogue operation. Mr Fawcett is doing exactly what Prince Charles wants.
And it is the Prince of Wales, not Michael Fawcett, who has to answer questions now. His royal fingerprints are all over this.
The monarchy has been seriously damaged by the dodgy activities of the boorish Prince Andrew and by the self- obsessed bleatings of Harry and Meghan.
The Queen continues to command respect, but she will not go on for ever.
This morning, many will be asking themselves how Prince Charles can square such behaviour with the momentous responsibilities he is due to inherit one day.
l…And What Do You Do? What The Royal Family Don’t Want You To Know, by Norman Baker, is published by Biteback
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