£750,000 from 'fraudster' was to fund Princess Beatrice's wedding

EXCLUSIVE: £750,000 from ‘fraudster’ was to fund Princess Beatrice’s wedding: Astonishing admission from Prince Andrew’s aide in phonecall about cash at heart of new High Court battle

  • The Duchess of York and Princess Eugenie have also been named in High Court as having received large amounts of cash
  • The case involves an alleged fraudster who set up a scheme described as ‘apparent money laundering’
  • Turkish millionairess Nehabat Isbilen claims to have been scammed out of fortune by Selman Turk
  • She claims £1.1 million of her money ended up with Andrew and now Beatrice’s wedding has been used as explanation for payment

Buckingham Palace told bankers a mysterious £750,000 gift to Prince Andrew was for his daughter Princess Beatrice’s wedding.

The Daily Mail has obtained details of an astonishing phone call to his private secretary at the time – deepening the riddle over the money.

The Duchess of York and Princess Eugenie have also been named in the High Court as having received large amounts of cash.

The extraordinary case involves an alleged fraudster who set up a scheme described in legal documents as ‘apparent money laundering’. The Mail revealed yesterday how 77-year-old Turkish millionairess Nebahat Isbilen claims to have been scammed out of her fortune by businessman Selman Turk. She is suing him in the High Court over £40million she says is missing.

She claims £1.1million of her money ended up with Andrew. He has repaid £750,000 but has not explained why it was paid into his account at royal bank Coutts in November 2019 in the first place.

Buckingham Palace told bankers a mysterious £750,000 gift to Prince Andrew was for his daughter Princess Beatrice’s wedding. Pictured: Princess Beatrice and Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi at their wedding 

The Mail revealed yesterday how 77-year-old Turkish millionairess Nebahat Isbilen claims to have been scammed out of her fortune by businessman Selman Turk (pictured at a dinner for the Duke of York). She is suing him in the High Court over £40million she says is missing

Now the Mail can reveal that the duke’s former private secretary Amanda Thirsk gave the wedding explanation for the payment. Beatrice married Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi in a private ceremony in Windsor in July 2020

Mrs Isbilen alleges she was tricked into giving the duke the money by Mr Turk, who she says falsely told her the payment was because Andrew had helped her obtain a passport.

Now the Mail can reveal that the duke’s former private secretary Amanda Thirsk gave the wedding explanation for the payment. Beatrice married Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi in a private ceremony in Windsor in July 2020.

The Mail has obtained a transcript of the phone call Mrs Thirsk received from Mrs Isbilen’s bank on November 14, 2019, querying the purpose of the £750,000 transfer from her account to the duke’s personal account at Coutts.

Will he be taxed on the gifts? 

HMRC does not class cash gifts as income, so if you receive a lump sum you will not be taxed on it.

However, you can be billed for any interest earned on the money once it is deposited in your account.

Prince Andrew’s precise tax arrangements are not known, so it is not clear if he had to pay out in this way. If a donor dies within seven years of giving a gift, then their estate is likely to be subject to inheritance tax, but the recipient will not be charged.

Other exemptions allow you to gift your child up to £5,000 tax-free if it is a wedding present. UK taxpayers also have a £3,000 annual gift allowance before tax is charged.

 

Mrs Thirsk, who was a senior member of the Royal Household at the time but no longer works there, said: ‘It’s a gift for the wedding, a wedding gift.’

The riddle of the money took a series of dramatic twists yesterday as court documents claimed Andrew’s ex-wife was sent payments totalling £225,000, while his younger daughter Eugenie received £25,000, including a £15,000 ‘birthday gift’ – five months before the actual day.

Andrew is not accused of any wrongdoing and he is not central to the complex legal proceedings which are still at an early stage at the High Court.

Mrs Isbilen is the wife of a Turkish MP jailed in their homeland on ‘politically motivated’ charges. 

