The Metropolitan police has come under fire after announcing it has discontinued its investigation into cash-for-honours allegation involving the king’s charity, the Prince’s Foundation.
The force said on Monday no further action would be taken after the conclusion of an 18-month inquiry into media reports that offers of help to secure honours and citizenship for a wealthy Saudi national were made by a former chief executive of the foundation.
The Met said it had considered offences under the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925 and the Bribery Act 2010. Several witness were interviewed, including two men under caution, and over 200 documents reviewed. A file was passed to the Crown Prosecution Service in October.
“With the benefit of the CPS’s early investigative advice, and after careful consideration of the information received as a result of the investigation to date, the Met has concluded that no further action will be taken in this matter,” it said in a statement.
The decision was criticised by Norman Baker, the former Liberal Democrat minister, and author, who had written to the Met police after asking them to investigate the Prince’s Foundation under the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act.
He said: “This is an incredibly open and shut case with the evidence provided in writing. It is astonishing how this matter is not being taken forward. We need an explanation from the Crown Prosecution Service and the Met police as to why no action is being taken. But the suspicion must be that no action is being taken because of the nature of the potential offender, rather than a proper assessment of the potential crime.”
The investigation began after press reports that the billionaire Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz paid tens of thousands of pounds to fixers with links to the then Prince of Wales, who had told him they could secure him a knighthood and UK citizenship.
In September 2021, the Mail on Sunday published a 2017 letter in which a close aide of Charles, Michael Fawcett, said the Prince’s Foundation would be “happy and willing” to use its influence to help Mahfouz, who had donated thousands to the foundation.
A spokesperson maintained that the king was not aware of the offer of help, and he is not accused of any wrongdoing. Mahfouz – who was awarded a CBE at a private ceremony at Buckingham Palace in November 2016, but who in the end did not receive either knighthood or citizenship – is not accused of any wrongdoing
When the allegations surfaced, the Prince’s Foundation launched an internal investigation, which in turn led to Fawcett stepping down as its chief executive. Fawcett subsequently received a £60,000 payoff from the foundation.
A spokesperson for the foundation said: “The Prince’s Foundation has noted the decision of the Metropolitan police. Following the conclusion of its own independent investigation and governance review last year, the charity is moving forward with a continued focus on delivering the education and training programmes for which it has been established.”
The Prince’s Foundation, which is registered as a charity in Scotland, is understood to remain under investigation by the Scottish charity watchdog, the Office of The Scottish Charity Regulator, which opened an investigation in September 2021 over a range of issues relating to the charity’s use of funds.
Anti-monarchy campaign group Republic, which had also written to the Met police demanding an investigation into cash for honours, said the decision to discontinue the investigation was “dishonest and appalling”.
Republic’s chief executive, Graham Smith, said: “The Met’s claim to police without fear or favour rings hollow today. The evidence of offers of honours for cash is fairly compelling, yet they haven’t even investigated the main suspect.
“Today the police have spun this as an investigation into the Prince’s Foundation, yet the accusations were directed personally at Charles and Fawcett. This level of dishonesty cannot go unchallenged.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for Buckingham Palace said: “We have noted the decision of the Metropolitan police service. All other inquiries are a matter for the Prince’s Foundation.”
The Charity Commission for England and Wales last year decided against an investigation into another of the king’s charities, the Prince of Wales Charitable Fund, after press reports that it had accepted a suitcase filled with €3m in cash from a former Qatari prime minister between 2011 and 2015. Although the transaction was called “grubby” by critics, the commission concluded that there was no suggestion of illegality.