Prince Andrew has faced further controversy after £355,297 paid to his private secretary was branded an ‘unauthorised trustee benefit’.
Amanda Thirsk, the Duke of York’s long-standing private secretary who resigned shortly after the disastrous BBC Newsnight interview last year, was given the money as payment for her work as trustee of the Prince Andrew Charitable Trust (PACT).
It comes after Prince Andrew quit public duties over the dramatic fallout from his friendship with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
The Queen’s third son is also currently in a legal dispute alongside his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson over a £6m debt for their £18m ski chalet in Verbier, Switzerland.
Ms Thirsk was a trustee for PACT and director of its profit-making subsidies including [email protected] – an organisation that matches entrepreneurs with investors.
She was paid £355,297 in instalments over a five-year period and there has been no suggestion of wrongdoing on her part, reported the Financial Times.
Amanda Thirsk (right), the Duke of York’s (left) long-standing private secretary who resigned shortly after the disastrous BBC Newsnight interview last year, was given the money as payment for her work as trustee of the Prince Andrew Charitable Trust (PACT)
According to a note on PACT’s annual report ‘the Charity Commission raised concern about remuneration paid to one of the Trustees (who has since resigned) in their role as a Director of the subsidiaries’.
Charity trustees cannot be paid just for being a trustee, but might receive payment for carrying out building work, providing a specialist service, providing premises such as a meeting room or for any administerial and secretarial work, according to Government guidance.
The payments to Ms Thirsk were ‘considered to be an unauthorised trustee benefit’ and had to be paid back by the Duke Of York’s household.
[email protected] was launched at St James’s Palace in 2014, at an event at which Andrew shared the first ever royal ‘selfie’ from the stage. Pictured, Prince Andrew on stage at the final of his [email protected] competition
Ms Thirsk, Prince Andrew’s aide, pictured, was one of the directors of [email protected]
‘Most charities are supersensitive to the need to comply with the strict laws around trustee benefit,’ Jolyon Maugham QC, a barrister, told The Sunday Times.
‘It is unfathomable to me that a grown-up charity like Prince Andrew’s Charitable Trust got this so wrong.’
A statement from PACT’s trustees revealed the payments were made to Ms Thirsk for her role as a director of the PACT subsidiaries.
It added: ‘In correspondence initiated by the current Trustees, the Charity Commission raised a concern about the remuneration paid to Amanda Thirsk, which the Commission considered to be an unauthorised Trustee benefit.
‘Having considered the matter in light of the Commission’s concern, the Trustees concluded that the best interests of the Trust would be served by securing full reimbursement, which was agreed to and paid by HRH The Duke of York’s office.’
As the charity goes into liquidation the trustees promised: ‘Net assets from PACT and its subsidiaries will be distributed, in line with the charity’s purpose, to worthy UK charitable causes.’
Charity Commission spokesperson said: ‘We continue to engage with the trustees of the Prince Andrew Charitable Trust about a number of regulatory issues and will report further in due course.’
The Duke’s [email protected] arranged Dragons’ Den-style events at which entrepreneurs would attempt to woo successful business people.
Entrants for each event (usually 12) would attend reality TV-style ‘boot camps’ to be mentored by a panel of advisers. Then they would ‘pitch’ their ideas in a three-minute speech to an audience of experts at a networking bash.
In a damning interview with Emily Maitlis last year, Prince Andrew revealed the sole purpose of the trip to New York was to cut ties with Jeffrey Epstein
Since the Epstein scandal the Duke has been forced to rely on a small Navy pension, estimated around £20,000 annually, along with a reported £250,000 yearly allowance from the Queen
During Andrew’s disastrous BBC interview in November, he said that he stayed in Epstein’s palatial 71st Street home because it was a ‘convenient place to stay’ and it was ‘honourable’ to end his friendship with the financier in person (pictured together)
Winners chosen by attendees might typically walk away with a £40,000 package, including office space, investment and tech support. Hopefully, success would follow.
It was launched at St James’s Palace in 2014, at an event at which Andrew shared the first ever royal ‘selfie’ from the stage. It quickly morphed into a well-known brand, trademarked by the Prince and boasting a host of blue-chip sponsors.
Soon its 15 full-time employees were organising regular events in at least 17 countries, some of which had questionable records regarding corruption and human rights, including Bahrain, Mexico, Malaysia, China, Qatar and communist Vietnam.
As a result of [email protected]’s international success, the Prince was once more able to begin living up to his ‘Air Miles Andy’ nickname, taking at least 30 foreign trips thanks to the organisation. Pitch footed most bills, though taxpayers still coughed up £250,000 for the security that accompanied him.
