Prince Charles believes he is 'collateral damage' in Tory 'cash for access' scandal

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Ben Elliot pictured with his aunt the Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Charles
Ben Elliot pictured with his aunt the Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Charles

The Prince of Wales believes he has become "collateral damage" in a bitter dispute engulfing the Conservative Party.

A wealthy client of the nephew of the Duchess of Cornwall was given access to Prince Charles, prompting accusations that Ben Elliot, now chairman of the Tory Party, had profited from his family ties.

Mohamed Amersi, 61, a telecoms tycoon, paid a membership fee for a number of years to Quintessentially, Mr Elliot’s luxury concierge company, before it arranged a meeting with the prince over dinner in 2013.

But Mr Amersi’s relationship with Mr Elliot, who was appointed Conservative Party chairman by his close friend Boris Johnson in July 2019, has soured in recent months after his efforts to set up a party outreach group for the Middle East found him in a dispute with two former MPs.

Mr Amersi, who with his partner has donated £750,000 to the Tories since 2017, has accused the party of failing to offer him enough public support.

Yesterday, the Sunday Times carried an interview with Mr Amersi and made public documents that showed how Quintessentially had organised the candlelit dinner at Dumfries House in Scotland. Mr Amersi subsequently gave £1.2 million to the prince’s charities.

'Wrongly involved'

But The Telegraph understands that there is consternation inside Clarence House that the Prince of Wales “is being dragged into” a row that is a “political story about Tory infighting which the prince is being wrongly involved in”.

Sources believe the prince is “collateral damage” for a dispute that involves Mr Elliot, his nephew through his marriage to the Duchess of Cornwall.

Prince Charles is Mr Elliot's uncle through his marriage to the Duchess of Cornwall
Prince Charles is Mr Elliot's uncle through his marriage to the Duchess of Cornwall

Friends have pointed out that Prince Charles has a number of charitable interests and it is no surprise he seeks funding from wealthy benefactors.

They also said Mr Elliot, 45, was entitled to have other interests - in this case as Conservative Party chairman - and it would be wrong to preclude him because he is the prince’s nephew.

Mr Amersi was a trustee of Prince’s Trust International, a charity tackling youth unemployment, between 2015 and 2019.

'Global elite'

In his interview with the Sunday Times, Mr Amersi praised Prince Charles for his philanthropy, describing his charitable work as “inspirational" and "phenomenal”.

He claimed a number of people at the prince’s events "were introduced to us as also global elite members" of Quintessentially, the company co-founded by Mr Elliot in 2000.

But Mr Amersi was highly critical of Tory central office for failing to offer him support in the wake of the row with Sir Nicholas Soames and Charlotte Leslie, former Tory MPs concerned over his attempt to set up a foreign policy initiative on the Middle East.

Mr Amersi said having given the “not insubstantial sum, £750,000”, he expected that somebody senior inside Tory HQ “to at least have the decency to phone” and offer support.

Mr Amersi said: “Not only has nobody come out with any statement like that, nobody has picked up the phone and said, 'We are really sorry to see you go through this’.”

'Access capitalism'

Mr Amersi described his payments as “access capitalism”, adding: "Unless you have somebody like him [Ben Elliot] who opens these doors for you, it's not possible, it's not so easy."

Mr Elliot will now face questions over whether he used his family connections to earn money for his company. The Financial Times separately revealed at the weekend that an elite group of Conservative Party donors - known as the Advisory Board - are being given monthly access to the prime minister or Rishi Sunak, his Chancellor.

One Conservative MP said Mr Elliot should offer an explanation to the 1922 committee of backbench Tory MPs, adding: “There has at least got to be some accountability for the man. That really should come from Downing Street, but if it’s not going to come from the top, it should come from the parliamentary party.”

Anneliese Dodds, the Labour Party chairwoman, yesterday wrote to Amanda Milling, the other co-chair of the Conservative party, calling for a full list of all Advisory Board meetings and any minutes taken at them.

“The Conservatives have serious questions to answer over this latest cash for access scandal,” said Ms Dodds, adding: “The way that Boris Johnson and his friends go about their business seems to be less about what is right and more about what they can get away with.”

'No conflict of interest'

A friend of Mr Elliot insisted he did not "sell access" to the Prince of Wales and that his work as Conservative Party co-chairman was “entirely separate from his other interests”. The friend added: “There is no conflict of interest."

A spokesman for Elliot said: "Mr Elliot assisted Mr Amersi in meeting the Prince of Wales because he wanted to support the prince's charitable work, and Mr Elliot is proud that led to large donations from Mr Amersi to good causes. This was entirely about helping to raise money for charity.”

The spokesman added: "Mr Elliot does not raise money from Quintessentially members in his role as Conservative Party chairman.”

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