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UK police investigating bid by Prince Charles' charity to give honours to Saudi businessman

A Saudi national linked to the Prince of Wales's charity is being investigated by London's Metropolitan Police
Prince Charles talking to Saudi Arabia's Prince Sultan bin Salman during a visit to the historical town of al-Ula on 11 February 2015 (AFP/Saudi Press Agency)

UK police have launched an investigation into a bid to give honours and British citizenship to a Saudi national linked to the charity of Charles, the Prince of Wales. 

London's Metropolitan Police Service said it was investigating allegations of offences under the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925.

The police force said in a statement: "The decision follows an assessment of a September 2021 letter. This related to media reporting alleging offers of help were made to secure honours and citizenship for a Saudi national.

"The Special Enquiry Team has conducted the assessment process which has included contacting those believed to hold relevant information.

"Officers liaised with the Prince's Foundation about the findings of an independent investigation into fundraising practices. The foundation provided a number of relevant documents."

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'No knowledge'

Prince Charles's closest aide, Michael Fawcett, stepped down from his role in October amid claims he promised to help secure a CBE and British citizenship for Saudi national Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz, a donor to the Prince's Foundation. 

According to the Times, businessman Mahfouz had been seeking to obtain citizenship through a so-called “golden investment” visa, paying intermediaries tens of thousands of pounds to put him in contact with the prince after being advised that awards would help his application.

The prince's office stressed on Wednesday that Charles had "no knowledge" of allegations relating to the offer of honours "on the basis of donation to his charities".

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The prince's spokespeople have previously said he would "of course" be willing to assist any inquiry from the authorities.

A probe last year into fundraising practices was ordered by the Prince's Foundation and carried out independently by auditing firm Ernst & Young.

It concluded that Fawcett did coordinate with "fixers" over honours nominations for Mahfouz, who has donated more than £1.5m ($2m) to royal charities.

Despite Charles's claims that he had no knowledge of the alleged deal, he could still prove to be a vital witness, as he held private meetings with Mahfouz at the British embassy in Saudi Arabia, in London and in Scotland.

Mahfouz’s large contributions notably funded the renovation of several royal residences, including Dumfries House, in Scotland.

“Both of these (knighthood and citizenship) applications will be made in response to the most recent and anticipated support (of) The Trust,” Fawcett reportedly wrote to Mahfouz in 2017, in reference to the Dumfries House Trust, of which he was then the chief executive, the Daily Mail reported.

Mahfouz, 52, denies any wrongdoing.

Highest honour

Mahfouz received an honorary Commander of the British Empire (CBE) - the highest honour for a citizen of a country outside the British Commonwealth - bestowed on him by Charles in a private ceremony in 2016. Fawcett is believed to have personally lobbied for the “upgrade” from OBE to CBE.

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Ex-Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker had written to the Metropolitan Police last September, asking them to launch a criminal investigation into the cash-for-honours claims, the Daily Mail reported. 

Metropolitan Police chief Cressida Dick, who has since resigned, said the force had made "initial inquiries" after receiving a letter regarding Fawcett. 

During an LBC radio phone-in last Friday, Dick said: "We have received a letter, as you say, we have been making some initial inquiries. We have not launched an investigation.

"If people out there have further material for us, we will of course look at that, if there's further evidence.

"But at this stage, having considered the letter, made some initial inquiries and examined relevant legislation, some of which is in 1925 and some of which is the new bribery act, we have not launched an investigation."

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