One of Prince Charles’ closest aides has stepped down from his role over claims he helped secure an honour for a rich Saudi donor.
Michael Fawcett, the prince’s former assistant valet, has temporarily left his post as chief executive of The Prince’s Foundation, the charity confirmed.
Reports in Sunday newspapers claim Mr Fawcett coordinated support for an honour to be given to businessman Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz.
Mr Mahfouz, 51, was presented with a CBE by Charles at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace in 2016.
According to The Sunday Times, he had handed over tens of thousands of pounds to fixers with links to the prince who said they could secure the honour.
The newspaper claims that aides close to the prince and senior staff in his charities coordinated the application process and provided official letters in support of it after Mr Mahfouz donated more than £1.5 million to restoration projects of interest to Charles.
They are said to include Dumfries House and the Castle of Mey in Scotland, where Mr Mahfouz has a forest named after him.
Quoting leaked correspondence from William Bortrick, the owner of Burke’s Peerage and one of Mr Mahfouz’s advisers, the newspaper reports that he told colleagues in 2014 that once the businessman had the ‘Hon OBE… then more money will flow’.
It goes on to say the OBE was ‘promised’ to the tycoon ‘to get the £1.5m he paid for Dumfries (House) and (The Castle of) Mey’.
He added: ‘MF (Michael Fawcett) needs to keep to his side of the bargain and sort out the Hon OBE immediately – then assist with citizenship.’
The Sunday Times reports that Mr Fawcett later helped to ‘upgrade’ the proposed honour from an OBE to a CBE.
Mr Mahfouz denies any wrongdoing.
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.’
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.’
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.
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.
The royal aide resigned following the report’s publication but continued to have the prince’s patronage as a freelance fixer and party planner.
He was appointed chief executive of the Prince’s Foundation in 2018 following a reorganisation of Charles’ charities.