GUY ADAMS: Andrew is like a hot air balloon — he floats around in rarified circles with no visible means of support
- This latest scandal, like so many over the years, involves an odd financial relationship with secretive but very wealthy foreigners
- Andrew has for years seemed unable to resist the lure of easy money
- He lives like a billionaire but has never had any obvious source of major income
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.
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.
Friends in rich places: Prince Andrew with Tory donor David Rowland at Ascot in 2006
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 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.
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.
Though he lives like a billionaire, Prince Andrew has never had any obvious source of major income, writes Guy Adams. Above at the thanksgiving service for the late Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, at Westminster Abbey
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.
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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