A major ethics investigation was last night launched into an extraordinary ‘cash for access’ scheme involving Prince Charles, which has been uncovered by The Mail on Sunday.
A bombshell email reveals in excruciating detail how wealthy donors could pay £100,000 to secure a lavish dinner with the Prince of Wales and an overnight stay at Dumfries House, his country mansion in Scotland.
The payments were intended for Charles’s charity ventures, but the email details how fixers would pocket up to 25 per cent of the fees.
A spokesman for the Prince last night said he was unaware of the cut being taken by middlemen and his foundation has now severed links with two men involved in the scheme.
The furore will be highly embarrassing for Charles, whose reputation risks being damaged by accusations that an association with him can be bought.
Ethics inquiry: A major ethics investigation was last night launched into an extraordinary ‘cash for access’ scheme involving Prince Charles, which has been uncovered by The Mail on Sunday
Critics have accused the Royals of naively believing that donors are motivated by philanthropy when, in fact, they are often seeking other benefits.
This newspaper has established that Dmitry Leus, a Russian banker who had a 2004 conviction for money laundering in Latvia overturned, cited a substantial donation to Charles’s charities when he was successfully lobbying the Home Office for full UK residency.
Mr Leus, who has also donated funds to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab’s local Conservative association, included letters of gratitude from Clarence House in his application.
It is understood, however, that his invitation to Dumfries House in Ayrshire was subsequently revoked and his donation returned earlier this year.
Wealthy donors could pay £100,000 to secure a lavish dinner with the Prince of Wales and an overnight stay at Dumfries House in Scotland (pictured, Charles outside Dumfries House)
The email includes 14 bullet points setting out precisely what a donor can expect in exchange for paying £100,000 for two people to visit Dumfries House, the mansion that Charles secured for the nation in 2007 with a £20 million loan from his charity foundation.
After being driven to the Palladian house in a Royal car, they ‘can have a tour of house or gardens’. Clients, as the email describes them, assemble for drinks at 7pm and then meet Charles.
‘HRH appears and greets each guest individually with conversation and photographer,’ it adds.
A black-tie dinner and entertainment such as a piano recital follow before the guests retire for the night.
The email provides hope of a longer-lasting relationship with the Prince. Under the heading ‘Follow up’, it states: ‘Depending in [sic] the amount of synergy between each client and HRH, clients are placed on appropriate guest lists depending on their cultural interests.’
The email was sent by society fixer Michael Wynne-Parker on November 15, 2019, and sets out that 5 per cent of the fee will go to him.
An email reveals that HRH would greet each guest with a conversation and a photo with payments intended for Charles’s charity ventures
The email was sent by society fixer Michael Wynne-Parker (pictured) on November 15, 2019, and sets out that 5% of the fee will go to him and a further 20% goes to another middleman
The funds are paid to the account of Burke’s Peerage, the guide to the gentry, whose editor William Bortrick (pictured) was closely involved in the scheme but he denied any impropriety and of having any ‘business arrangement or agreement’ with Mr Wynne-Parker
Home of his fake art mishap, too
This is not the first time that Prince Charles’s charity has been forced to return gifts amid controversy.
Two years ago, The Mail on Sunday revealed a major counterfeit art scandal at Dumfries House.
Charles’s charitable foundation, which is based at the Ayrshire mansion, returned 17 works of art which had been on loan from bullion dealer James Stunt. This newspaper revealed that a ‘£50 million Monet water lily painting’, a ‘£42 million Picasso’ and a ‘£12 million Dali’ which had been prominently displayed at the house, were all fakes.
Convicted US art forger Tony Tetro admitted he had painted the ‘Monet’ himself on his kitchen table in Los Angeles and sold it to Mr Stunt. ‘You can impress your friends with my pictures but they would never pass expert scrutiny,’ Mr Tetro said.
A Prince’s Foundation spokesman confirmed at the time: ‘Dumfries House accepts artwork on loan from time to time from individuals and organisations. It is extremely regrettable that the authenticity of these particular paintings, which are no longer on display, now appears to be in doubt.’