She fled to London, asking Mr Turk to help her move her $90million (£68million) fortune out of the country, the court has heard.

Mr Turk denies dishonestly ‘misappropriating’ her money. He says that Mrs Isbilen decided to give Andrew the money ‘on her own initiative’.

Former Goldman Sachs banker Mr Turk, 35, has been living in a property owned by the Queen, court documents suggest.

The £750,000 payment to the duke was made nine days after Mr Turk won an award at [email protected], Andrew’s Dragons’ Den-style scheme for entrepreneurs.

Mr Turk could not be contacted for comment. 

Andrew’s spokesman said: ‘We are unable to comment on an ongoing legal case’, while a spokesman for his ex-wife said: ‘The Duchess was completely unaware of the allegations that have since emerged against Mr Turk. 

‘She is naturally concerned by what has been alleged against him.’ 

Mrs Thirsk said she ‘would not be involved in anything improper’.

‘It’s a gift for the wedding, yes’: What Andrew’s aide told banker about £750,000 … before even MORE payments 

By Sam Greenhill, Chief Reporter for the Daily Mail

The phone call to one of Buckingham Palace’s most senior courtiers concerned a delicate matter.

Banker Stephen Buckland had been instructed to transfer £750,000 into the Duke of York’s Coutts account, and he wanted to check what the money was for.

The money belonged to Turkish millionairess Nebahat Isbilen, a wealthy client of Mr Buckland at Hampden & Co private bank.

As part of his duty to conduct due diligence, Mr Buckland set about asking some questions about the purpose of the ‘very large sum of money’. Before speaking to Andrew’s private secretary Amanda Thirsk at the Palace, he started with a call to Selman Turk – the alleged ‘middleman’ said to have arranged the payment between Mrs Isbilen and the duke.

Banker Stephen Buckland had been instructed to transfer £750,000 into the Duke of York’s Coutts account, and he wanted to check what the money was for. The money belonged to Turkish millionairess Nebahat Isbilen, a wealthy client of Mr Buckland at Hampden & Co private bank

The Daily Mail has obtained a transcript of their discussion on November 14, 2019, in which Mr Buckland told Mr Turk: ‘We just need to feel comfortable given the very unusual nature of the transaction,’ which had been given the reference ‘wedding gift’. Mr Buckland said: ‘What we’re struggling to understand is why it is so large and, also, is it a gift to help with the cost of the wedding or is it a wedding gift to the bride?’

Mr Turk, 35, who once worked for Goldman Sachs, gave the rather unclear answer: ‘No, wedding – so basically wedding – so for the cost of the wedding.’ The London-based businessman said the transfer was ‘a gift’ and allegedly gave Mr Buckland the number for Andrew’s private secretary.

2 phone calls that smoothed way for Beatrice’s big day 

CALL ONE

Call from Stephen Buckland, from Nebahat Isbilen’s private bank Hampden & Co, to Selman Turk – November 14, 2019

Stephen Buckland (SB): Hi Selman, thanks for calling back

Selman Turk (ST): Hello, just missed your call, sorry, yeah

SB: Just had a word with one of my senior colleagues. As I am sure you will appreciate, we just need to feel comfortable given the very unusual nature of the transaction and, also the quantum [amount]

ST: Yeah, sure

SB: And what we’re struggling to understand is why it is so large and, also, is it a gift to help with the cost of the wedding to the bank account holder or is it a wedding gift to the bride?

ST: No, wedding – so basically wedding – so for the cost of the wedding

SB: Right OK so, it’s not a, so it’s solely for the help with the cost of the wedding and not…

ST: Yes

SB: Right, because that’s not what it said in the original instruction

ST: Wedding gift, so basically it’s a gift to the bride…

SB: To help with the wedding? To help with the cost of the wedding?

