Prince Charles Accepted €1m Cash in Suitcase From Sheikh

The Sunday Times

For the last year, the Sunday Times has dedicated significant resources to scrutinising King Charles, lifting the veil on the world where money, royalty and politics meet and asking questions about the ethics and probity of the sovereign and those around him. Charles remains embroiled in a police investigation into alleged offences under the Honours Abuse Act - a law created and enforced in the name of the Crown - but for months big broadcasters declined to follow up our work and there was a sense the allegations, though unflattering, shouldn’t be allowed to detract from what was, after all, fundraising for the charity. Did any of it matter? How much was Charles really involved? Was it cutting through with the public?

Those questions were asked conclusively with our marmalade-dropper that Charles had accepted a suitcase, yes, a suitcase containing €1m in cash from a Gulf state billionaire. Not only that: on another occasion he took a Fortnum & Mason bag stuffed with €500 banknotes, a denomination nicknamed the Bin Laden because of its links to terrorist financing and since discontinued amid money-laudering concerns. The story was covered globally. In a world in which journalism is subject to social media scrutiny, reporters are often required to justify their work - and set out why what they're doing matters and serves the public interest. There were plenty of reasons why our piece did that. Here was the rawest example imaginable of how foreign elites from human rights abusing regimes are able to launder their reputations via and seek affirmation from the all-too-willing British establishment. Here were bags of cash whose provenance no one - not Clarence House, Coutts or Qatar - would explain and which Sir Ian Chesire, chairman of the Prince of Wales Charitable Fund said would probably not pass anti-money laundering rules today. Here was a secret meeting - not recorded in the court circular - which posed questions of Charles’s ability to deliver official, possibly uncomfortable Foreign Office messages to a Gulf state during overseas trips in the future. And yet, at the same time, the scoop’s significance also lay in the almost comic implausibility of “Charles” and “suitcase of cash” appearing in the same sentence. It was a classic case of journalism exposing a practice which might not violate the letter of any statute, but amounts to something most people would deem to be wrong. Would a small business or a big company ever accept a duffel bag stuffed with banknotes, and, if not, why should Charles? Does it pass the smell test or accord with most people’s sense of what is right or proper at the apex of public life? Our cash-for-honours coverage has led to investigations by the Met, the Charity Commission and the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator. This scoop led to a serious incident report to the Charity Commission, but may be remembered less for its procedural implications, and more the debate, discussion and incredulity it prompted around the world.