Prince and the businessman with a dodgy background

Michael of Kent's judgment questioned after Estonian trips organised by man described by judge as having 'modus operandi of a crook'
The following apology was printed in the Guardian's Corrections and Clarifications column, Tuesday January 20 2004
In the article below, we stated that Peter Mattsson "was jailed". Mr Mattsson has since informed us that his conviction was overturned on appeal on April 11 2002 and that he did not serve any jail term. We apologise to Mr Mattsson for our error.

Prince Michael of Kent, whose life has been dogged by controversy, has developed a relationship in Estonia with a British businessman branded by a judge as having "the modus operandi of a crook".

Michael Wynne-Parker has twice been banned by official watchdogs from giving financial advice and serving as a company director. But he has organised three visits by the Prince and Princess Michael to the Baltic republic, the Guardian has learned. Mr Wynne-Parker was by their side when they met leading Estonian politicians and businessmen.

He makes introductions there through his PR firm and runs a property business. He has advertised himself as a contact point for people wanting to buy rundown Estonian manor houses, which he claims will soar in value. He is organising holidays to Estonia for British tourists, together with a property developer and his pop singer fiancee, whom Mr Wynne-Parker calls "the Madonna of Estonia".

Prince Michael, the Queen's cousin, gets no money from the civil list and has to make his own living. In the past his business activities have led to the allegation that he is a "royal for hire". His office says that on this occasion Nr Wynne-Parker is voluntarily helping the prince with his charity work.

In a statement Prince Michael's office said that he had not been involved in any business dealings with Mr Wynne-Parker, nor had he received any kind of payment from him.


Mr Wynne-Parker has previously attempted to sell honorary consulships for Sierra Leone at £25,000 a time. Shady ventures in which associates of his have been involved ainclude an unlicenced loans operation closed down by the Department of Trade and Industry, a collapsed currency trading firm, a failed airline, and a massive fraud in Sweden.

After he was banned as a director in the UK, Mr Wynne-Parker settled full time in Estonia. He has registered his firm Introcom there, and scored a public relations coup by persuading Prince Michael to attend a lavish charity ball in March. It was sponsored by an oil magnate, Aadu Luukas, one of the country's richest men.

Peep Muhls, of Mr Lukas's PR firm Hill & Knowlton, who chairs the Estonian charity, said: "I'm quite embarassed about the information you have given me." Mr Muhls said he met Mr Wynne-Parker at the side of Princess Michael. "If you have these persons accompanying Mr Wynne-Parker you take certain things for granted."

The link between Mr Wynne-Parker and the prince extends beyond Estonia. He chairs a body called the Guild of Travel and Tourism, to whom Prince Michael gave an after-dinner speech in London in December 2002.

Prince Michael's private secretary, Nicholas Chance, said Mr Wynne-Parker was helping found an Estonian branch of a children's charity of which the prince is patron. The prince's visits to Estonia had all been to promote the charity, he said, and were paid for by Estonian sponsors.

Mr Wynne-Parker told the Guardian that the prince's involvement helped to get sponsorship for the £100-a-head ball, attended by 100 guests, including the Estonian president, Arnold Ruutel. "I don't think it would have happened without him." Prince Michael was the guest of honour, at the Kadriorg palace in Tallinn, in aid of an Estonian branch of the Children's Fire and Burn Trust. The ball earned about £23,000 and after expenses for the meals and the performers were deducted, the organisers say, the charity received £10,000.

Mr Wynne-Parker said the prince's flight was paid for by Estonian Air, and a £600-a-night presidential suite was provided by the Radisson hotel in Tallinn. Mr Wynne-Parker said he scheduled the ball for when the prince was free. He said he knew the prince well enough to call him up.

He organised his previous trip to Estonia in May 2002, drawing up his itinerary and accompanying him. He did the same for a visit by Princess Michael in August 2002.

His past was known about by the prince's private secretary Nicolas Chance. Mr Wynne-Parker had "explained the circumstances" under which he had been banned as a company director, Mr Chance said, although the prince was unaware of other aspects of his background.

Last night news of the prince's relationship with the banned company director led to questions about his judgment. The Labour MP Stephen Pound said: "This implies that Prince Michael has little or no judgment. The royal family should be wary of businessmen with suspect pasts."

Few in Tallinn know of Mr Wynne-Parker's history. His small office with a panoramic view of Tallinn contains pictures of him with Prince Michael and Prince Andrew, and with politicians, including John Major. He has organised lunches and dinners for Prince Andrew.

The DTI banned Mr Wynne-Parker as a director for five years in 2000 for his role in a firm called Access for Justice. It claimed to be a charity providing free legal advice and got rate relief on its offices from Camden council, north London, while making money from sub-letting some of the space.