ST: Yes

SB: It’s obviously a very large sum of money which I think anybody would understand, but OK. Did he request that sort of sum or was it a sum which Mrs Isbilen…

ST: No (multiple times), it’s not requested at all, it’s just one-sided, a gift

CALL TWO

** Call from Stephen Buckland to Amanda Thirsk, then legal adviser to Prince Andrew – November 14, 2019

Stephen Buckland (SB): It’s Stephen Buckland from Hampden & Co.

Amanda Thirsk (AT): Oh right, hello, how are you?

SB: I’m not bad, you?

AT: Yes, good thank you

SB: It’s in connection – we are bankers to Mrs Isbilen and this is in reference to a conversation that you might have had with Selman Turk

AT: Oh yeah, yeah

SB: So, I am sure as you will appreciate, we just need to feel comfortable with the very unusual nature of the transaction and, also the quantum and Selman said that you were happy for me to give you a call

AT: Yes, of course, yes

SB: Are you able to confirm if this transfer is to assist with the cost of the wedding, or is it a gift to Princess Beatrice?

AT: I understand it’s a gift for the wedding, a wedding gift

SB: It’s for the wedding, right

AT: Yes exactly, that’s what he’s said to her father

SB: Right OK, so this is a gift for the cost of the wedding or is it a gift to Princess Beatrice?

AT: I mean, I’m not sure it makes much difference, does it? I think it’s a gift for the wedding

SB: It’s a gift for the wedding, OK

AT: What she and her family decide to do with it is really to do with them, isn’t it?

SB: Right, OK. And has the conversation been between Selman and the family, or has it been with Mrs Isbilen?

AT: With Selman I believe

SB: It’s with Selman, right, OK. OK that’s helpful, thank you very much indeed

AT: OK. Thank you, bye

SB: Thank you, bye

 

When Mrs Thirsk answered later that day, Mr Buckland asked her what the £750,000 was for, and according to the transcript, she replied: ‘I understand it’s a gift for the wedding, a wedding gift.’ The banker inquired whether it was a gift for the cost of the wedding or a gift to Princess Beatrice and was told: ‘I mean, I’m not sure it makes much difference, does it? I think it’s a gift for the wedding.’

She added: ‘What she and her family decide to do with it is really to do with them, isn’t it?’ The next day, November 15, the money was transferred to the duke’s account.

Fast-forward 16 months to March 2021, and Mrs Isbilen, 77, told the High Court her money had been ‘dishonestly misappropriated’ by Mr Turk, an allegation which he denies.

Her solicitors wrote to the duke asking questions about his dealings with Mr Turk. None of their questions were answered, but ‘within days’ Mrs Isbilen received £750,000 from the duke. For her, it was the first breakthrough in what has become a jaw-dropping legal wrangle.

The Duke of York is not accused of any wrongdoing and he is not a central figure in the High Court case, in which Mrs Isbilen is suing Mr Turk and a number of offshore companies he allegedly controls. But the duke, along with his ex-wife and daughters, has become embroiled in the complex case.

Yesterday Mrs Thirsk told the Mail she could not remember the call from Mr Buckland. She added: ‘As a person of integrity, I would not be involved in anything improper.’ Mrs Thirsk, an ex-banker who joined the prince’s staff in 2004, quit following his disastrous Newsnight interview which – coincidentally – was recorded the same day as the crucial phone calls. She was his loyal ‘gatekeeper’ for seven years but was made to carry the can for encouraging him to talk to the BBC.

THE £750,000 RIDDLE

A series of conflicting explanations have been made for the duke receiving £750,000 from Mrs Isbilen in November 2019. A refugee from Turkey, where her politician husband is in jail, she claims Mr Turk told her Andrew had helped her secure a new Turkish passport.

She claims Mr Turk told her such a service ‘would normally be worth £2million but it would cost less if we made the payment by way of a gift’. The court was told Mr Turk – who disputes Mrs Isbilen’s version of events – had invented the passport story as a ruse and there was no truth to it.

