Prince Harry has risked another public rift with his father after claiming he raised concerns about the donor in the ‘cash for access’ scandal.
The Duke of Sussex said last night he had ‘severed ties’ with Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz a year before Prince Charles presented the controversial Saudi billionaire with a CBE.
Harry said he had ‘concerns’ over the businessman’s ‘motives’. He made the comments after it was revealed that he had held a private meeting with Mr Mahfouz, who has given tens of thousands of pounds to charities associated with the duke.
The billionaire is embroiled in claims that he showered money on charitable causes close to the Prince of Wales in the hope of obtaining an honour and British citizenship.
Harry is said to have become concerned about Mr Mahfouz in 2014 and wound down their relationship the following year, having met him twice.
But in an extraordinary statement which could spark a family rift, Harry said he had no involvement in what he described as the ‘CBE scandal’, insisted he had concerns about the Saudi businessman’s ‘motives’ and claimed he ‘expressed his concerns’ about him.
Charles has been engulfed by criticism in recent months owing to his relationship with Mr Mahfouz and the hundreds of thousands of pounds the billionaire donated to the royal’s pet projects via his charitable trust.
The prince’s senior aide Michael Fawcett was forced to resign as head of The Prince’s Foundation last month over his role in the scandal.
An independent investigation last week found Mr Fawcett had colluded with ‘fixers’ representing Mr Mahfouz who were trying to secure an honour in exchange for donations.
Back in the real world, Fawcett does his OWN Xmas
Prince Charles’s former closest aide looks a far cry from his previous polished self on a Christmas shopping trip this weekend.
It was the first time Michael Fawcett had been seen since his resignation as chief executive of the Prince’s Foundation last month.
Wearing loose-fitting black hoodie, jeans and white trainers, the 59-year-old stocked up on firewood and lights at a Homebase in Richmond, west London, on Saturday. Mr Fawcett stepped down following reports that he promised to secure a knighthood and British citizenship for Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz, who had given more than £1.5million to the Prince’s Foundation.
It is not yet clear whether any sanctions will be taken against the former royal valet. The Metropolitan Police are looking into the claims.
Mr Mahfouz is thought to have donated at least £1.5 million to royal charities.
The Duke of Sussex said that when he cut ties with Mr Mahfouz in 2015, he ‘expressed his concerns about the donor’. But his statement did not make clear to whom he voiced these qualms.
The following year, Charles presented the Saudi billionaire with an ‘honorary’ CBE in a private ceremony at Buckingham Palace. The Prince of Wales and Mr Mahfouz also held private meetings in Scotland and Saudi Arabia.
Clarence House yesterday repeated that Charles had ‘no knowledge’ of the ‘cash for access’ allegations, but it did not comment on whether Harry raised concerns with him about Mr Mahfouz.
The Metropolitan Police has made initial inquiries into Mr Fawcett, but a full investigation has not been launched.
Last night ex-Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker, who filed a criminal complaint about the matter three months ago, said: ‘The fact Harry dropped this guy should have been a red light for Charles, but clearly he ignored that and drove straight through.’
Royal commentator Peter Hunt added: ‘Prince Charles presented Mr Mahfouz with his CBE in 2016. Did Prince Harry tell him about his concerns in 2015?
‘Just one of the many questions the Metropolitan Police could ask father and son if they choose to investigate.’
Harry first met Mr Mahfouz in 2013 at a pub in Chelsea, west London, owned by Mark Dyer, a former royal equerry, The Sunday Times revealed yesterday.
They discussed the duke’s charity Sentebale, set up in 2006 to help people in Lesotho and Botswana affected by Aids, following his gap year in Africa.
The newspaper reported the pair met again at Clarence House the following year after Charles had also met Mr Mahfouz, where Harry allegedly joked: ‘Has father beaten me to it and got the money?’
In February 2013, Mr Mahfouz donated £50,000 to Sentebale. Later that year he gave £10,000 to Walking With The Wounded, another charity of which Harry was patron.
