The Charity Commission has opened a statutory inquiry into a charity set up by a Saudi billionaire amid claims it took donations intended for one of the Prince of Wales’ charities.
The regulator said today it had opened the probe into the Mahfouz Foundation, which has charitable aims including the promotion of the history and culture of the Middle East and was set up by Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz.
But the commission said it had been engaging with trustees since September after media reports that donations intended for the Prince’s Foundation went instead to the Mahfouz Foundation.
“Some of these funds were then subsequently transferred elsewhere,” the commission said.
The regulator also said it had identified concerns about the trustees’ governance and financial control of the charity and escalated the case to a statutory inquiry on 2 November.
The commission said its inquiry would examine issues including whether “certain donations received by the Mahfouz Foundation were intended for the charity, have been used in accordance with the donors’ intentions and if they should be returned to the donor or otherwise applied for charitable purposes”.
Michael Fawcett stepped down as chief executive of the Prince’s Foundation last week after claims he had helped secure a CBE for Mahfouz, who denies any wrongdoing.
The Sunday Times newspaper reported in September that a £200,000 donation from a Russian banker to another of the Prince of Wales’ charities had been funnelled through the Mahfouz Foundation in order to mask its origin.
According to the charity’s entry on the Charity Commission’s online register, it has had an income and expenditure of exactly £10,000 in each of the past five financial years.
The charity's website displays little more than an image of Mahfouz.