Then came the explanations about Princess Beatrice’s wedding, which was due to take place in seven months’ time in July 2020. In his defence, filed to the court, Mr Turk said Mrs Isbilen had made the gift to Andrew ‘on her own initiative’. He claimed she had ‘met the Duke and Duchess of York a number of times’. The first time was ‘when they travelled to Turkey on an official visit in the late 1980s’, and there were further meetings in 2019, he said, at Mr Turk’s flat and at St James’s Palace.

A further meeting took place in January 2020, Mr Turk claimed, because she wanted to discuss her husband’s case with the duke and duchess. Mr Turk claimed Mrs Isbilen had been ‘invited to Princess Beatrice’s wedding reception’. He denied telling her to make the gift to Andrew and that he had told her it was for a passport. He denied the duke ‘could or would have used his connections’ to assist with Mrs Isbilen’s passport.

[email protected]

Whatever the reason for the £750,000, it went into the duke’s account nine days after Mr Turk scored success at an event run by the duke at St James’s Palace.

The duke’s [email protected] initiative is his version of the BBC’s Dragons’ Den in which budding entrepreneurs make rapid-fire pitches to a room full of business high-flyers. The winner of the night’s People’s Choice Award was digital banking company Heyman AI, run by 35-year-old Turkish financier Mr Turk. In an affidavit submitted to the High Court, Jonathan Tickner, Mrs Isbilen’s solicitor, wrote: ‘Mrs Isbilen suspects that the payment was made for some purpose connected with the banking business.’ The Mail asked the duke yesterday if it was a coincidence that the £750,000 payment was made nine days after Mr Turk’s victory at [email protected] He did not answer. However it has been pointed out that the duke does not cast a vote in the People’s Choice Award.

‘MONEY LAUNDERING’

A series of payments to the Yorks were made from a company named Alphabet. Mrs Isbilen’s solicitor told the High Court in his affidavit there was ‘strong evidence’ the firm was a ‘fraudulent and covert front used by Mr Turk…to make payments to persons associated with him. Those persons include HRH Prince Andrew [and] Sarah, Duchess of York’. Mr Tickner said the Alphabet transactions were consistent with a pattern of ‘apparent money laundering activity by Mr Turk’. He said payments made by Alphabet appeared to have been made ‘on a fraudulent basis’.

A FURTHER £350,000

As well as the £750,000 payment – which he repaid – the Duke of York is said to have received a further £350,000. The affidavit states: ‘The Alphabet disclosure shows that further transfers of up to £350,000, in regular instalments and in many instances under the reference TK WEDDING or TK WED, were made to Prince Andrew.’ No further details were given but it is understood Mrs Isbilen has not had any further money repaid apart from the £750,000.

£225,000 TO FERGIE

Andrew’s ex-wife received ‘at least’ £225,000 from the Alphabet account, the affidavit states.

Mr Tickner wrote: ‘At least £225,000 was transferred to an account in the name of DUCHESS OF YORK out of the Alphabet account, again in regular instalments.’ The duchess has acted as a brand ambassador for a company named Pegasus Group Holdings, and some of the references on the payments are ‘PEG001′. One of the instalments, in November 2019, showed that $25,000 was transferred to Mr Turk from a Las Vegas company named Pegasus Group Holdings, under the reference DUCHESS FEE POP SERVICE.’ A spokesman for the duchess declined to comment. But it is understood that she says it was money she was owed by Pegasus for her work.

PRINCESS EUGENIE

The affidavit states: ‘A payment of £10,000 was made out of the Alphabet account to EUGENIE OF YORK on 9 October 2019, under the payment reference TK008.’ The next day, a further payment was made.

‘The bank records for Mr Turk’s account show that, on 10 October 2019, Mr Turk made a payment of £15,066.05 to EUGENIE YORK under the payment reference BIRTHDAY GIFT.

