Prince Charles, left, and Michael Fawcett.
Prince Charles’ closest aide Michael Fawcett has stepped back over claims he offered a Saudi tycoon a knighthood in exchange for $2 million in donations.
Fawcett temporarily stepped down from his role as the chief executive of Charles’ charity, The Prince’s Trust, after The Sunday Times’ Gabriel Pogrund and Valentine Low published allegations of his misconduct, The Times of London reports.
Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz paid tens of thousands of dollars “to fixers with links to the prince” who told him they could award him an honorary CBE – the highest-ranking Order of the British Empire award for those who are not British citizens – according to the report.
The Saudi national had been advised that receiving awards and honors of this kind would help him secure a British citizenship visa for investment, the publication reports.
Fawcett helped Mahfouz secure the award after he donated around $2 million (£1.5 million) to help fund the renovation of residences used by Charles, according to leaked emails between Mahfouz’s fixers and Charles’ team that were obtained by The Times of London.
In one email sent by Mahfouz’s advisor William Bortrick to colleagues in September 2014, he said the OBE was “promised to MBM [Mahfouz Bin Mahfouz] to get the £1.5 million he paid for Dumfries [House] and [The Castle of] Mey,” according to The Times.
Charles presented Mahfouz the OBE at a private ceremony at Buckingham Palace in 2016, which was not published in the Court Circular – the official list of royal engagements – the newspaper reports.
A spokesman for The Prince’s Foundation told The Times of London that “the matter is currently under investigation.” Douglas Connell, foundation chairman, told the publication that he had accepted Fawcett’s offer to step down temporarily.
Fawcett has had a number of roles since he began working for the royals in 1981, including the role of Charles’ personal assistant, iNews reports. Charles reportedly once said he can “manage without just about anyone except for Michael,” the publication adds.
Mahfouz, meanwhile, has denied any wrongdoing and friends say he is an “honorable philanthropist” who has given large sums to charity, according to The Times.
Prince Charles’ representatives at Clarence House are yet to comment on whether Charles was involved or aware of the arrangements made by Fawcett. However, in a separate article published by The Times, the publication reports that Charles was “100%” behind the offer to help Mahfouz gain British citizenship.
In a draft letter written by Mahfouz’s advisor William Bortrick in 2014, which was obtained by The Times, he wrote that the application would “now take the highest priority” for the prince. However, the publication added that there is no evidence of whether the draft was sent or agreed by the prince’s advisers.
Buckingham Palace, Clarence House, and The Prince’s Trust did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.