King Charles III’s charity has been under a cloud for almost two years after allegations a staff member offered a tycoon help securing a knighthood in exchange for cash donations—and campaigners are pushing for the issue to be raised in Parliament.
Former chief executive Michael Fawcett has been accused of offering to support and contribute to an application for British citizenship and a knighthood on behalf of Saudi tycoon Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz.
The allegations, first published by The Sunday Times and The Mail on Sunday, were reported to the Metropolitan Police in September 2021. An investigation was launched in February 2022, while Charles was still Prince of Wales.
Republic Mulls Lobbying Parliament
As the scandal approaches its second anniversary, anti-monarchy campaigners from Republic have raised fears the issue could be swept under the carpet now Charles is king.
Graham Smith, Republic’s chief executive, told Newsweek: “At some point we’re going to pursue this to the police, the Home Office and possibly lobby Parliament to raise questions because we can’t have the head of state being under suspicion of breaking the law and the police just sit on their hands and do nothing.”
Two men, one in his 50s, the other in his 40s, were interviewed by police in September 2022. The following month a file of evidence was passed to the Crown Prosecution Service, which makes decisions on whether charges should be brought.
Then, in July, The Mail on Sunday reported a police statement suggesting the police were considering advice from the CPS: “A file was passed to the CPS on October 31, 2022 for early advice. On Thursday, we received the advice and it is now being considered.”
A police spokesperson told Newsweek there was currently no update.
Smith said: “The police said ‘we’ve sent files to the CPS’ and the CPS sent it back to the police. I think they’re desperately hoping everyone forgets about it.
“They said that they had spoken to two men and gave their ages, 40s and 50s, which isn’t Charles. So they haven’t even spoken to Charles as a witness, let alone a suspect.”
Even if the police found evidence linking Charles to wrongdoing—and there is nothing to suggest they would—the prospect of him being put on trial is remote as constitutionally a reigning monarch cannot be prosecuted by traditional means.
All prosecutions arise out of the power of the Crown and are brought in the king’s name, therefore he cannot prosecute himself.
However, King Charles I was tried by Parliament at Westminster Hall on January 20, 1649. It is difficult seeing either of the two main parties in Britain pursuing such a path at present as neither leadership is of a republican mindset currently.
However, any trial of a senior staff member would be hugely embarrassing to the king at a point when his reign is still in its infancy.
The Royals and the Courts
The closest the palace has come to a similar scenario was when Paul Burrell, former butler to Princess Diana, was on trial accused of stealing his former boss’ personal possessions.
Police and prosecutors had not interviewed Queen Elizabeth II while preparing the case to avoid the perception the royals were seeking to influence the outcome.
However, the trial was halted after Elizabeth’s dramatic 11th-hour intervention, with a statement confirming an element of Burrell’s defence, namely that he had told the monarch he was planning to keep some of Diana’s belongings in his house.
He alleged—though it was rejected by the court—that the palace entered into a secret agreement with the newspaper’s publisher to settle legal claims privately.
He said “the reason for this was to avoid the situation where a member of the royal family would have to sit in the witness box and recount the specific details of the private and highly sensitive voicemails that had been intercepted by” journalists at another Murdoch tabloid, the News of the World.
“The institution was incredibly nervous about this,” he continued, “and wanted to avoid at all costs the sort of reputational damage that it had suffered in 1993 when The Sun and another tabloid had unlawfully obtained and published details of an intimate telephone conversation that took place between my father and step-mother in 1989, while he was still married to my mother.”
The Allegations Against Charles’ Charity
The Mail on Sunday in 2021 printed an email Fawcett allegedly sent a staff member of Mahfouz’s on August 17, 2017.
It read: “In light of the ongoing and most recent generosity of His Excellency, Sheikh Marei Mubarak Mahfouz bin Mahfouz I am happy to confirm to you, in confidence, that we are willing and happy to support and contribute to the application for Citizenship.
“I can further confirm that we are willing to make [an] application to increase His Excellency’s honor from Honorary CBE to that of KBE in accordance with Her Majesty’s Honors Committee.
“Both of these applications will be made in response to the most recent and anticipated support of the Trust and in connection with his ongoing commitment generally within the United Kingdom. I hope this confirmation is sufficient in allowing us to go forward.”
The allegation comes against the backdrop of efforts to raise money for a number of restoration projects Charles has in Scotland, particularly Dumfries House, a Palladian country house, in East Ayrshire, Scotland, which the king hoped would provide employment opportunities for the local community.
Mahfouz at one stage donated £1.5 million ($2.1 million) to help with renovation projects, including on Dumfries House.