The solicitor noted that the payment was made some five months before Princess Eugenie’s birthday on March 23. He added: ‘But Sarah, Duchess of York’s birthday is 15 October. In any event I am not aware of any reason for Mr Turk to have made such a substantial gift.’

Andrew’s ex-wife received ‘at least’ £225,000 from the Alphabet account, the affidavit states. Mr Tickner wrote: ‘At least £225,000 was transferred to an account in the name of DUCHESS OF YORK out of the Alphabet account, again in regular instalments

The affidavit states: ‘A payment of £10,000 was made out of the Alphabet account to EUGENIE OF YORK on 9 October 2019, under the payment reference TK008.’ The next day, a further payment was made

Mr Turk disputes Mrs Isbilen’s allegations and ‘disagrees with her portrayal of the facts’. He states that ‘much of what has happened is the result of Mrs Isbilen’s status as a politically exposed person and the consequential difficulty in dealing with her assets’.

In one court ruling, he was described as ‘very cooperative’, and told the judge he ‘had nothing to hide’. The case continues.

Yesterday Andrew’s spokesman said: ‘We are unable to comment on an ongoing legal case.’

A spokesman for the Duchess of York said: ‘The Duchess was completely unaware of the allegations that have since emerged against Mr Turk. She is naturally concerned by what has been alleged against him.’

10 telling questions Andrew must answer  

1How do you and the Duchess of York know Selman Turk?

2How many times have you met Mr Turk, where and why?

3What did you think the £750,000 paid into your Coutts account was for?

4 Was the money a wedding gift to Princess Beatrice, a payment to cover wedding costs or something else?

5Why did you pay back the £750,000?

6 What instructions did you give your private secretary Amanda Thirsk about the £750,000 payment?

7Mr Turk won a [email protected] award on November 5, 2019 – were you involved in choosing his business as a winner?

8Is it a coincidence that nine days after the award you were paid £750,000?

9You received a further £350,000 from Alphabet Capital Ltd, which the court heard was allegedly a ‘fraudulent’ entity. What was this money for and what has happened to it?

10The court has heard that Alphabet Capital transactions show ‘apparent money laundering activity by Mr Turk’. Do you have any comment?

 

By David Wilkes for the Daily Mail

The alleged fraudster at the heart of the legal battle over huge cash gifts to Prince Andrew has been living in a property owned by the Queen, court papers suggest.

Turkish businessman Selman Turk, 35, has lived in a multi-million-pound flat in a prestigious Mayfair address close to Buckingham Palace and the luxury shops of Piccadilly.

The flat is owned by ‘The Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty In Right Of Her Crown care of The Crown Estate Commissioners’, Land Registry documents suggest.

The Crown Estate, which owns land and property across Britain, is owned by the monarch and funds the Royal Family via the Sovereign Grant.

The flat is owned by ‘The Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty In Right Of Her Crown care of The Crown Estate Commissioners’, Land Registry documents suggest

There has been no ‘obvious payment’ from Mr Turk’s bank accounts to the Crown Estate, witness statements lodged with the High Court claim.

Mr Turk is currently being sued by Turkish millionairess Nebahat Isbilen. Jonathan Tickner, from the law firm Peters & Peters which is representing her, said in a statement: ‘Peters & Peters have been unable to ascertain on what basis Mr Turk has occupied the premises.’

The businessman did not appear to be at home yesterday, and the property’s concierge said he was ‘not authorised’ to talk about who lived there.

Mr Turk, a former Goldman Sachs banker, won an award at the Duke of York’s Dragons’ Den-style competition [email protected] in November 2019. In a video posted on the [email protected] Twitter account, he outlined how he was creating a new consumer-focused digital bank aimed at millennials.

Asked what problem the company, called Heyman AI, was solving, Mr Turk replied: ‘People’s daily banking habits will be much easier and efficient.’ The next evening Heyman AI won the People’s Choice Award at [email protected] Mr Turk was photographed shaking hands with the duke, who hosted the event.

