Prince Charles’ charity has been plunged into further turmoil after two senior officials stepped down amid ‘cash for access’ allegations.
Douglas Connell, chairman of the Prince’s Foundation, resigned yesterday, saying he was ‘shocked’ by the potential ‘rogue activity’ taking place at the charity.
Its executive director Chris Martin has also temporarily stepped aside – just days after claims that the foundation accepted more than £500,000 from a controversial Russian businessman.
The moves are the latest blow for the beleaguered charity whose chief executive Michael Fawcett has already stood down amid claims he helped secure an honour for a Saudi donor.
And they are likely to pile pressure on the prince, whose judgment has been questioned following claims he agreed to meet wealthy businessmen who made hefty contributions.
The future king has said he had ‘no knowledge’ of the alleged ‘cash for honours’ issues.
Honour: Prince Charles with a Saudi donor at Buckingham Palace in November 2016. The resignations come days after claims that the foundation accepted more than £500,000 from a controversial Russian businessman
Prince Charles pictured with the charity’s chief executive Michael Fawcett, who has already stood down amid claims he helped secure an honour for a Saudi donor
But last night royal author Norman Baker blasted the defence as ‘simply not credible’.
He added: ‘The chickens are coming home to roost… He should man up and take some responsibility rather than hiding behind others and letting them fall on their swords.’
Earlier this week, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) launched an investigation into the foundation, which is based at Dumfries House in Ayrshire.
The probe came following allegations that Dmitry Leus, a Russian banker, donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to the charity in return for access to Charles.
There is no evidence to suggest that the prince was aware of any offer for access, which was allegedly promised by fixer William Bortrick. On receiving a six-figure sum from Mr Leus last year, the prince wrote him a letter in which he said he was ‘incredibly grateful’ for the ‘immense generosity’.
And he added: ‘I very much look forward to seeing you when this dreadful crisis passes’.
The charity initially received £100,000 from Mr Leus but the total sum was rejected by the foundation’s ethics committee following concerns about its origins, The Sunday Times reported.
Mr Leus was subsequently told that the cash had gone to another charity, Children and the Arts, of which Charles is patron.
The probe came following allegations that Dmitry Leus (above), a Russian banker, donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to the charity in return for access to Charles
On receiving a six-figure sum from Mr Leus last year, the prince wrote him a letter in which he said he was ‘incredibly grateful’ for the ‘immense generosity’
However, the charity said it was unaware of such a donation ever being made. Mr Leus – who did not obtain a meeting with the prince – is now reportedly considering legal action to retrieve his donation.
In a statement yesterday, Mr Connell, who had been chairman since March, said he should accept responsibility and resign ‘if it appears that serious misconduct’ has taken place.
The Prince’s Foundation confirmed his resignation, saying it ‘understands and respects his decision.’ Dame Sue Bruce, the charity’s vice-chair, has stepped up to the role.
Last month the charity launched an independent investigation into claims Mr Fawcett, the prince’s former valet, helped ‘fix’ a CBE for a Saudi businessman who donated more than £1.5million to royal charities.
Last month the charity launched an independent investigation into claims Mr Fawcett (above), the prince’s former valet, helped ‘fix’ a CBE for a Saudi businessman
Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz also gave thousands of pounds to people linked to Charles who promised they could help him secure an honour.
A spokesman for the charity said it was taking the allegations ‘very seriously’ and stressed that the recent changes would not impact ‘the scope or timing’ of the investigation already under way.
A Clarence House spokesman added that Charles ‘fully supported’ the probe.
While Charles is president of the foundation, he is not involved with its governance or with day-to-day activities overseen by the charity’s trustees. He is also not responsible for deciding who is awarded honours.
• The Prince of Wales has suggested families can cut greenhouse emissions and save money by reducing the amount of food they waste.
Writing in the Daily Mirror, Charles said that if children see food as part of a ‘joined-up’ environmental system, they will be more able to ‘turn the situation around’.