Prince Andrew’s charity breached charity law by paying a trustee more than £350,000, the Charity Commission has found.
The regulator said in a statement today it had found that a former trustee of the Prince Andrew Charitable Trust was paid by the charity’s three trading subsidiary companies to work as a director of those companies.
The trust, which is in the process of being wound up, supported the Duke of York’s charitable work in the areas of education, entrepreneurship, science, technology and engineering.
Amanda Thirsk, a former aide to Prince Andrew, who stepped down as a trustee of the charity in January, carried out work for the trading subsidiaries – Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award, Duke of York Youth Development and Pitch@Palace – from April 2015 to January 2020.
The Duke of York’s household, which received £355,297 for Thirsk’s time, has paid the money back to the trust to be redistributed towards “the causes intended” as it winds up, according to the commission.
Trustees cannot be paid to act as directors of subsidiary companies, unless there is authority from the charity’s governing document or the payments are authorised by the commission or the court, none of which were in place at the charity, the regulator said.
The commission opened a regulatory compliance case on the charity after it raised concerns about media coverage of a BBC interview with Prince Andrew in November 2019 resulting in a reputational risk.
But after “proactive examination” of the charity’s accounts and records, the commission identified issues of concern, including a lack of evidence to demonstrate that the payments to the trustee provided value for money for the charity.
It also found the charity could not show that conflicts of interest relating to the payments received by a trustee were managed adequately at trustee meetings.
Helen Earner, director of operations at the Charity Commission, said: “By allowing the payment of a trustee via its subsidiaries the Prince Andrew Charitable Trust breached charity law, and by insufficiently managing the resulting conflict of interest from this payment the trustees did not demonstrate the behaviour expected of them.
“We’re glad that concerns we identified are now resolved after the charity acted quickly and efficiently to rectify these matters.
“The recovered funds will now go towards the causes intended and we will continue to work with the trustees as they wind up the charity.”
In a statement, the commission said the organisation’s board of trustees, which included a lawyer, was expected to have had the knowledge and experience to act in accordance with charity law.
Third Sector has contacted Prince Andrew’s Charitable Trust for comment.