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The Mail on Sunday - 2021-10-10

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Charles’s fixer Fawcett ‘kept ethics chiefs in dark’ over Saudi donors

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ASSISTANT EDITOR AIDE

THE Prince of Wales’s closest ally will this week be accused of keeping the ethics committee at Charles’s charity ‘in the dark’ about multi-million-pound fundraising activities, The Mail on Sunday can reveal. Michael Fawcett, who was the Prince’s most trusted aide for decades, stepped down as chief executive of the Prince’s Foundation last month when this newspaper exposed how he had offered to help secure a knighthood and British citizenship for a billionaire Saudi donor to the charity. The charity ordered an independent inquiry and auditors will this week quiz past and present trustees. A well-placed insider said they are expected to point the finger at Mr Fawcett, 59, and Chris Martin, the foundation’s executive director of development, who has also stood down pending the outcome of the investigation. ‘Some of the financial controls were circumvented by the fundraisers in order to get the cash,’ the source said. ‘They were operating behind the backs of the board. It was very much outside their knowledge. ‘We were asking, “How could we have got ourselves into this mess?” It can only be that some people at the foundation have been blinded by the glamour of royalty and it has clouded their judgment somewhat. ‘The official running of the Prince’s Foundation was good, it was what was going on unofficially that was the problem. I’m sure the Prince of Wales didn’t even know what was going on. ‘Even the letters he signed would have been written by Michael.’ The source said that on one occasion, Mr Fawcett sought advice from trustees with knowledge of the finance sector on how he could bring money into the charity from the Middle East. He was told to use a high street bank which would conduct stringent money laundering checks, but is said to have become frustrated. ‘Michael contacted HSBC but later would sigh and say, “Their process is ridiculous. It takes ages”,’ the source said. A six-figure donation from controversial former Russian banker Dmitry Leus was accepted by the charity before it could be assessed by the foundation’s ethics committee. The donation was subsequently rejected. ‘A member of the ethics committee raised the issue when they found out and it was sent up to the board,’ the source said. ‘When you find out someone is in a difficult situation in another country, you’re inevitably going to raise questions. ‘It looks like the money was accepted before the ethics committee had reviewed it but once they had, it was sent back, so this was the ethics committee doing a good job. It’s just that they didn’t know about it beforehand.’ Despite the scandal, some praise Mr Fawcett’s enduring loyalty to the Prince – although few believe he will want to resume his role at the foundation. ‘Michael has been an absolute rock to the Prince of Wales and a long-time supporter right through his divorce from Diana and further on,’ said a source. ‘They’ve been through tough times together.’ The charity’s investigation is expected to conclude within weeks.

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