The Prince Andrew Charitable Trust (Pact) handed over thousands of pounds in salary wages to Amanda Thirsk, the Duke of York’s former private secretary, who accepted payment despite being an unpaid trustee. The charities’ watchdog, the Charity Commission, said it was a conflict of interest and breach of charity law. The organisation said it had “concerns” about payments made to Mrs Thirsk by the trust’s three trading subsidiary companies, of which she was also a director.
The Duke therefore had to pay back more than £350,000 to the charity to cover payments made between April 2015 and January 2020 via Andrew’s office, where Mrs Thirsk was working.
Mrs Thirsk stepped down from her post in January, after the Duke’s disastrous Newsnight interview two months before.
Andrew’s trust was created to support charitable efforts in education, entrepreneurship, science, technology and engineering.
Amid the recent row over Meghan and Harry’s now-defunct non-profit Sussex Royal, a royal expert highlighted Andrew’s scandal.
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Prince Andrew has stepped back from royal duties; Meghan and Harry have stepped down as senior royal
Amanda Thirsk is on the right hand side, chatting with the Yorks
Pod Save the Queen is hosted by Ann Gripper and features Daily Mirror royal editor Russell Myers.
Mr Myers compared the PR fallout from Andrew’s charity embarrassment to a recent row over grants made from The Royal Foundation, now run solely by Prince William and Kate Middleton, to Meghan and Harry’s now-defunct organisation Sussex Royal and sustainable travel initiative Travalyst.
Last month, the anti-monarchy group Republic reported The Royal Foundation and Sussex Royal to the Charity Commission.
The Charity Commission said there was “no determination of wrongdoing”, but told Express.co.uk that it has contacted both organisations for further information.
Prince Harry at a Travalyst event
This information will be used to determine whether there is a role for the Charity Commission to play.
The Duke of Sussex vehemently denied any wrongdoing in a strong statement through his legal team at Schillings.
The statement read: “The Duke of Sussex has always and continues to remain deeply committed to his charitable work.
“This is his life’s focus, and his devotion to charity is at the very core of the principles he lives by, and is obvious through the impact and success of his many charitable projects throughout the UK and beyond.
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Prince Harry’s lawyers released a statement that vehemently denied any wrongdoing
“To this point, it is deeply offensive to today see false claims made about The Duke of Sussex and his charitable work.
“It is both defamatory and insulting to all the outstanding organisations and people he has partnered with.
“Travalyst (which was founded within Sussex Royal) is a non-profit organisation for which The Duke receives no commercial or financial gain, as is the case with all of his charitable commitments.
“The Duke has not, nor has he ever had any personal financial interest in his charitable work.
“The interest has always been clear: to support others and to make a positive difference.”
Nevertheless, the fact that the complaint has been raised could be seen as a potential PR issue for Meghan and Harry.
Mr Myers said last month: “The royals have got recent form for this, because Prince Andrew’s Duke of York charity had to pay back in excess of £350,000 recently because they had been paying his chief of staff Amanda Thirsk from the Duke of York’s charity coffers.
“And he shouldn’t have been doing that – it was private money, because she was working on different projects for him.
“So her wages for the last five years had to be paid back.
“So the issue is that the Charity Commission said they would look at [Republic’s] complaint, not look at whether there were any irregularities in the payment.”
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