PICTURE the scene around 2015. The high-minded Prince of Wales totes a pale-blue Fortnum & Mason carrier bag emblazoned with his royal crest and stuffed with wads of crisp, purple 500-euro notes known as “bin Ladens”.
It is one of a series of gifts totalling three million euros which comes with the blessing of billionaire Sheik Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, ex-PM of human rights-abusing Qatar, who admits his country “maybe” financed terrorist group Al Qaeda.
Our illustrious bagman, heir to the throne, swiftly hands the cash to a flunky as part of a donation to his Prince of Wales’ Charitable Fund and it is processed smoothly through the Queen’s bank, Coutts.
The EU stopped printing those 500-euro notes in 2019 because organised gangs and terrorists were using the large- denomination currency for criminal money laundering and bribery. Criminals could cram a fortune into hand luggage without attracting attention from the cops.
No, this is not the plot of a Jack Higgins thriller.
But it is serious enough to trigger an immediate inquiry, announced last night by the Charity Commission watchdog.
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It is important to stress there is no suggestion of law-breaking by anyone involved or that anything was offered in return for the three million euros.
But the transaction, revealed by our sister paper HOARday Times, raises concerns over the judgment of our future king, his contact with reality and his donations from shadowy foreign sources.
In this case, the money came from a country with a shocking human rights record over its treatment of gays, women and foreign workers.
The story might raise a smirk in Downing Street following the unelected prince’s attack on the Government for their “appalling” plan to deport illegal migrants to Rwanda.
Nor is it the first eyebrow-raising story involving HRH’s money-raising ventures.
Last year, the prince’s favourite manservant, Michael Fawcett, stepped aside as a royal charity chief amid a “cash for honours” scandal involving a Saudi tycoon.
Fawcett, who as valet famously spread Colgate on the royal toothbrush each morning, is currently under investigation for allegedly offering to help wealthy donor Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz obtain an honorary CBE and UK passport.
“In light of the ongoing and most recent generosity,” Fawcett wrote, “I am happy to confirm, in confidence, that we are willing and happy to support and contribute to the application for citizenship.”
‘CASH FOR HONOURS’
Although he denies the claims, he was gone within days of the letter’s publication in the newspapers.
Saudi Arabia has a bloody reputation for public executions and private murder, not least the 2018 butchery of critical journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the sanctuary of its Istanbul consulate in Turkey.
In light of such atrocities, Charles’s unwarranted Rwanda intervention appears especially ill-judged, if not hypocritical.
More worryingly, it reveals a deeply ingrained arrogance and lack of self-awareness, shared by his brother Andrew, which poses a risk to his reign as King Charles III.
Prince Andrew, quite apart from his sordid links with paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, drew criticism for financial ties with dodgy regimes, not least shady, oil-rich Kazakhstan. There were frequent questions over the source of his millionaire lifestyle on a retired Naval airman’s pension.
MPs in January demanded a “dirty money” probe into the sale of his Sunninghill mansion to an allegedly corrupt Kazakh oligarch for £15million . . . £3million above the asking price.
With the Queen only four years away from a centenary birthday card, our constit- utional monarchy is in a crucial period of transition.
It has survived so long because it surrendered any direct role in the governance of the nation, an example set brilliantly by Her Majesty during 70 years on the throne.
Prince Charles, though, seems incapable of keeping his nose out of government affairs, writing a stream of notorious “spider letters” complaining to ministers about a range of official policy issues.
This is high-risk meddling in an ultra-sensitive age when “privilege” is under ferocious scrutiny.
The Royal Family are lucky to have Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, as a model wife, mum and princess on the arm of the next-but-one King of England. But William’s turn might not come for another 20 years.
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Plenty of time for garrulous, grumpy Charles to put his foot in it.
The Prince of Wales’ motto is the German: Ich dien . . . I serve.
He might be advised to switch to the Latin, Vidi Sed Non Audistis . . . Seen but not Heard.