Prince Charles, the future King of the British, accepted a donation of one million pounds sterling (more than six million reais at the current exchange rate) from the wealthy Saudi family of Osama bin Laden, according to the newspaper. The Sunday Times. The family is now headed by patriarch Bakr bin Laden, Osama’s half-brother — who masterminded the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center’s twin towers and was killed by US special forces in 2011 in Pakistan.
Another of Osama’s half-brothers, Shafiq, would also be involved in the donation. The father of the three Saudis was Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden, a construction billionaire born in Yemen and killed in a plane crash in 1967. There is no indication that Bakr and Shafiq financed or participated in terrorist acts, as did Osama.
The transaction would have taken place at Clarence House, a residence of the royal family in London’s Westminster, in the year 2013. Charles, Prince of Wales, now 73 years old, met at the time with Bakr secretly, who then transferred the money to the Prince of Wales Charitable Foundation (PWCF).
Citing anonymous sources, the newspaper alleges that many of the prince’s aides advised him against accepting the money and some begged to return it, but were ignored by the royal. The anonymous sources claim that Charles felt it would be too embarrassing to return the money. Arguing over the matter would have taken place, ended with a shout by the prince.
Clarence House management disputes the newspaper’s sources’ allegations and denies that there was any altercation. He does not deny the donation, but says that it was members of the foundation’s board, not the prince himself, who accepted it. The current president of PWCF, Sir Ian Cheshire, told the Sunday Times that the donation was unanimously approved by the five councilors at the time. Only one would have raised doubts about it, but he followed the others in approving it. Cheshire laments that 40 years of clean PWCF accounts involving more than £70m applied to different causes are being eclipsed by ‘baseless suggestions’.
It’s not the first time Charles has faced criticism in the British press for his proximity to Middle Eastern billionaires’ money. Last month, the same newspaper reported that the prince had accepted a million euros in cash in a suitcase from former Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, known as HBJ. There is a complaint in a British court that the HBJ office would have been an intermediary of money transferred to the cell of the terrorist group Al-Qaeda, founded by Osama, in Syria. HBJ has several properties in London and owns the Paris Saint-Germain football team.
A year earlier, Charles had bestowed an honor, the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, on another Saudi magnate named Mahfouz Marei Mubarak in a private ceremony at Buckingham Palace. The honor would have been purchased with donations. The matter is being investigated by the London Metropolitan Police.
Being Osama bin Laden’s half-brother is not as rare in Saudi Arabia as it might seem at first glance. His father Mohammed, who died when Osama was 10, had 22 wives and 52 children. Current patriarch Bakr is blamed for 100 deaths, but not terrorism: there was an accident in 2015 at one of his construction projects. He spent just over a year in jail, including the entire year of 2018, accused of corruption by the Saudi government. He was released in January 2019 amid international pressure on Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the murder and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by 15 Saudi agents. Charles and Bakr have been at the center of crown controversies before. They met two weeks after the 2001 terrorist attack to talk about the Muslim faith. They met in the year 2000 through the Center for Islamic Studies in Oxford, introduced to each other by a Saudi prince. The bin Laden family distanced itself from Osama decades ago.