Afterwards, in another video posted on [email protected]’s Twitter page, Mr Turk said: ‘It was great seeing such a great amount of people here that is willing to help you.’

Mr Turk, a former Goldman Sachs banker, won an award at the Duke of York’s Dragons’ Den-style competition [email protected] in November 2019. In a video posted on the [email protected] Twitter account, he outlined how he was creating a new consumer-focused digital bank aimed at millennials

Heyman AI later went bust, and now it, Mr Turk, and his appearance at [email protected] are at the centre of the extraordinary case unfolding.

Mr Turk was not only the founder of Heyman AI but was also the financial adviser of Mrs Isbilen, 77.

She claims to have been tricked into giving Prince Andrew £750,000 ‘by way of payment for assistance’ with her passport and has told the High Court she believes the payment may have been connected to Mr Turk’s appearance at the [email protected] event. The prince has since repaid the cash after she alleged it was a scam.

Mr Turk disputes Mrs Isbilen’s claims and says he has nothing to hide. He claims she decided ‘on her own initiative’ to pay the money to Andrew, saying she had met him and the Duchess of York numerous times, which she denies.

He denies Andrew ‘could or would have used his connections’ to assist with Mrs Isbilen’s passport. Mr Turk’s profile on the business networking website LinkedIn lists under education a BSc in information technology and management from University College London. It says he worked for investment bank Goldman Sachs in London for five years until 2016.

He reportedly married his wife Nurhuda Cevahir, described as an heiress, in Turkey in 2013.

Many guests were from the social and business worlds, and the country’s then deputy prime minister Bulent Arinc, a friend of the Turk family, was a witness.

Mr Arinc reportedly said it was ‘the wedding of the two most distinguished families of Istanbul’.After leaving Goldman Sachs, Mr Turk was a co-founder and managing director of SG Financial Group, based in London’s Park Lane.

His occupation was listed as ‘investment adviser’ and he resigned as a director of it in July 2019, according to Companies House.

He also founded a company in America called Naturlich Yoghurt, in 2018, his LinkedIn page says.

Mrs Isbilen alleges that Mr Turk invested some of her money in a company called Bethlehem LLC, which owns or owned 87.5 per cent of Naturlich, and says she does not recall having seen an agreement.

Mr Turk claims it was done with her knowledge and consent.

Millionairess who paid £750,000 to Andrew is the wife of an MP who was jailed over a ‘terror link’ 

By David Wilkes for the Daily Mail 

Nebahat Isbilen is the wealthy wife of a Turkish MP jailed in their homeland in what was said to be a politically motivated imprisonment.

She describes herself in court documents as a member of a ‘prominent’ family which owns the Evyap Group manufacturing firm.

Her father founded the company and passed it on to her and her five siblings.

Mrs Isbilen, 77, worked there in cosmetics production and was later on the board.

She married Ilhan Isbilen, 76, in 1996. He has been close friends since childhood with Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Muslim preacher whose movement, she said, ‘advocates progressive Islam and socially conscious politics’.

Mrs Isbilen claimed that from 2002 to 2013 the ruling Justice and Development Party of Turkey (AKP), led by president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was strategically allied with the Gulen movement. But relations deteriorated and since 2016 the AKP has proscribed the Gulen movement as a terrorist organisation.

Mrs Isbilen, 77, worked there in cosmetics production and was later on the board. She married Ilhan Isbilen, 76, (pictured) in 1996. He has been close friends since childhood with Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Muslim preacher whose movement, she said, ‘advocates progressive Islam and socially conscious politics’

Mr Isbilen was an AKP member of parliament but resigned in 2014.

His wife said: ‘Following a political investigation and prosecution, my husband was imprisoned in December 2015 for his affiliation with the Gulen movement. Following my husband’s arrest, I became more concerned about my own well-being and assets.’

