Prince Charles' ex-aide steps down over Saudi donor claims

5 September 2021, 12:57

Michael Fawcett (R) has stepped down from his role as a charity boss
Michael Fawcett (R) has stepped down from his role as a charity boss. Picture: Alamy
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A former aide to Prince Charles has stepped down from his role as a charity boss while an investigation into allegations about his conduct takes place.

Michael Fawcett, a former assistant valet to the Prince of Wales, has stepped down as chief executive of The Prince's Foundation amid claims reported by Sunday newspapers about honours relating to Saudi businessman Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz.

The Sunday Times says Mr Mahfouz, who is listed as a supporter on the charity's website, donated large sums to restoration projects of particular interest to Charles, adding that Mr Mahfouz denies any wrongdoing.

Mr Fawcett is alleged to have coordinated support for an honour for Mr Mahfouz, according to newspaper reports.

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Mr Fawcett, who in 2003 was cleared of financial misconduct allegations over the selling of royal gifts, was appointed chief executive of the Prince's Foundation in 2018 following a reorganisation of Charles' charities.

Douglas Connell, chair of The Prince's Foundation, said: "Earlier today, Michael Fawcett offered to step down temporarily from active duties as chief executive of The Prince's Foundation while the trustees' investigation is ongoing.

"The Prince's Foundation has accepted this offer. Michael fully supports the ongoing investigation and has confirmed that he will assist the investigation in every way."

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It is understood that Emily Cherrington, chief operating officer, will take over in the interim and that the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) has been informed as The Prince's Foundation is a charity registered in Scotland.

A spokeswoman for The Prince's Foundation said: "The Prince's Foundation takes very seriously the allegations that have recently been brought to its attention and the matter is currently under investigation.

"We are incredibly proud of The Prince's Foundation's charitable work and the positive impact it has on our beneficiaries throughout the UK and across the world.

"Our education and training programmes, in particular, benefit more than 15,000 people every year, and provide our students with the skills and confidence needed to gain employment or start their own businesses."

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Mr Fawcett began his royal service in 1981 as a footman to the Queen, rising through the ranks to sergeant footman and then Charles' assistant valet, setting out his bespoke suits and shirts every morning at Kensington Palace.

He was accused of selling unwanted royal gifts and pocketing a percentage of the proceeds when Charles' personal assistant, but was cleared by an internal inquiry of any financial misconduct.

The inquiry, headed by Charles' then private secretary Sir Michael Peat, found Mr Fawcett did "infringe internal rules relating to gifts from suppliers" but could not be severely criticised because the rules were not enforced and he made no secret of such gifts.

But the report painted a picture of Mr Fawcett as an alleged bully who accepted valuable gifts from outsiders.

The royal aide resigned following the report's publication, but continued to have the prince's patronage as a freelance fixer and party planner, and picked up an undisclosed cash severance package as well as an agreement to work as the Prince's events manager.