A spokesman for the duke said yesterday: ‘The duke had one planned meeting with this donor eight years ago, did not introduce him to any members of the Royal Family, and expressed his concerns about the donor.’
The Prince’s Foundation is being investigated by the Scottish charities regulator over claims it accepted a six-figure sum from a wealthy Russian donor which was later rejected by its ethics committee. An independent investigation into the ‘cash for access’ allegations commissioned by the foundation last week found ‘evidence of communication and co-ordination’ between Mr Fawcett and ‘fixers regarding honorary nominations for a donor between 2014-18’.
Harry’s relationship with his father soured following the tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey in March. The duke said his father had cut him off financially when he and Meghan announced plans to move to America and there was ‘a lot of hurt’.
But it is thought they had patched things up in recent months, having last spoken in person at Prince Philip’s funeral in April.
Sentebale said: ‘It is entirely normal and legitimate for patrons to meet potential donors, on whose support we depend. This includes the two donations received in 2013-14 from the Mahfouz Foundation – donations that we would not have accepted if we believed there was anything improper behind them.’
Harry throws his own father under the bus
By Rebecca English
To say that the Prince of Wales’ relationship with his sons is complex is an understatement.
Both William and Harry have historically accused Charles of being a ‘laissez-faire’ father – one more preoccupied with weighty affairs of state and his considerable philanthropic legacy than bathtime, wrestling matches and bedtime stories.
It’s not entirely fair, of course. The reality when it comes to the Royal Family – as with any family – is always more complicated.
Like other royals, Charles was ‘deeply, deeply’ hurt at the manner of Harry and Meghan’s bitter exit from the family in 2020.
Still, as Harry and William’s relationship descended into acrimony, their father tried to remain a non-partisan figure – partly because Charles has always shied away from personal confrontation with his sons, but also because he genuinely wanted to retain a Swiss-like neutrality between them.
But, while disappointing, the statement from the prince’s Los Angeles-based spokesman effectively throwing his father ‘under a bus’ over the ‘cash for honours’ investigation did not come as much of a surprise. The comment, which was belatedly issued yesterday after a newspaper highlighted Harry’s own links with Saudi billionaire Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz, was at pains to try to emphasise the younger prince’s own foresight. It glossed over Harry’s private meeting with Mahfouz in a close friend’s pub in Chelsea – and a subsequent encounter at Clarence House where he was said to have joked: ‘Has father beaten me to it and got the money?’
Much as there is the notion of collective responsibility at Cabinet level, so is it within the folds of the Royal Family: defend your position directly and to the point by all means, but not at the expense of your nearest and dearest.
Harry’s statement, however, was liberally sprinkled with digs at his father – the reference to ‘the CBE scandal’, for example. Then there was the suggestion that the younger prince and his advisers saw sense at the earliest possible opportunity, when Charles’ former senior aide Michael Fawcett – and presumably the Prince of Wales himself – did not.
As for the claim that Harry ‘expressed his concerns’ about the donor… well, to whom? Certainly no one within his father’s household has any recollection about this at all.
Indeed, I understand that Charles wasn’t even aware until this weekend that his son had met Mahfouz in a west London pub, let alone encouraged his charity to accept any money from him.
If Harry was that concerned about the Saudi billionaire, surely he could have warned his father, possibly when he saw him at his London residence the same day.
It was also no secret, subsequently, that Mahfouz had become a major donor to Charles’ charitable endeavours – he had a wood named after him at Dumfries House, the Scottish seat of his charitable empire, after all.
Contrary to claims in the BBC’s recent controversial documentary on royals and the media that the three royal households are all too quick ‘brief’ against each other, Clarence House was again maintaining a dignified silence last night.
But one loyal friend of the Prince of Wales felt obliged to ask: ‘If Harry indeed had such deep concern about this man and his “motives”, then why on earth did he not tell his charity, Sentebale, to just hand the £50,000 he had given them back?’