Charity Commission launches inquiry into Mahfouz Foundation donations

Charity Commission launches inquiry into donations received by Saudi businessman’s organisation that were meant for Prince Charles’ Foundation

  • Regulator launches probe into donations received by Saudi businessman’s trust
  • Says money was meant for Prince’s Foundation which is Prince Charles’s charity
  • Mahfouz Foundation is run by billionaire Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz
  • Prince’s Foundation already probed in Scotland over Michael Fawcett claims
  • Quit after claims he promised to help secure knighthood for donor Bin Mahfouz

The Charity Commission has launched a probe into donations received by a Saudi businessman’s trust which were meant for Charles’s charity the Prince’s Foundation. 

The charities regulator in England said today it had opened the investigation into the Mahfouz Foundation, which is run by billionaire Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz.

The Prince’s Foundation is already being probed by the Scottish Charity Regulator over allegations about its former chief executive Michael Fawcett who quit last week.

Mr Fawcett, one of Charles’s closest confidantes, resigned after claims he allegedly promised to help secure a knighthood and UK citizenship for donor Dr Bin Mahfouz. 

And while it is not clear how the latest investigation will affect the Prince of Wales, it is the latest crisis to hit the Prince’s Foundation amid the ‘cash-for-honours’ scandal.

The Commission said it had been ‘engaging’ since September with trustees at the Mahfouz Foundation, which aims to promote Middle Eastern history and culture.

Saudi billionaire Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz is pictured meeting Prince Charles

Michael Fawcett (right), one of Prince Charles’s closest confidantes, resigned after claims he allegedly promised to help secure a knighthood and British citizenship for Dr Bin Mahfouz 

That came after it was alleged that donations intended for the Prince’s Foundation went instead to the Mahfouz Foundation, with some then transferred elsewhere.

The regulator said it had also identified concerns around the trustees’ governance and financial control of the charity, with a statutory inquiry launched on November 2.

Footman to top man: The rise and fall of Prince Charles’ aide Michael Fawcett 

1981: As a teenager, Michael Fawcett lands a job as junior footman to the Queen at Buckingham Palace. He later moves to Kensington Palace as assistant valet to Prince Charles, who is setting up home with Diana.

1990: He is reportedly trusted to squeeze toothpaste on to Charles’s brush when the prince broke an arm playing polo.

1992: When the royal couple separate, Diana has the locks of the marital apartment changed to keep out Fawcett, who pinned his loyalties to Charles.

1998: Three members of palace staff go to the prince to complain about Fawcett’s allegedly overbearing and bullying manner, and he quits. But his resignation leaves Charles in tears and he is reinstated and promoted within a week.

2000: Fawcett is appointed a Member of the Victorian Order by the Prince in the New Year’s Honours – an honour normally reserved for Royal Household members.

2003: He is again forced out for supposedly selling on behalf of Charles gifts the prince did not want. An internal inquiry clears him of any financial misconduct. He resigns but the prince rewards him with a £500,000 severance packet. Fawcett sets up a private events company, Premier Mode.

2005: Premier Mode organises Charles and Camilla’s wedding party.

2017: Fawcett joins the board of A G Carrick, a company Charles set up to sell mementoes at his Highgrove shop. Fawcett also runs the trust set up to run Prince Charles’s pet project, Dumfries House.

2018: Fawcett is appointed to a £95,000-a-year role as chief executive of Charles’s charity, The Prince’s Foundation.

2021: It is alleged that Fawcett fixed a CBE for a Saudi billionaire who had donated more than £1.5 million to royal charities. Fawcett resigns for the third time. 

It comes after Charles’s right-hand man Mr Fawcett resigned last week as chief executive of the Prince’s Foundation over the ‘cash for honours’ inquiry.

He also had his private contract to organise events for Charles severed, after reports he offered to help Dr Bin Mahfouz – a donor to the prince’s charity – secure a knighthood and UK citizenship.

In 2007, Mr Fawcett was made chief executive of Scotland’s Dumfries House, a stately home Charles helped save for the nation which has since been turned into a community facility and hub for his considerable charitable activities.

In 2018, following a reorganisation of those charities, Mr Fawcett was appointed as £95,000-a-year chief executive of the newly created The Prince’s Foundation.

Mr Fawcett set about becoming a ‘fundraiser extraordinaire’, raising millions to support the prince’s philanthropic work every year.

But earlier this autumn, questions were raised over Dr Bin Mahfouz, who received an honorary CBE personally from Charles in 2016.

He had donated £1.5million, spent mostly on renovating two of Charles’s Scottish properties, where parts of the grounds are named after him.

It was alleged that he paid tens of thousands to fixers with links to the prince who had told him they could secure him an honour. Mr Mahfouz denies any wrongdoing.

Significantly, a letter emerged which Mr Fawcett wrote to Mr Mahfouz in 2017, in which he said: ‘In light of the ongoing and most recent generosity of His Excellency Sheikh Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz, 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 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.’

Sources said Prince Charles was not aware of any link between donations to the foundation and honours and was ‘deeply shocked’.

The Prince’s Foundation said it took the allegations seriously and immediately ordered an investigation.

Mr Fawcett announced he would ‘temporarily’ step down from his post while the matter was probed.

But last week he decided to make that decision permanent, even before the findings had been revealed.

The Charities Commission inquiry announced today is now set to examine whether certain donations received by the Mahfouz Foundation were intended for the charity.

Michael Fawcett, 59, is pictured outside his home in South West London earlier this month

It will also look at if they were used in accordance with the donors’ intentions and if they should be returned to the donor or otherwise applied for charitable purposes.

Emily Anne Cherrington, 38, is now the acting chief executive of the Prince’s Foundation

Furthermore, the probe will consider whether the trustees have carried out their legal duties and responsibilities as trustees in line with charity law.

The Commission said it may extend the scope of the inquiry if additional issues emerge, and it will publish a report after this has concluded.

This report will detail what issues the inquiry looked at, what actions were taken as part of the inquiry and what the outcomes were.

The Commission added that the it does not regulate the Prince’s Foundation which is instead registered with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator.

The Charity Commission is the independent, non-ministerial government department that registers and regulates charities in England and Wales.

The Prince’s Foundation declined to comment because of the ongoing investigation, but a source said the charity would be happy to offer its co-operation on the matter. 

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