Duke of York accused of exploiting trade role
Prince Andrew accused of helping wealthy friend as he braces for further allegations in BBC show
The Duke of York has been accused of repeatedly exploiting his role as Britain’s trade envoy to further his own financial interests. Allegations involving his business dealings included a claim that he passed a confidential government document to a close friend and business associate. It came as he braced for more revelations from Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who claims she was forced to sleep with him when she was 17, and is to appear on the BBC’S Panorama tonight.
THE Duke of York has been accused of repeatedly exploiting his role as Britain’s trade envoy to further his own financial interests.
The crisis engulfing the Duke deepened yesterday amid a volley of allegations involving his business dealings, including a claim that he passed a confidential government document to a close friend and business associate.
It came as he braced for more revelations from Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who claims she was trafficked to the UK by Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted sex offender, and was forced to sleep with him when she was 17.
The Duke has always denied having slept with Ms Roberts, and told Emily Maitlis, the BBC Newsnight presenter, that he was with his daughter Princess Beatrice at a Pizza Express in Woking on the night in question.
Ms Giuffre has been interviewed about the allegations by Panorama, which will be broadcast tonight on BBC One.
An investigation by The Mail on Sunday alleged that the 59-year-old Duke was closely involved in a business venture with David Rowland, 74, the British property developer and financier, based in a Caribbean tax haven.
The newspaper claimed that the Duke had a 40 per cent stake in a firm based in the British Virgin Islands called Inverness Asset Management (IAM), which was active until March this year. The Duke also holds the title Earl of Inverness.
The company’s “contacts”, which reportedly included royal families and heads of state, were allegedly targeted as potential investors for another investment fund, to be based in the Cayman Islands.
It was claimed that the Duke had allowed Mr Rowland’s son, Jonathan, to join him on a taxpayer funded trade mission to China and accompany him to meetings, which Mr Rowland then allegedly used to generate lucrative business for his family’s private Luxembourg-based bank.
During the trip, Mr Rowland is accused of adding into their schedule a meeting with Louis Cheung, then president of Ping An, the world’s largest insurance company, worth an estimated £171billion, later proposing they could become business partners. The newspaper reported that leaked emails suggested the Duke planned to take a financial stake in the Rowlands’s bank that he was helping to promote.
Meanwhile, Amanda Thirsk, the Duke’s former private secretary, is accused of passing the Rowlands a Foreign Office diplomatic cable said to have contained details of the Duke’s one-to-one conversations with senior Chinese politicians.
Jonathan Rowland is also alleged to have been passed a private briefing memo from Treasury officials about Iceland’s financial crisis months after his family bought part of a collapsed Icelandic bank in an £86m deal. Furthermore, it is claimed that when the Duke was forced to step aside as trade envoy in 2011 amid mounting controversy surrounding his friendship with Epstein, Jonathan Rowland allegedly suggested they might continue their commercial activities “under the radar”. The Duke reportedly replied in an email: “I like your thinking.”
The Duke’s relationship with the
Rowlands is likely to come under scrutiny following the claims, which come amid increasing questions about the source of his wealth. He has been friends with David Rowland, a former scrap metal dealer, since at least 2005, when he unveiled a bronze statue of the financier in the grounds of Havilland Hall, his estate in Guernsey. Mr
‘The word that comes to mind is entitlement, really. Because he is a duke, he can get away with anything’
Rowland was invited to Balmoral in 2010, when he reportedly met the Queen and had tea with the Prince of Wales. Four months later, he is said to have paid £40,000 to help clear the Duchess of York’s debts.
Since the Duke’s Newsnight interview was broadcast, several organisations have distanced themselves from him including KPMG, Standard Chartered and the University of Huddersfield where he was a chancellor. Chris Bryant, a Foreign Office minister when the Duke was trade envoy, demanded a parliamentary inquiry into his business dealings.
He said: “It all just stinks. I don’t think he has ever been able to draw a distinction between his own personal interest and the national interest.
“It’s morally offensive. Either the foreign affairs committee or the public accounts committee should launch an inquiry. The word that comes to mind is entitlement, really. Because he is a duke, he can get away with anything.”
In a statement, Buckingham Palace said during the Duke’s time as trade envoy, “the aim of his office was to promote Britain and British interests overseas, not the interests of individuals”. The Rowlands told The Mail on Sunday they could not comment for legal reasons.
Virginia Roberts Giuffre with a photograph of herself aged 16, and right with the Duke of York and Ghislaine Maxwell. The Duke, also far right, has denied having sex with her