A former aide to the Prince of Wales has stepped down temporarily from his role as a charity boss while an investigation into allegations about his conduct takes place.
Michael Fawcett, a former assistant valet to Charles, has stepped down as chief executive of The Prince’s Foundation amid claims reported by Sunday newspapers about honours relating to Saudi businessman Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz.
The Sunday Times says Mr Mahfouz, who is listed as a supporter on The Prince’s Foundation website, donated large sums to restoration projects of particular interest to Charles, adding that Mr Mahfouz denies any wrongdoing.
Mr Fawcett is alleged to have coordinated support for an honour for Mr Mahfouz, according to newspaper reports.
Mr Fawcett, who in 2003 was cleared of financial misconduct allegations over the selling of royal gifts, was appointed chief executive of the Prince’s Foundation in 2018 following a reorganisation of Charles’ charities.
Douglas Connell, chair of The Prince’s Foundation, said: “Earlier today, Michael Fawcett offered to step down temporarily from active duties as chief executive of The Prince’s Foundation while the trustees’ investigation is ongoing.
“The Prince’s Foundation has accepted this offer. Michael fully supports the ongoing investigation and has confirmed that he will assist the investigation in every way.”
It is understood that Emily Cherrington, chief operating officer, will take over in the interim, and that the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) has been informed as The Prince’s Foundation is a charity registered in Scotland.
A spokeswoman for The Prince’s Foundation said: “The Prince’s Foundation takes very seriously the allegations that have recently been brought to its attention and the matter is currently under investigation.
“We are incredibly proud of The Prince’s Foundation’s charitable work and the positive impact it has on our beneficiaries throughout the UK and across the world.
“Our education and training programmes, in particular, benefit more than 15,000 people every year, and provide our students with the skills and confidence needed to gain employment or start their own businesses.”
Any member of the public or an official body can nominate someone for an honour, and UK nationals and citizens of 15 Commonwealth “realms” to which the Queen is monarch are eligible to be nominated.
Non-British or Commonwealth country citizens can be considered for “honorary” awards.
Nominations are submitted to the Cabinet Office’s Honours and Appointments Secretariat.
Consideration of nominations can take 12 to 18 months and the suitability of nominees submitted to the Secretariat is established through “merit” and “probity and propriety” checks.
This vetting process, to avoid bringing the system into “disrepute”, can involve the input of government departments, regulatory bodies, professional organisations, HM Revenue and Customs and the Acro Criminal Records Office.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office said: “All nominations for Honorary Awards are subject to the same rigorous scrutiny and probity checks to assess the merits of each case.
“This process is followed in all cases.”
Mr Fawcett began his royal service in 1981 as a footman to the Queen, rising through the ranks to sergeant footman and then Charles’ assistant valet, setting out his bespoke suits and shirts every morning at Kensington Palace.
He was accused of selling unwanted royal gifts and pocketing a percentage of the proceeds when Charles’ personal assistant, but was cleared by an internal inquiry of any financial misconduct.
The inquiry, headed by Charles’ then private secretary Sir Michael Peat, found Mr Fawcett did “infringe internal rules relating to gifts from suppliers” but could not be severely criticised because the rules were not enforced and he made no secret of such gifts.
But the report painted a picture of Mr Fawcett as an alleged bully who accepted valuable gifts from outsiders.
The royal aide resigned following the report’s publication, but continued to have the prince’s patronage as a freelance fixer and party planner, and picked up an undisclosed cash severance package as well as an agreement to work as the Prince’s events manager.