Relations between Prince Charles and Saudi billionaire, Mahfouz Marei Mubarak Bin Mahfouz, have come under further scrutiny following revelations that Prince Harry severed ties with the 51-year-old businessman in 2015 because of "concerns over his motives." Nevertheless, in the six years since, Mahfouz was granted access to power and lavished with honours.
Mahfouz has been at the centre of an ongoing "cash for honours" scandal. It is claimed that he was promised a knighthood and residency in the UK in return for donating to the Prince's Foundation, a charity established by Harry's father the Prince of Wales.
Between 2012 and 2016, Mahfouz donated millions of pounds to royal causes. According to the Times, behind the scenes, Mahfouz's advisers told him that, in exchange, he could receive any number of exclusive experiences or awards, including a CBE, meetings with Charles and Harry, and pictures with the royals, all of which he secured.
The Saudi businessman was finally awarded a CBE in 2016 at Buckingham Palace even though a year earlier Harry, who resides in the US after falling out with the Royal Family, had concerns over Mahfouz.
Harry's instincts about Mahfouz appear to have been well-founded. Last month, Michael Fawcett, who for years was a trusted ally of Prince Charles, resigned as the foundation's chief executive after an investigation found he coordinated with "fixers" over honours nominations for Mahfouz. Such a scandal has become a cause for concern in the UK.
Many see cash for honours as a threat to British democracy. Honours, including membership of the House of Lords, are often handed out to donors to political parties. The Metropolitan Police have been urged to launch a "cash for honours" investigation following fresh scrutiny of the Conservative Party's award of peerages.
Details of Harry's decision to sever ties with Mahfouz were revealed following reports that Duke of Sussex had agreed to meet Mahfouz in 2013 after he gave a £50,000, some $66,000, donation to a charity set up by the prince. It was hinted that more donations would follow. His aides also agreed to throw a banquet in Mahfouz's honour on royal property.
"The duke and his advisors, as well as his nonprofit Sentebale, severed ties with Mr Mahfouz and his associates in 2015," said Harry's spokesperson a short time after publication of the Times article. The spokesperson confirmed that Harry no longer accepted further donations to Sentebale and discontinued any plans for a fundraising event "amid growing concerns over the motives for his support."
It's not clear if Harry had communicated his concerns to his father. Nevertheless, Prince Charles held a series of private meetings with Mahfouz in England, Scotland and Saudi Arabia, solicited millions in donations from him, and awarded him a CBE.