GUY ADAMS: King Charles's loyalty to his former top aide runs deep

GUY ADAMS: The dropped cash-for-honours police probe was a major royal scandal, but King Charles’s loyalty to his former top aide Michael Fawcett runs deep

One day in August 2017, a smart-looking envelope dropped through the letterbox of 78 Pall Mall, an 18th-century building converted to an office block in the heart of London’s Clubland.

It contained a secret message from Michael Fawcett, one of the most senior aides to our then future King Charles, to a Saudi Arabian gentleman by the name of Busief Lamlum.

Fawcett, who’d signed the headed notepaper via fountain pen, was confirming details of a highly unorthodox plan to help Lamlum’s wealthy boss access the upper echelons of the British Establishment. 

Firstly, Fawcett wrote that he would be ‘willing and happy to support and contribute to’ an ‘application for citizenship’ by the man, a Saudi tycoon called Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz.

Secondly, he continued, he was happy to help Mahfouz, who’d recently been made a Commander of the British Empire, gain a more exclusive honour. 

Michael Fawcett (right), one of King Charles’ (left) most senior aides, signed a letter to Saudi citizen Busief Lamlum saying he would be willing to ‘support and contribute’ to his ‘application for citizenship’

Michael Fawcett was one of King Charles’ longest-serving aides having held office for more than 40 years

‘I can further confirm,’ he declared, ‘that we are willing to make an application to increase His Excellency’s honour from Honorary CBE to that of a KBE [Knight Commander of the British Empire] in accordance with Her Majesty’s Honours Committee.’

READ MORE: Is Charles’ former top aide set to make a third comeback? Michael Fawcett – who the King once called the one man he can’t do without – could work for the royal in a private capacity after police drop ‘cash for honours’ probe

According to the letter, the motivation for this generous royal gesture was quite simple: Mahfouz had in recent years pledged vast sums of money, believed to total around £1.5million, to Charles’s various charities, including the Dumfries House Trust, which counted Fawcett as its £85,000-a-year chief executive.

The aide duly praised the ‘ongoing and most recent generosity’ of the Middle Eastern donor, and stressed that ‘both of these applications will be made in response to the most recent and anticipated support of the Trust, and in connection with [Mahfouz’s] ongoing commitment generally within the United Kingdom’.

Fast forward four years and the ‘generosity’ in question would suddenly ignite one of the most explosive royal scandals of modern times.

A copy of the letter was obtained by the Mail on Sunday in September 2021. Its publication, which prompted the immediate resignation of Fawcett, not only raised awkward questions over whether Charles was leveraging his royal status for cash, but also sparked claims that his office had been breaking the law.

At the centre of the hoo-hah was a piece of legislation introduced in 1925 called the Honours (Prevention Of Abuses) Act. Anyone found to be ‘procuring or assisting or endeavouring to procure’ an honour in exchange for money can receive an unlimited fine or up to two years in prison.

An investigation was launched last February by the Met’s ‘Special Enquiry Team’, the unit behind the contentious Partygate probe. And yesterday the Force revealed ‘no further action’ would be taken. The timing of that announcement, on the very morning of Lucy Letby’s sentencing, led cynics to wonder if the cops were attempting to bury bad news.

Prince Charles pictured shooting with Michael Fawcett at Sandringham in Norfolk in 1990

The King’s former top aide pictured at Dumfries House in Cunnock, Ayrshire, in Scotland in 2011

After all, the pace of their investigation has already raised eyebrows. They appear to have conducted just two formal interviews, and according to Palace sources have failed to cross-examine anyone in the royal household, instead largely basing inquiries on documents referenced in news reports.

Yet in truth, securing convictions for selling honours is notoriously tricky. Just one person, a Liberal Party fixer named Maundy Gregory, has ever been convicted under the act, and he was fined £50 and jailed for just two months way back in 1933.

READ MORE: Relief for King Charles’ former close confidant Michael Fawcett as Met Police drop probe into cash-for-honours allegations

The 2006 ‘cash-for-honours’ scandal involving wealthy businessmen who gave loans to Labour and were subsequently nominated for peerages saw 136 people, including Tony Blair, interviewed by police, only for the CPS to decide there was insufficient evidence to bring charges.

Further complicating things, on the legal front, was the death of the Queen in September, which elevated Charles to monarch. This meant he would be protected by the concept of ‘sovereign immunity’ from being compelled to give evidence in court, a fact likely to have jeopardised any trial.

Yet whatever the reason for yesterday’s announcement, claims (however erroneous) that there may be one law for commoners and another for the royal court are almost as unwelcome, to Palace spin-doctors, as the attention this affair has thrown on the sometimes-murky world of Charles’s charitable fundraising.

Last June, there was another unwelcome controversy when it emerged that the King had accepted 3million euros [£2.5million] in cash from a former Qatari prime minister, some of it in shopping bags (his office said all correct processes were followed).

A month later, it was reported that the Prince of Wales’ Charitable Fund had accepted money from the family of Osama bin Laden (the Palace said due diligence was carried out and Charles was not personally involved).

Against such a backdrop, it may seem unlikely that the King would attempt to welcome Fawcett back into the fold. Yet their loyalty to each other runs deep.

The former valet, dubbed ‘Rasputin’ by some colleagues, was the King’s longest-serving aide, holding office for more than 40 years. 

Palace insiders claim Mr Fawcett is still in touch with the King. Pictured: Mr Fawcett outside his home in south west London in 2021

The duo were famously regarded as being so close that he would ‘[squeeze] Charles’ toothpaste so the heir could brush his teeth’. This relationship first made ugly headlines back in 1998, when Fawcett was forced out after being accused of bullying.

Yet he was allowed to return a couple of years later. Then, in 2003, he resigned again after being caught ‘helping flog’ unwanted royal gifts. However, a report exonerated him of any wrongdoing. He received £500,000 in severance pay and, after setting up the events company Premier Mode Ltd, became the Prince’s go-to party organiser.

Later, he was also hired to oversee renovations at the Prince’s Highland retreat, Birkhall, the former home of the Queen Mother, and in 2013 was put in charge of Charles’s pet project, the renovation of Dumfries House.

That last job would, of course, end in tears. The big question now is whether Fawcett, who is said to have remained in occasional contact with Charles in recent months, could mount a third comeback.

‘It would be very unwise,’ was how one royal insider put it yesterday. ‘But, as has been proven again and again, the King has a blind spot with that man.’

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