It claims the funds are paid to the account of Burke’s Peerage, the guide to the gentry, whose editor William Bortrick is named as being closely involved in the scheme. A further 20 per cent goes to another middleman.
Last night, a spokesman for the Prince’s Foundation, which has overseen the massive project to regenerate Dumfries House, said its ethics committee to investigate and that he would no longer work with Mr Wynne-Parker or Mr Bortrick.
‘The Prince’s Foundation takes very seriously the allegations brought to its attention by The Mail on Sunday relating to third parties who have introduced prospective donors to our charity in the past,’ he said.
‘We were not aware of any financial gain being sought by these individuals, whom we have never paid, and have ceased our relationship with these individuals and referred the matter to our ethics committee for investigation.
‘Michael Wynne-Parker does not represent The Prince’s Foundation and the email he sent is not representative of the Foundation’s approach to fundraising’.
Wynne-Parker last night said that donors to the Prince’s Foundation tended to give ‘between £100,000 and £1 million’ and insisted it was ‘normal practice’ for intermediaries to be paid a commission for facilitating charitable donations.
Asked why the funds were paid into the Burke’s Peerage account, he said: ‘I was advised this [was] to be the vehicle. I believe this often happens.’
Mr Wynne-Parker said he had previously arranged similar donor dinners at the Castle of Mey, the Queen Mother’s former Scottish home which was opened to the public by Charles, adding: ‘The Prince of Wales once told me how much he appreciated the support and liked to get to know donors.’
Mr Bortrick denied any impropriety and of having any ‘business arrangement or agreement’ with Mr Wynne-Parker.
He said: ‘If Michael wants to do business that’s fine, but it’s nothing whatsoever to do with me.
‘This is not something we’ve ever discussed and if he had talked to me about what he was sending out to people, I’d have hit the roof because it’s completely inappropriate.’
The investigation will be led by Douglas Connell, chairman of the Prince’s Foundation, and Dame Susan Bruce, chairman of its ethics committee.
A spokesman for the Prince last night said he was unaware of the cut being taken by the middlemen and his foundation has now severed links with two men involved in the scheme
The email that lays bare a very cosy deal: Man with the golden address book who demanded a £5,000 cut for setting up Prince Charles meeting
Michael Wynne-Parker could barely conceal his excitement. In an email sent just before 4pm on Friday, November 15, 2019, to a mysterious fixer, he wrote: ‘I feel we will have great success in our joint collaboration.’
His contentment may, in part, have been inspired by the fourth of the 14 bullet points detailing how clients of its recipient would meet Prince Charles.
The trip for two, comprising a tour, dinner, entertainment and an overnight stay at Dumfries House in Ayrshire, would cost £100,000 – with Mr Wynne-Parker taking a 5 per cent commission and the fixer 20 per cent.
Today, that excitement has likely turned to dismay. After the email was unearthed by The Mail on Sunday and its details shared with Clarence House, Prince Charles’s Foundation has now severed connections with the flamboyant Mr Wynne-Parker and ordered an inquiry into the ‘cash for access’ affair.
Whether the controversy causes any lasting damage to Charles’s reputation remains to be seen. Yet the extraordinary memo reveals for the first time the calculated way in which fixers tried to sell access to the Prince of Wales.
The go-between: Michael Wynne-Parker (pictured) sent a 14 bullet point email to a mysterious fixer on November 15, 2019, detailing how clients would meet Prince Charles for a fee
Mr Wynne-Parker’s society connections are impeccable. He counts Prince Michael of Kent as a friend and has reportedly helped arrange trips for him in the past.
He is disarmingly open, too, about the benefits of the Royal introduction service he offers.
The website for his firm, Introcom International, boasts: ‘In a world of instant communication “who you know” is usually more important than “what you know”. The Introcom formula is simple.
A carefully vetted client is introduced to the appropriate personality in the country of his choice. Thus his credibility is greatly enhanced.’
Indeed, when contacted by The Mail on Sunday this weekend, Mr Wynne-Parker said it was ‘unrealistic’ to think that Prince Charles should not extend hospitality to generous donors to his charities, adding: ‘Both parties want to be involved with the other.’
Yet his own credibility has been repeatedly undermined by a dubious past which involves being banned from serving as a director.
