One of Prince Charles’ top aides has stepped down amid claims he fixed an honour for a Saudi tycoon who donated to royal charities.
Michael Fawcett, a former assistant valet to the Prince of Wales, has “temporarily” left his job as chief executive of The Prince’s Foundation amid allegations relating to businessman Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz.
Reports say Mr Mahfouz, who is listed as a supporter on The Prince’s Foundation website, donated large sums to restoration projects of particular interest to Charles.
The prince then gave Mr Mahfouz – who denies any wrongdoing – a CBE in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace in 2016, which was not published in the Court Circular, the Sunday Times said.
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According to the paper, the Saudi businessman’s fixers contacted people close to Charles about the prospect of an honour as early as 2011.
His aides were said to be explicit about the transactional nature of the arrangement, making it clear that, in exchange for giving large sums of money to Charles’s charities, his team would secure the honour for Mr Mahfouz.
And The Mail on Sunday said that a letter was sent by Mr Fawcett to Busief Lamlum, an aide to Mr Mahfouz, in 2017, which indicated that his charitable donations would also help a citizenship bid.
It read: “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 allegations are said to centre around donations for Charles’s scheme to renovate Dumfries House, a Palladian mansion in Scotland.
Mr Fawcett, who in 2003 was cleared of financial misconduct allegations over the selling of royal gifts, was appointed chief executive of the Prince’s Foundation in 2018 following a reorganisation of Charles’ charities.
Douglas Connell, chair of The Prince’s Foundation, said on Saturday: “Earlier today, Michael Fawcett offered to step down temporarily from active duties as chief executive of The Prince’s Foundation while the trustees’ investigation is ongoing.
“The Prince’s Foundation has accepted this offer. Michael fully supports the ongoing investigation and has confirmed that he will assist the investigation in every way.”
The Mirror understands that Emily Cherrington, chief operating officer, will take over in the interim, and that the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) has been informed as The Prince’s Foundation is a charity registered in Scotland.
A spokeswoman for The Prince’s Foundation told the Mirror: “The Prince’s Foundation takes very seriously the allegations that have recently been brought to its attention and the matter is currently under investigation.
“We are incredibly proud of The Prince’s Foundation’s charitable work and the positive impact it has on our beneficiaries throughout the UK and across the world.
“Our education and training programmes, in particular, benefit more than 15,000 people every year, and provide our students with the skills and confidence needed to gain employment or start their own businesses.”
Mr Fawcett began his royal service in 1981 as a footman to the Queen, rising through the ranks to sergeant footman and then Charles’ assistant valet, setting out his bespoke suits and shirts every morning at Kensington Palace.
He was accused of selling unwanted royal gifts and pocketing a percentage of the proceeds when Charles’ personal assistant, but was cleared by an internal inquiry of any financial misconduct.
The inquiry, headed by Charles’ then private secretary Sir Michael Peat, found Mr Fawcett did “infringe internal rules relating to gifts from suppliers” but could not be severely criticised because the rules were not enforced and he made no secret of such gifts.
But the report painted a picture of Mr Fawcett as an alleged bully who accepted valuable gifts from outsiders.
The royal aide resigned following the report’s publication, but continued to have the prince’s patronage as a freelance fixer and party planner, and picked up an undisclosed cash severance package as well as an agreement to work as Charles’ events manager.
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