Michael Fawcett: the close friend to Prince Charles behind the cash-for-honours inquiry
Former aide so ‘indispensable’ to Prince of Wales that he would ‘squeeze Charles’s toothpaste’
Michael Fawcett, Prince Charles’s former right-hand man, is back in the news following the Metropolitan Police’s announcement that it has launched an investigation into the heir to the throne’s charity.
Scotland Yard’s enquiries into the Prince’s Foundation concerns allegations that offers of help were made to secure a knighthood and British citizenship for a Saudi billionaire in exchange for a donation to the charity.
These allegations first came to light in September last year, when The Sunday Times and Mail on Sunday claimed that Fawcett had fixed an honour for the Saudi tycoon Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz.
Mahfouz, who had paid “thousands of pounds to fixers with links to the prince who had told him they could secure the honour”, was awarded a CBE by Charles at a private ceremony at Buckingham Palace in November 2016, said The Sunday Times.
Fawcett ‘upgraded’ honour
“The event was not published in the Court Circular, the official list of royal engagements,” said the paper, and leaked emails showed that Fawcett “co-ordinated the application process and helped ‘upgrade’ the proposed honour for Mahfouz from an OBE to CBE”.
Fawcett stepped down “temporarily” when the papers broke the story. “Michael fully supports the ongoing investigation and has confirmed that he will assist the investigation in every way,” said Douglas Connell, the then chair of the Prince’s Foundation.
Two months later, Clarence House confirmed that he had left the foundation and his event planning firm. Connell also resigned, saying: “My view is that the person chairing any organisation should take responsibility if it appears that serious misconduct may have taken place within it,” Sky News reported.
The Prince of Wales has denied any knowledge of the alleged quid pro quo. Mahfouz has also denied any wrongdoing.
The son of an accountant from Orpington, southeast London, Fawcett joined the staff at Buckingham Palace in 1981.
He initially worked as a footman to the Queen before becoming an “indispensable” aide to the Prince of Wales – so close that he would “[squeeze] Charles’s toothpaste so the heir could brush his teeth”, said The Sunday Times.
Thought to be in his late 50s, Fawcett worked as Prince Charles’s valet for 40 years, with the royal once saying that he could “manage without just about anyone except Michael”. He resigned in 2003 after a report by the Prince’s private secretary “identified mismanagement in Charles’s household”.
Sir Michael Peat’s probe found that “Fawcett had broken regulations by accepting presents from royal suppliers, including a £3,000 club membership and a Rolex watch”. He was subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing.
In 2018, Fawcett was appointed to run the Prince’s Foundation, a charity that organises educational programmes and training for people of all ages and backgrounds, with a sustainability focus.
An inquiry carried out independently by auditing firm Ernst & Young late last year concluded that Fawcett had co-ordinated with “fixers” to land an honour for Mahfouz, something that the charity’s trustees were unaware of, the Daily Mail reported.
It also found that Fawcett and an unnamed senior employee had been involved in directing money from Mahfouz’s charity to the Children and the Arts foundation (Cata), described by The Sunday Times as “a semi-defunct charity for disadvantaged youths which has the prince as its patron”.
Charles’s charity had initially received a £100,000 donation from the Russian banker Dmitry Leus via the Mahfouz Foundation, but it had been rejected by the Prince’s Foundation’s ethics committee because of a money-laundering conviction that was later overturned.
The Sunday Times said that Fawcett “bypassed his own ethics committee” to retain Leus’s money by transferring it to Cata. The transfer was arranged by an intermediary, which meant that Leus “did not know what had happened to his money and the charity did not know the true provenance of the funds”.
Fawcett is said to have arranged a “thank you” letter for Leus from Cata. But the inquiry found that Cata “did not write it and believe that it was ‘doctored’”.
Fawcett did not respond to The Sunday Times’ questions about the supposedly doctored document, which is likely to be important in Scotland Yard’s probe.
‘Timing couldn’t have been worse’
The timing of the Met’s investigation “couldn’t have been worse”, said the BBC’s royal correspondent Daniela Relph. Wednesday morning’s headlines were focused on Prince Charles’s brother Prince Andrew and his settlement with Virginia Giuffre. Just a few hours later, “things became more complicated”.
Royal sources told the Daily Mail that there had been “genuine shock” in Buckingham Palace that the cash-for-honours probe had come “on top of the Andrew fall-out”, with one telling the paper: “I can only see this getting worse.”
Questions have been raised over whether Prince Charles, who is currently recovering from Covid, will be interviewed by the Met as part of their investigation. Sources emphasised to the Daily Mail that the royal “would be willing to speak to detectives and help with their inquiry in whatever way he could”.
It’s been a turbulent 2022 for the royal family so far – a year that was meant to be all about celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, a historic first for a British monarch. So far, though, her two oldest sons have dominated the news agenda, raising questions about the royal family and their associations.