[email protected]’s registered office was at Buckingham Palace. Pictured, Prince Andrew after speaking at the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit in Bangkok in November 2019
But after Prince Andrew’s fall from grace the investors quickly dropped their support and the UK arm of the firm went into liquidation.
It was forced to delete the webpage hailing its 35 key backers – and five big businesses: Advertising Week Europe, KPMG, Aon, Standard Chartered and Gravity Road say they will no longer be working with the charity.
It is now known how much this costed the charity, but KPMG was paying them £100,000-a-year.
The global firm has since distanced itself from the scandal by removing all mention of the Duke from its website in the hope of rebuilding its network of backers.
Prince Andrew was dramatically ‘sacked’ from public duty after being called into a meeting with his mother the Queen last November.
Sources close to the Queen had originally denied she had summoned her son from Windsor for crisis talks amid the furore over his interview about convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
The Yorks are being sued by the original owner of the £18m holiday home (pictured) in Verbier, Switzerland, that they bought in 2014
Pictured: Prince Andrew, Sarah Ferguson and family outside their chalet in Verbier, Switzerland on his 43rd birthday
The couple owe the former female acquaintance £6.7million as they did not pay their whole bill for Chalet Helora and are now being taken to court, five years and four months later
They insisted it was ‘business as usual’ for the beleaguered royal and they angrily hit back at media coverage of the debacle, saying the public ‘traducing’ of the prince was turning into a ‘personality-motivated witch-hunt’.
But his visit to the flood-hit towns of Fishlake and Stainforth in South Yorkshire was called off as big businesses abandoned him because of his toxic links to Epstein and allegations he had sex with the paedophile’s ‘slave’ Virginia Roberts when she was 17.
Public confidence in him was also on the rocks after a poll found just one in 20 people who watched the Newsnight special were convinced by his bizarre alibis including being in Pizza Express on the night Virginia claims they had sex in London.
It has emerged that the Duke’s ex-wife Sarah Ferguson, who remains close to Andrew, was the ‘driving force’ behind the Royal’s decision to conduct his disastrous TV interview that blew up in his face.
But the Royal couple failed to make good on their debt and as a result their creditor, who is also former friend of the couple, has decided to go to court. Prince Andrew is pictured on a skiing holiday in Verbier in February 2007
After taking out a mortgage on the property, they made a deal with the vendor to defer payment by five years, until the end of 2019. They agreed to then pay £6.7m plus interest
The duke issued a statement confirming he was, with his mother’s permission, ‘stepping down’ from public duties for the foreseeable future. He lost his £249,000 annual income from the Sovereign Grant as a result.
But he kept his cash handouts from his mother’s Duchy of Lancaster estate, which turned a £21.7million profit last year and provides the Queen and her children with a private income.
Andrew also kept his grace-and-favour Royal Lodge home, which he has spent £7.5million renovating in recent years and taxpayer-funded police bodyguards.
The royal residence in Windsor Great Park was gifted to him by Her Majesty in 2003 when he split from the Duchess of York and the couple sold their Sunninghill Park mansion in Ascot to a billionaire Kazakh oil tycoon who paid £15million – £3million over asking price – and then razed it to the ground.
The Yorks believe they have stuck to their side of the bargain, regarding the chalet, and are shocked to find themselves being dragged through the courts
The former couple bought a seven-bedroom luxury chalet, which had previously boasted six full-time staff, and was available to rent for more than £22,000 a week, for £18m in 2014 in the hope of passing it down to their daughters Beatrice and Eugenie.
But Chalet Helora is suddenly at the centre of a new and ugly chapter in the seemingly never-ending compendium of embarrassing situations to befall the Royal couple, now both 60 years old.
It emerged this week that the duo are the subject of aggressive court proceedings pursued by the original owner of Chalet Helora, a former acquaintance to whom they owe the considerable sum of £6.7 million.
Court papers filed by this anonymous individual’s law firm, Etude du Ritz, say that a chunk of that sum was due to be repaid by December 31.
However, more than four months on it remains outstanding, according to sources, ‘despite messages from Sarah promising that payment would be made’.
The original owner, said to be a female beneficiary of a trust fund, is believed to have sold Chalet Helora to the Yorks in November 2014 for 22 million Swiss francs, roughly £18m.
To raise the funds, the Duke and his ex-wife took out a mortgage for 16 million francs (£13.25m).
The remaining six million francs (£5m) was to have been paid in cash, with each stumping up half.
But for reasons that are unclear, they never settled that portion of the bill.
Instead, the Royal couple struck a deal with the vendor to defer payment by five years, until the end of 2019. They agreed to then pay eight million francs (£6.7m), representing the initial sum, plus interest.