It also became ‘increasingly difficult’ for her to have dealings with the Evyap Group as ‘other members of my family disapproved of my husband’s and my political beliefs’ so she decided to sell her shares in the firm in 2015.

Feeling ‘extremely vulnerable’, Mrs Isbilen, who describes herself in the court documents as speaking ‘very little English’, came to London in 2018 with the help of Turkish businessman and former banker Selman Turk.

She escaped via Athens and the Greek island of Samos to avoid political persecution herself and gave him ‘almost total control’ of her financial affairs.

The Gulen movement is widely believed in Turkey to have masterminded a failed coup attempt against President Erdogan in 2016.

 GUY ADAMS: Andrew is like a hot air balloon — he floats around in rarified circles with no visible means of support

Say what you like about Prince Andrew, but he certainly has a ‘type’.

This latest scandal, like so many over the years, involves an odd financial relationship with secretive but very wealthy foreigners.

The mysterious Turkish duo battling it out in London’s High Court over, among other things, a £750,000 bank transfer (now repaid) to the Duke of York (plus other six-figure ‘gifts’ to his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson and their daughters) might have been sourced from Central Casting in a TV docudrama about the shamed royal’s rackety life.

Andrew has for years seemed unable to resist the lure of easy money, especially when it comes from parts of the world where taxes are minimal and power and wealth go hand-in-hand. His financial manoeuvres are almost always opaque. But when details emerge, they invariably end up tarnishing the royal brand.

Say what you like about Prince Andrew, but he certainly has a ‘type’. This latest scandal, like so many over the years, involves an odd financial relationship with secretive but very wealthy foreigners

Take, to cite the most famous example, his disastrous friendship with the prolific sex offender and paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, who provided the Duke with endless free holidays, private jet rides and glamorous party invitations, along with a £15,000 cheque to help his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson clear her debts.

Andrew solicited the final gift from the late financier in December 2010, three years after Epstein had been convicted of child sex offences.

Days after the cheque was paid, Andrew travelled to New York, where he stayed at the paedophile’s home, attended his celebrity dinner parties, and – in a moment captured for posterity by a Press photographer – took a chummy morning walk with him in Central Park.

Take, to cite the most famous example, his disastrous friendship with the prolific sex offender and paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, who provided the Duke with endless free holidays, private jet rides and glamorous party invitations, along with a £15,000 cheque to help his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson clear her debts

Take also the Duke’s longstanding ties to politically-connected figures in the corrupt Central Asian dictatorship of Kazakhstan. In 2008 it emerged that he’d sold his marital home, Sunninghill Park, to an old chum called Timur Kulibayev, then a son-in-law of the despotic president of Kazakhstan.

The sum paid was £15million, some £3million over the previously quoted asking price, despite the fact that the vulgar property had been languishing on the market for years. It was later claimed that a second buyer had engaged in a bidding war for the property. Be that as it may, the building was subsequently demolished.

Three years later, the Prince (who was then supposedly Britain’s roving trade ambassador) telephoned, then personally emailed, another Kazakh businessman called Kenges Rakishev (who had helped negotiate the sale of Sunninghill), on behalf of a Greek water company called EYDAP and a Swiss finance house called Aras Capital.

Messages subsequently obtained by the Mail revealed that the firms wanted to bid for a £385million contract to build water and sewage networks in Astana and Almaty, respectively Kazakhstan’s capital and largest city, the first of which boasted Rakishev’s father-in-law as mayor.

Take also the Duke’s longstanding ties to politically-connected figures in the corrupt Central Asian dictatorship of Kazakhstan. In 2008 it emerged that he’d sold his marital home, Sunninghill Park, to an old chum called Timur Kulibayev, then a son-in-law of the despotic president of Kazakhstan

Describing the consortium as ‘we’, and outlining what he called ‘the water plan’, the Prince then said his private secretary, Amanda Thirsk, would personally help to introduce the firms to senior Kazakh political figures. According to Greek executives involved in the bid, Andrew was to have been paid a commission of 1 per cent, or £3.85million, for helping broker a successful deal. But alas the arrangement collapsed.

