I was surprised to read that Prince Charles had accepted large amounts of cash from a billionaire Qatari, apparently to go towards his charity.
Claims in the Sunday Times that Charles accepted three donations between 2011 and 2015 from former Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani – known as “HBJ” – were described as “shocking” by critics. One donation, totalling €1m, was reportedly handed over in a small suitcase and another was stuffed in a carrier bag from upmarket department store Fortnum & Mason.
The cash, allegedly then counted by Charles’s aides and subsequently collected by Coutts bank, was paid to the Prince of Wales’s charitable fund which aims to “transform lives and build sustainable communities” through awarding grants.
Even if the donation was legitimate and all the money ended up in the appropriate charities as Charles and his aides claim, how could he have not realized how bad this looks? In this day and age with all the sophisticated ways of transferring money securely by electronic means, who but crooks exchange huge amounts of cash in suitcases and bags?
The campaign group Republic today demanded full disclosure from Charles over this latest controversy and said it would be writing to Prince Charles, the government, MPs and the Charity Commission. Graham Smith of Republic said the claims were “shocking” and raised ethical questions.
“Prince Charles met Sheikh Hamad in private, with no officials present and with no disclosure of the meeting in the court circular,” said Smith. “Sheikh Hamad faces serious accusations over human rights and has significant financial and other interests here in the UK.”
Norman Baker, a former government minister and Liberal Democrat MP, who has written a book on royal finances, said: “A million dollars in cash stuffed into Fortnum and Mason bags, or shoved into a holdall or a suitcase, and handed over behind closed doors. This is what one might expect from a South American drug baron, not the heir to the British throne. It seems there are no lengths Charles will not go to get money for his good causes.”
Of these latests claims, Baker said: “[Charles] is already involved in a police investigation as a result of my complaint to the Metropolitan police last year. This is grubby, scuzzy behaviour which reinforces the view many are reaching: that Charles is not fit to be king.
“He doesn’t behave in any way which is appropriate to his position. If an MP behaved in that way they would be out of parliament.”
I almost never pay by cash anymore. I find it much easier to pay with a credit card, even for small amounts. It boggles the mind that transactions on this scale would be done in cash.