Prince Charles’s charity chief quits over possible ‘rogue activity’ linked to Russian tycoon’s donation

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Prince Charles, Prince of Wales - Chris Jackson
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales - Chris Jackson

The Prince of Wales suffered another blow on Wednesday as the chairman of his charitable foundation quit and an executive director “stepped aside” amid suggestions of a cash for access scandal.

The resignation of Douglas Connell, the chairman of the Prince’s Foundation, comes just days after the Scottish charity regulator (OSCR) launched a probe into claims that a Russian banker tried to make a donation of more than £500,000 to the organisation last May.

Mystery now surrounds the money’s whereabouts.

The Prince wrote a "thank you" note to Dmitry Leus, 51, saying he was "incredibly grateful" for his "immense generosity", and proposing that they meet after lockdown.

'No knowledge of any such activity'

Mr Connell, the foundation’s chair of trustees since March, expressed concern about reports of “rogue activity” at the charity. He said he was “shocked and dismayed” by recent allegations, adding: "I and the other members of the board of trustees had no knowledge of any such activity and we have launched a rigorous and independent investigation.

"My view is that the person chairing any organisation should take responsibility if it appears that serious misconduct may have taken place within it.”

Chris Martin, the executive director of development, has also stood down pending the outcome of the investigation.

It comes after Michael Fawcett, one of the Prince’s closest aides, stepped down as chief executive of the foundation earlier this month following cash for honours allegations.

Cash was intended for Dumfries House

The donation from Mr Leus was intended to go to Dumfries House, the Prince’s pet 18th-century restoration project in Ayrshire, which is run by his foundation.

The charity initially received £100,000 but its ethics committee later rejected the money after discovering Mr Leus had been found guilty of money laundering in Russia in 2004, before having the conviction overturned.

Mr Leus has now claimed that the donation (handed to the foundation through a third party) was never returned to him and is reportedly considering legal action. He said that in total he believed he had given £500,000 to the Prince's Foundation, only later discovering that just £100,000 had been received.

There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by Mr Leus.

The Prince of Wales at the "Palaces on Wheels" charity cycling event at Highgrove on June 10 - WPA Pool/Getty Images
The Prince of Wales at the "Palaces on Wheels" charity cycling event at Highgrove on June 10 - WPA Pool/Getty Images

'Committed to the highest ethical standards'

A spokesman for the Prince's Foundation said it respected and understood Mr Connell's decision to step down, adding that Dame Sue Bruce, the vice-chairman, would take the helm with immediate effect.

"The Prince's Foundation takes very seriously the allegations made in recent news articles and is committed to the highest ethical standards,” he said.

"These changes to the board of Trustees will not impact the scope or timing of the rigorous independent investigation already under way."

The OSCR is looking into the circumstances surrounding the donation as well as claims that Mr Fawcett offered to help secure a knighthood and British citizenship for a billionaire Saudi donor.

A spokesman said: “We have been working with the Prince’s Foundation to better understand the use of the organisation’s funds, and to gain a full understanding of the work which is being undertaken by the charity’s trustees to investigate the range of issues which have been raised in the media.”

Both Prince Charles and Mr Fawcett were reported to the police on suspicion of breaching the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925. Scotland Yard is currently assessing those complaints.

Clarence House said Prince Charles had no knowledge of any misconduct and fully supported an independent review being led by forensic accountants.

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