The Duke of Sussex has revealed that he "expressed his concerns" about the motives of a Saudi billionaire donor at the centre of what he called the "CBE scandal".
A statement released on Sunday attempted to distance the Duke from the furore that has engulfed his father's charitable foundation, the Prince’s Foundation, following claims that Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz was promised a knighthood and British citizenship after making hefty donations.
It came after a report alleged that Prince Harry held a private meeting with Mr Mahfouz in 2013, shortly after he had donated £50,000 to his charity, Sentebale. The meeting reportedly took place at a pub in Chelsea, west London, owned by Mark Dyer, a former royal equerry and childhood mentor to the Prince.
He was also photographed with Mr Mahfouz's teenage sons at the Beaufort Polo Club in the Cotswolds, and was said to have held a second meeting at Clarence House in 2014.
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‘Aides said to have to have developed concerns’
A statement released on behalf of the Duke said: "The Duke and his advisers, as well as his non-profit Sentebale, severed ties with Mr Mahfouz and his associates in 2015, no longer accepting further donations to Sentebale and discontinuing any plans for a fundraising event amid growing concerns over the motives for his support.
"The Duke had one planned meeting with this donor nearly eight years ago, did not introduce him to any members of the Royal family, and expressed his concerns about the donor."
The Sunday Times reported that, in 2012, a royal intermediary was told Mr Mahfouz had allegedly agreed to give money to Sentebale, but that his family wanted to know "precisely what they are getting for that".
His advisers were said to have floated ideas including a private meeting with the Duke, tickets to watch a rugby or football match in a royal box with him and a joint "educational tour" of Lesotho.
Within 48 hours, the intermediary reportedly declared that such opportunities would be "arranged at mutual early convenience" and with the supervision of Mr Dyer, a trustee of Sentebale.
In 2014, Mr Dyer and Ed Lane Fox, the Duke's private secretary, allegedly agreed to throw a banquet for Mr Mahfouz to encourage more donations. Mr Mahfouz allegedly wanted an auction to take place, which is against royal protocol.
However, aides are said to have to have developed concerns about Mr Mahfouz's motives and the banquet never took place.
The Duke's statement added: "It is disappointing that the Sunday Times, knowing all the facts, has chosen to encourage speculation by being deliberately vague to try to create a falsified link between the Duke of Sussex and the CBE scandal, of which he had no knowledge or involvement."
Prince Harry was dragged into the scandal after Michael Fawcett, Prince Charles's closest aide, resigned as chief executive of the Prince's Foundation amid claims he promised to help secure a knighthood and British citizenship for Mr Mahfouz and that donations intended for the charity were instead channelled elsewhere.
An investigation last week found he had co-ordinated with "so-called fixers" over honours nominations for Mr Mahfouz between 2014 and 2018.
He was also allegedly involved in directing money from the Mahfouz Foundation to the now defunct Children and the Arts Foundation, of which Prince Charles was previously patron.
The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator is now examining the charity's report and "carefully considering" its own inquiry. Clarence House has previously said Prince Charles had "no knowledge" of the cash for honours scandal.
The Prince, who presented Mr Mahfouz with his CBE at a private ceremony at Buckingham Palace in 2016, is said to be prepared to speak to Scotland Yard about claims that Mr Fawcett fixed the honour. Mr Mahfouz denies any wrongdoing.
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