Then there are mysterious commercial ties to a Guernsey-based Tory donor named David Rowland, who once gave Sarah Ferguson £40,000 to help clear debts. Last November, leaked documents revealed the former scrap metal dealer, nicknamed ‘Spotty’, had in 2017 paid off a £1.5million bank loan for the Duke. His generosity was occasionally reciprocated.

He was invited to Balmoral – where he reportedly met the Queen and took tea with the Prince of Wales. Shortly after the £1.5million gift, Rowland enticed Andrew to the launch of a joint venture between one of his banks and a sovereign wealth fund in Abu Dhabi.

Then there are mysterious commercial ties to a Guernsey-based Tory donor named David Rowland, who once gave Sarah Ferguson £40,000 to help clear debts

Behind these and other exotic capers lies a simple fact: Though he lives like a billionaire, maintaining endless staff, large households (packed, on the evidence of his ex-wife’s YouTube videos, with fresh flowers) and spent years travelling the world, often via private jet, Prince Andrew has never had any obvious source of major income.

Indeed, an acquaintance once described the Prince to be as being like a ‘hot air balloon’, saying: ‘He seems to float serenely around, in very rarefied circles, without any visible means of support.

‘No one has ever had a clue how he pays for it.’ Despite managing to acquire an extensive collection of watches – including several Rolexes and Cartiers, a £12,000 gold Apple Watch and a £150,000 Patek Philippe – and a small fleet of luxury cars, including a green Bentley, his only official income came via a small navy pension of about £20,000 annually, and the £249,000 annual stipend he received from the Queen before retiring from Royal duties.

In fact, his only discernible source of cash has been the largesse of patrons, the most wealthy of whom were primarily made while travelling the world (often at the taxpayer’s expense) in the years during which he still had one official role.

This saw him holidaying on yachts and regularly disappearing on what appeared to be business trips, perhaps to act as a ‘fixer’ in similar deals to the Kazakh sewage bid. For example, there was a mysterious 48-hour jaunt in China in 2016, which the Palace vaguely described as having been ‘paid for privately’, and various strange trips to the Middle East. The purpose of these expeditions were never properly explained. Around the same time, he also established the now defunct [email protected] initiative, part of which was structured as a company in which he was the sole beneficial owner.

Behind these and other exotic capers lies a simple fact: Though he lives like a billionaire, maintaining endless staff, large households (packed, on the evidence of his ex-wife’s YouTube videos, with fresh flowers) and spent years travelling the world, often via private jet, Prince Andrew has never had any obvious source of major income

Yet for all the grift, and despite his outward wealth, the Duke never seems to achieved true financial stability, thanks partly to domestic costs (such as the £7.5million he spent renovating Royal Lodge, where he now lives, in the early 2000s), and partly to the mounting expense of his bruising legal battle with Jeffrey Epstein’s victim Virginia Giuffre, which he settled (with no admission of liability) for a reported £12million a few months back.

Even the purchase of his swanky Verbier holiday home, Chalet Helora, bought in 2014 for roughly £18million, wasn’t all that it seemed. In 2020, I revealed that about £13million of its purchase price was raised via a mortgage, while the remaining £5million came via a loan from Isabelle de Rouvre, a French socialite who was the property’s previous owner.

They secretly agreed that Andrew and his ex-wife would pay back £6.7million (representing the cash, plus interest) by the end of 2019. When the deadline came and went, with no money forthcoming, Miss de Rouvre launched a legal action in Switzerland to recover the loot.

Now the chalet has been sold, and the Duke’s financial transactions are once more being pored over in court. But with his reputation firmly in the mud, it remains to be seen whether the mysterious foreigners in his royal Rolodex will be quite so generous in future.

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