As far back as 1990, he was found guilty of 16 counts of misconduct, fined £10,000 and banned from giving financial advice.
The trip for two, comprising a tour, dinner, entertainment and an overnight stay at Dumfries House in Ayrshire, would cost £100,000 – with Mr Wynne-Parker taking a 5% commission and the fixer 20%. Pictured: The email he sent – complete with spelling mistakes
Whether the controversy causes any lasting damage to Prince Charles’s reputation remains to be seen. Yet the extraordinary memo reveals for the first time the calculated way in which access to the Prince of Wales is being sold to rich donors
By 1998, Judge Mellor, sitting at Norwich County Court, concluded that Mr Wynne-Parker had deliberately arranged an ‘unsuitable policy’ for a client so he could earn 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,’ the judge said.
Despite that, Mr Wynne-Parker was a key figure, planning visits by donors to Dumfries House.
The arrangements were set out in detail in his November 15 email. After the payment of £100,000 to the account of Burke’s Peerage, the guide to aristocracy, and security checks, a date for the dinner would be mutually agreed, the email says.
Mr Wynne-Parker or William Bortrick, the editor of Burke’s Peerage, would, he added, be available to the client ‘to fully brief them on protocol etc to put them fully at ease’.
The donor would be met at an airport by ‘Royal car’ and driven to Dumfries House, the email explains. Clients could avail themselves of a tour of the house or gardens before meeting for drinks at about 7pm.
Half an hour later, it adds, ‘HRH appears and greets each guest individually with conversation and photographer’.
Dinner, added Mr Wynne-Parker, would be at 8pm followed by ‘further drinks, conversations and often entertainment (eg piano recital) with HRH’.
Appearing to raise the potential of a longer-term relationship with the Prince, the final paragraph of Mr Wynne-Parker’s email says: ‘Depending in [sic] the amount of synergy between each client and HRH, clients are placed on appropriate guest lists depending on their cultural interests.’
Middle man: William Bortrick (pictured) was said to represent Charles over visits to Dumfries House
Fixer who runs bible of aristocracy
By Jo Macfarlane
THE man named in the cash-for-access email as ‘representing HRH’ is the chairman of Burke’s Peerage, the 200-year-old reference guide to the nation’s aristocratic families.
William Bortrick, 48, a Northern Irish genealogist who studied history at both Oxford and Cambridge, has been a director at the publisher since 2013.
He now co-owns the company alongside colourful Canadian businessman Sam Malin, who along with his wife Irene, a former X Factor contestant, have appeared taking private jets on Channel 5 reality show Britain’s Flashiest Families and featured on Britain’s Pushiest Parents with their five children.
Mr Malin made his money digging for oil in Madagascar and he and his wife now own Ingress Abbey in Kent.
The company hasn’t published a print edition of Burke’s Peerage since 2003.
Bortrick was the company’s youngest executive and royal editor when, in 2009, he announced plans to introduce ‘momentous’ changes to the publication by including illegitimate children for the first time.
Silver-haired, debonair and boasting of top-level contacts in 20 countries, Mr Wynne-Parker loves to call himself The Man With The Golden Address Book.
He is chairman of the UK branch of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society (IOPS), a group that Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov once said would further ‘the fundamental interests of the Russian state’.
Photographs show Mr Wynne-Parker and Mr Bortrick sitting together at the IOPS in Moscow in May 2018. Both also attended a dinner held the following year to launch the British branch of the society in Mayfair, when aristocratic guests included Frederick Hervey, the 8th Marquess of Bristol, and Count Nikolai Tolstoy.
One Russian expert has described IOPS as a ‘Russian influence operation reaching the highest levels of British society’ but Mr Wynne-Parker has dismissed this suggestion, saying ‘the idea we are a den of Russian collaborators is crazy’.
The ‘cash for access’ revelations will make uncomfortable reading for Charles, particularly as they are linked to Dumfries House, a project that he holds dear.
He bought the property in Ayrshire 14 years ago and has since overseen the painstaking renovation of the building and 2,000-acre estate to create a new cultural project. The scheme is estimated to have already cost £45 million.
