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Notes from a scandal
Prince Charles & the Sheikh , Issue 1576
"THE donation was made in cash and that was the donor's choice," explained Prince Charles's charity of the €3m revealed by the Sunday Times to have been handed over by Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani of Qatar between 2011 and 2015.

al-thani.jpg
SHEIKH HANDS: Prince Brian with the generous former prime minister of Qatar
Why, though, would HBJ, as he is known, have chosen this way to transfer legitimate funds? It's not as if he didn't have the necessary facilities: in 2012, HBJ's Precision Capital group bought 90 percent of Banque Internationale à Luxembourg, so he even had his own bank!

The cash was picked up by the charity's bank Coutts not long after it had received a visit from financial regulators in 2010. This led to a hefty fine in 2012 for "significant and widespread" failings. Doubtless the cases of Gulf cash were subject to vastly improved checks thereafter.

SLICKER writes:
Former Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani – whom the Sunday Times reported was a €1m-a-time cash donor (in holdalls and Fortnum & Mason carrier bags) to Prince Charles' charity – believed in receiving as well as making what might be seen as contentious payments. While he was foreign minister, £100m was secretly paid to three al-Thani family trusts in Jersey by companies awarded contracts in Qatar.

The trusts' bank accounts were frozen by Standard Chartered in 2000. It also made a suspicious transaction report to the Jersey authorities, who began an investigation. In May 2001, al-Thani went to court to force Standard Chartered to distribute the funds. This was opposed by the Jersey attorney-general because of the continuing police investigation.

Al-Thani, aka "HBJ", admitted receiving "substantial commissions" but denied these were bribes, saying they had been approved by the ruler and were received in a private capacity and thus not in conflict with being a government minister. The payments came from BAE Systems (£7m), as well as French and Italian defence and engineering companies.

In May 2002, Jersey dropped the investigation as no longer being in the public interest, despite material showing "that an offence may have occurred". The attorney-general cited al-Thani's "special status", which meant he could not be prosecuted; the maximum £7m confiscation order; delays in evidence from abroad and damage to relations between the UK and Qatar, a key Gulf ally.

While insisting on his innocence, al-Thani paid £6m towards the legal and investigatory costs and as "voluntary reparation" for any damage to Jersey's squeaky-clean reputation as an offshore haven.

Five months earlier, the senior Jersey judge had ruled that al-Thani could be cross-examined, referring to "unresolved ambiguities" in his evidence. The attorney-general also alleged the court had been misled. That potential embarrassment disappeared with payment of the £6m.

Al-Thani obtained a reporting ban regarding the Jersey legal proceedings in 2001. That remained in place until the Iraq war started in March 2003. Qatar was a key American base. Next day al-Thani dropped an appeal – claiming it a "distraction" – that had prevented the Jersey Evening Post from finally telling the story.

More top stories in the latest issue:

CRUDE MEASURES
Despite the EU and UK agreeing to ban insurance of ships carrying Russian oil, UK inaction is creating a huge loophole of "Brexit opportunities".

PANEL GAMES
The Commons committee investigating whether Boris Johnson lied to MPs over Partygate is weighted with Tories who look very unlikely to rock the boat.

GROS PROFIT
The multi-millions made by businessman Robert Gros providing PPE – much of which now languishes in an official "do not use" pile.

BAD SIGN
No 10 seems determined to flout the law and spend a fortune on lawyers while trying to save far smaller sums providing British sign language interpreters.

NOTES FROM SCANDAL
Why did a Qatari sheikh hand bags of bank notes to Prince Charles when a transfer would have been simpler? He did own his own bank, after all.

DIGGERY DO
The cabinet ministers who turned up for Rupert Murdoch's annual summer party in Hyde Park – held behind a hedge to thwart prying eyes!

TERMS & CONDITIONS
Facebook bans staff discussing abortion and the Roe v Wade judgment – but such squeamishness doesn't extend to its own tracking technologies.

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