Since withdrawing from royal duties in November, Prince Andrew has been forced to rely on a small Navy pension, estimated at around £20,000 a year, along with a reported annual allowance from the Queen of around £250,000.
The Duke was caught waving goodbye to a female on December 6 at Epstein’s home (pictured)
Epstein (left) was also photographed leaving the mansion on the same day accompanied by a young woman
Sarah Ferguson, meanwhile, has lost a string of commercial contracts.
And the Duke now faces expensive legal bills, having hired Gary Bloxsome, a criminal law specialist who represents ‘ultra-high net worth individuals in international jurisdictions’ to represent him in litigation relating to the Epstein affair, along with one of Britain’s leading extradition lawyers, Clare Montgomery, QC.
During Andrew’s disastrous BBC interview in November, he said that he stayed in Epstein’s palatial 71st Street home because it was a ‘convenient place to stay’ and it was ‘honourable’ to end his friendship with the financier in person.
The Queen’s second son likened the 21,000 sq ft mansion to a railway station due to the fact that ‘there were people coming in and out of that house all the time’.
Pushed on why he stayed at the home of a convicted sex offender, he said: ‘Now, I went there with the sole purpose of saying to him that because he had been convicted, it was inappropriate for us to be seen together.’
The insider, however, believes Epstein asked Andrew to New York – and then invited a number of young women to meet him.
‘I think that it was Epstein who invited Andrew to NYC,’ she told the MoS. ‘The girls were going to Epstein’s house specifically to meet Andrew, not just Epstein.
EPSTEIN AND ANDREW: THE PRINCE’S TIMELINE AND HOW IT STANDS UP TO WHAT OTHERS SAY
THE FIRST MEETING
What Andrew claims: Prince Andrew claimed in his disastrous BBC interview that he met Epstein through Ghislaine Maxwell in 1999.
What others say: In a 2011 letter about his friendship with the pedophile, one of the Duke’s aides said they met in the early 1990s. The aide’s timeline corresponds with when Epstein and Maxwell met, following the death of her father in 1991. In a 2007 letter that was sent to prosecutors in Florida to try to lessen Epstein’s sentence for his first sex trafficking case, he was praised with helping her overcome her grief.
THE ALLEGED INCIDENTS WITH VIRGINIA ROBERTS
Roberts, now known by her married name Virginia Giuffre, claims that in 2001, she had sex with the Duke when she was 17 inside Ghislaine Maxwell’s London townhouse. She says it was the first of three encounters; the others taking place in New York and on Epstein’s Caribbean island.
To support her allegations, which she first shared in a 2011, she released a photograph
What Andrew claims: He never had sex with Roberts and does not even remember ever meeting her.
What others say: No one but Roberts has gone on the record to verify her claims about Andrew specifically but she is among a group of Epstein victims now demanding apologies and answers from anyone who was associated with his lifestyle. Her ex-boyfriend from Tony Figueroa has said he knew of the photograph of them.
EPSTEIN’S FIRST CRIMINAL CASE
In 2007, Epstein was charged with sexually trafficking minors in Florida. He negotiated a sweetheart deal for himself which involved pleading guilty in exchange for just one year of prison time, during which he was allowed to leave to go to work everyday.
He was released in 2010 and Andrew then went to visit him in New York. The infamous Central Park photograph was taken during his trip.
What Andrew claims: Andrew said in his BBC interview that he went to visit Epstein to end their friendship.
‘I took the judgement call that because this was serious, and I felt that doing it over the telephone was the chicken’s way of doing it, I had to go and see him and talk to him,’ he said. He previously described the trip as ‘a mistake.’
What others say: In 2011, a Daily Beast article described a party which Epstein threw in the Duke’s honor during the trip. It listed Woody Allen and Katie Couric among guests. Literary agent Max Brockman also described seeing Andrew receiving a foot massage from a Russian woman inside Epstein’s home during the trip.
He claimed, in an email, that Andrew complained about the treatment he received publicly, saying: ‘In Monaco, Albert works 12 hours a day but at 9pm, when he goes out, he does whatever he wants, and nobody cares. But, if I do it, I’m in big trouble.’
EPSTEIN’S SECOND ARREST
Andrew said nothing of Epstein’s arrest in July at the time. It was only until after he had killed himself and questions had resurfaced about the Duke’s friendship with him that he issued a statement. In it he said he knew nothing of the allegations against him and that he sympathized with the victims.
What Andrew says: Andrew said he saw Ghislaine Maxwell ‘this year’ but that they did not discuss Epstein’s case and that it ‘wasn’t in the news’ at the time. He said he had no knowledge of the allegations against his friend.
What others say: Prosecutors started looking into Epstein’s sweetheart deal with Alex Acosta as far back as February.
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