Mr Wynne-Parker said Access had initially been "a noble venture" and he and others had been "conned" and then rightly banned as company directors. Winding up Access, the DTI said Mr Wynne-Parker had obtained money from the firm and it also made payments to his PR company, which purportedly helped raise donations. It took out more than it raised, the DTI said.

Access shared an office block with a company called Delt, an illegal lending operation also wound up by the DTI. Delt made a series of loans to Mr Wynne-Parker totalling £100,000.

In 1990 Mr Wynne-Parker was found guilty of 16 counts of misconduct by the then financial services watchdog Fimbra, which banned him from giving financial advice and fined him £10,000 for acting outside the scope of his business and dealt in high risk investments.

In 1998 Judge Mellor at Norwich county court said he had deliberately arranged for an "unsuitable policy" for a client because it would make him more commission. "One has, on the evidence before me, the clear modus operandi of a crook, who seems lucky to have merely been suspended rather than prosecuted."

One of Mr Wynne-Parker's PR activities was to introduce a Swedish businessman, Peter Matsson, to Lord Moyne, [Jonathan Guiness] who became involved in takeover of Trustor, a Swedish investment firm. Lord Moyne paid Mr Wynne-Parker a monthly retainer, and later the peer said he believed he was helping in a Swedish tax avoidance scheme. Lord Moyne was accused by the Swedish authorities of helping embezzle £50m. He was acquitted in 2001, but Mattsson was jailed.


Talking about his history, Mr Wynne-Parker said: "I've never been taught to do business at all. I'm not the sort of chap interested in money. I suppose that's why I'm not a good businessman." He admitted making mistakes, but said: "I have never done anything illegal."

Prince Michael's office said: "Prince Michael has never received any fees or expenses or been paid in any way by Mr Wynne-Parker for his activities in Estonia, nor indeed at any time whatsoever, and that to his knowledge nor have any of the costs of his or Princess Michael's travel or accommodation in Estonia been paid for by Mr Wynne-Parker.

"Prince Michael was not aware that he had been labelled as a 'crook' by a British judge, as you allege. His link has been purely through the role played by Mr Wynne-Parker in the charitable sector."


Vikram Dodd in Tallinn

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Prince Andrew's daughter 'was given necklace by Libyan businessman'
Allegation of birthday gift for Beatrice piles further pressure on Prince Andrew over his work as special trade representative

Stephen Bates

27, Mar, 2011 @3:43 PM

US embassy cables: British businessman ordered to revamp run down Saudi palace to host candle-lit party for Prince Charles
Cable sent 08/11/2006
S E C R E T JEDDAH 000700

29, Nov, 2010 @11:00 PM

Obituary: Prince Bernhard
German-born consort to Holland's Queen whose life embraced triumph - and scandal.

03, Dec, 2004 @12:03 AM

Prince Edward
1. Prince Edward, aka the Earl of Wessex, is in trouble after a young man rang his dad to say he was being stalked at university.

Simon Jeffery

27, Sep, 2001 @1:48 PM

Article image
Who said it: Prince Charles or Prince Philip?

'Putin is doing just about the same as Hitler,' Prince Charles reportedly said on a visit to Canada. How good is your knowledge of royal gaffes?

James Walsh

21, May, 2014 @10:55 AM

Prince of arts

Lee Elliot Major wonders if public interest in Prince William's university studies will broaden the appeal and application of art history.

Lee Elliot Major

18, Sep, 2001 @2:17 AM

The swaggering prince
Prince Harry was merely following British tradition when he donned a party costume, writes Ros Taylor. He just forgot to dress up.

Ros Taylor

13, Jan, 2005 @4:23 PM

Focus: Prince Harry at 21
He's cast as the royal wild child, the hellraiser with a short fuse. But, as David Smith reveals, at 21 Harry is coming of age in more ways than one.

David Smith

10, Sep, 2005 @11:43 PM

Article image
Prince Charles - timeline

The Prince of Wales's life, from Knightsbridge prep school to Royal Navy, from Diana to Camilla

Staff and agencies

13, Nov, 2013 @5:10 PM

Prince as pawn
At the funeral of the Princess of Wales, Earl Spencer promised that her 'blood family' would protect her children from the twin threats of the suffocating and dysfunctional House of Windsor and the press. He sounded Shakespearian at the time - the voice of the old English aristocracy expressing its contempt for German arrivistes - but until he signalled his concern today about the media treating Prince William like the Princess of Wales, his promise has appeared empty. His residence in South Africa meant he could play the role of protective uncle intermittently and from a distance.

07, Aug, 1999 @11:30 PM