Open to visitors, the centre offers a range of courses, many in traditional skills, with an emphasis on sustainability, and has been credited with reviving the local economy.
Originally built as a retirement home for the 5th Earl of Dumfries in the 1750s, its last known occupant was the dowager Marchioness of Bute in 1993.
It was put up for sale in 2007 by her relative Johnny Dumfries, a former Formula 1 racing driver, and Charles led a consortium to save it for the nation.
The Russian banker who used donations to Prince Charles’s charity in his bid for UK residency
A former Russian banker included letters detailing his donations to the Prince of Wales’s charitable foundation in a dossier sent to the Home Office to support his claim for UK residency.
Dmitry Leus was found guilty of fraud and jailed in Latvia in 2004. The conviction was later overturned and he insists the prosecution was politically motivated.
The Mail on Sunday has established that Mr Leus made donations in excess of £500,000 to the Prince’s Foundation, which is based at Dumfries House. The businessman was expecting one-to-one hospitality from Charles in recognition of his generosity.
Michael Wynne-Parker, a society fixer who acts as a trustee for the Leus Family Foundation, said Mr Leus had ‘received a warm letter from HRH looking forward to a meeting ASAP’.
Russian businessman Dmitry Leus (pictured) included details of donations to the Prince of Wales’s charitable foundation in a dossier sent to the Home Office to win UK residency
While sources close to the Prince’s Foundation last night confirmed receipt of Mr Leus’s donation, they said the invitation to Dumfries House would not be forthcoming and that the money was returned earlier this year.
It is understood that questions about the donation were first raised last autumn, around the time that Mr Leus was lobbying the Home Office.
In a letter last September and seen by the MoS, Mr Leus’s lawyers acknowledge that he was refused a Tier 1 (Investor) visa in 2014 because he failed to inform the Home Office of his criminal conviction in Russia.
They argue that this ‘would not constitute deliberate dishonesty or deception’ to conceal his conviction, but had merely been a ‘misunderstanding’ over the requirement to disclose the conviction given that it had been ‘expunged’.
In another section of the letter entitled ‘Family ties, connections and contributions to the UK’, they add: ‘Mr Leus has also contributed to The Prince’s Foundation in their work to support and enrich communities through sustainable approaches to living, restoration of historic sites and the teaching of traditional arts and skills.
The Mail on Sunday has established that Mr Leus made donations in excess of £500,000 to the Prince’s Foundation, based at Dumfries House (pictured) and was expecting one-to-one hospitality from Charles in recognition of his generosity
‘Please find enclosed a letter from Chris Martin, the Deputy Executive Director of The Prince’s Foundation, expressing his gratitude for Mr Leus’ support.
Please also find enclosed an official letter from Clarence House, the official London residence of the Prince of Wales, thanking Mr Leus for his support and encouragement at such a “critical time.”’
Mr Leus is understood to have been successful with his application and there is no suggestion of any wrongdoing.
Born in Turkmenistan, Mr Leus also has Russian and Israeli citizenship, but entered Britain on a European Union passport from Cyprus. He lives in the Knightsbridge area of London with his wife and their four sons.
He has donated millions to British charities but made headlines earlier this month when it emerged he had also made three payments totalling £25,000 to the local Conservative association of Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.
Sources close to the Prince’s Foundation last night confirmed receipt of Mr Leus’s donation, they said the invitation to Dumfries House would not be forthcoming and that the money was returned earlier this year. Pictured: Charles outside Dumfries house
Asked why Mr Leus had made such a generous donation to the Prince’s Foundation, Mr Wynne-Parker said: ‘The aims of the Foundation [Dumfries House] coincide with his aim of assisting young people to have a fulfilling life.
‘Mr Leus is passionate about helping young people because he experienced many challenges in his youth which shaped his character as a successful businessman.
‘He is an inspiration to many through his approach. Most rich people give something back part-time, whereas he gives a vast amount back.’
Mr Leus was European fencing champion aged 17. ‘My business mindset was created in the gymnasiums and competition halls of my teenage years,’ he said in a recent interview.
Mr Leus’s lawyers did not respond to a request for comment.