Prince Charles years ago stopped accepting bags full of cash from Gulf royalty and won’t do it again, a senior royal source told BBC on Wednesday.
The odd assurance follows an explosive report by The Times of London that the former prime minister of Qatar gave Charles suitcases and shopping bags filled with cash on three occasions between 2011 and 2015.
The money came from billionaire Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, whose term as Qatar’s prime minister—2007 to 2013—partially overlapped with the time in which the gifts were made.
In 2017, Hamad bin Jassim said his government “maybe” funded the al Qaeda spin-off al Nusra Front in Syria. British media have called him “the man who bought London,” as he owns or has a stake in many of the city’s most prestigious addresses and businesses.
The senior royal source said the sheikh’s gift to the Prince of Wales “was passed immediately to his charity and it was his charity who decided to accept” the stacks of cash said to be worth over $3 million. The transfers took place in private meetings at Clarence House, the prince’s official residence. The money was variously handed over in a suitcase, duffel bag or shopping bags from upscale London department store Fortnum & Mason.
“Everyone felt very uncomfortable about the situation,” a former advisor to Charles told The Times. “[The] only thing we could do was to count the money and make a mutual record of what we’d done. And then call the bank.”
The chairman of the Prince of Wales Charitable Fund, Sir Ian Cheshire, told BBC that today’s money laundering regulations further make it unlikely that such a cash donation would be accepted again.
As the New York Post reports, the assurance that the money promptly went to the prince’s charity was insufficient to prevent concerned ripples throughout the UK:
The revelation fueled talk of a “cash-for-access culture” surrounding Prince Charles — coming just months after his longtime aide, Michael Fawcett, was bounced from the charity amid allegations he used his position to help a Saudi billionaire receive a “golden visa” and high royal honors.
In that episode, wealthy Saudi Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz paid tens of thousands of dollars to receive a visa that could enable him to achieve UK citizenship, and to be granted an honorary title that has a bit of an 80’s Keanu Reeves ring to it: Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.