The cartoon image of Prince Charles rubbing his hands with glee while chucking shopping bags stuffed full of banknotes into the back of his wine-powered Aston Martin like something out of the irreverent British comedy The Windsors is on the Royalist’s mind today.
The image follows the astonishing revelation that the heir to the throne was personally handed a suitcase containing €1m (just over $1.05m) by a politician representing a rich oil-producing Arab statelet.
“It was one of three lots of cash, totaling €3 million ($3.2m), which Prince Charles personally received from Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, the former prime minister of Qatar who is nicknamed ‘HBJ,’ between 2011 and 2015,” the London Sunday Times reports.
The story, described as “truly shocking” by a senior ethics official, will cement in many minds Charles’ reputation for financial indiscipline. While it may be a little too much to say it jeopardizes his succession, it certainly poses urgent and new questions about the judgement of the heir to the throne when it comes to money matters.
Late last year, Charles lost his key aide Michael Fawcett, who was forced to stand down from Charles’ foundation after it was revealed he arranged an honor for a billionaire Saudi donor, explicitly in return for donations. Charles denied any knowledge of the transactional arrangement but a reported police investigation into the matter has provided no answers, being discreet to the point of invisibility. Prince Harry pointedly accused his father of being involved in what he described as a “scandal” over the affair.
In the latest self-inflicted disaster to hit Charles, the Sunday Times has revealed that Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, personally gave Charles bags of cash on three separate occasions between 2011 and 2015.
On each occasion, HBJ is said to have given the prince €1 million in €500 notes—sometimes dubbed ‘bin Ladens’ because of their use by terrorist-linked organized crime gangs. One time the money was stuffed into plastic shopping bags from the luxury Chelsea grocer and department store Fortnum & Mason, which holds a royal charter from the prince. Another time the money was in a suitcase, and the third time it was in a holdall.
Clarence House insisted to the Times that it makes no difference that the money, which was deposited into an account at exclusive bankers Coutts, just happened to arrive in cash and that “all the correct processes were followed.”
However a source described as “one of Charles’s former advisers who handled some of the cash,” told the Sunday Times that “everyone felt very uncomfortable about the situation,” adding that 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.”
HBJ, a member of Qatar’s ruling al-Thani family, is a hugely controversial figure, with an estimated personal wealth of $12 billion, having served as Qatar’s prime minister between 2007 and 2013, during which time he cultivated close links with the U.K., which saw the country’s vast sovereign wealth fund invest in Harrods and the iconic London skyscraper the Shard.
Charles was believed to have used his influence to get the Qataris to pull out of the redevelopment of a high profile site in Chelsea called Chelsea Barracks. The High Court said Charles’s involvement in the matter was “unexpected and unwelcome.”
Sir Alistair Graham, former chairman of the committee on standards in public life, told the Sunday Times the revelations were “truly shocking,” saying: “I wouldn’t make a distinction between a politician and a member of the royal family. If the Qatari government wants to make a gift to his foundation, then there are proper ways to do these things rather than handling large sums of cash.”