Prince Michael handed £320,000 by Russian Oligarch through offshore companies
So why did a controversial Russian oligarch give Queen’s cousin Prince Michael £320,000 through offshore companies?
The 56 payments, worth between £5,000 and £15,000, were made between 2002 and 2008
Money channeled through a private firm run by Prince Michael’s Old Etonian private secretary
By Sam Greenhill
PUBLISHED: 12:10, 13 May 2012 | UPDATED: 22:38, 13 May 2012
The Queen’s cousin Prince Michael of Kent has been secretly receiving hundreds of thousands of pounds from Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky.
Dozens of payments worth at least £320,000 from the exiled tycoon were channelled through offshore companies.
Prince Michael is already known for accepting charity from the Queen who started paying the rent at Kensington Palace when MPs wanted to evict him and Princess Michael of Kent.
But now the royal, dubbed the ‘pauper prince’, faces questions about whether he has offered anything in return for the billionaire Russian’s money.
His spokesman yesterday said ‘absolutely not’, adding: ‘Mr Berezovsky has known the prince since the early 1990s and has a high regard for the prince’s work. He therefore chose to be supportive over a period which ended some years ago.’
A friend of the oligarch suggested he simply wanted to be a part of high society, and his friendship with Prince Michael gave him coveted access.
Mr Berezovsky was a key figure in the Kremlin before falling out with Vladimir Putin and seeking asylum in Britain 12 years ago. He became friends with Prince Michael – a distant cousin of the last tsar, Nicholas II – and the pair have frequently dined together at Kensington Palace.
High Court papers reveal that a fund controlled by the Russian made 56 payments worth between £5,000 and £15,000 to a company run by Prince Michael’s private secretary.
The money was paid every two to three weeks between 2002 and 2008.
Mr Berezovsky told The Sunday Times: ‘There is nothing underhand or improper about the financial assistance I have given Prince Michael. It is a matter between friends.’
Yesterday sources close to the prince said the money was used to pay for ‘his staff, his office and his private secretary’.
Although a member of the Royal Family, Prince Michael does not receive money from the public purse, and his money worries have been previously well publicised.
His wife – nicknamed ‘Princess Pushy’ by the rest of the Royal Family – once said she would ‘go anywhere for a hot meal’. In 2000, two years before the first payment from Mr Berezovsky, the prince’s consultancy firm Cantium Services was reported to have had debts of £200,000.
The financial support from Mr Berezovsky went to Bulmer Investments, a private firm run by private secretary Nicholas Chance, an Old Etonian. The oligarch made his fortune during the Russian state privatisation programme in the 1990s.
A Moscow court convicted him in 2007 in his absence of embezzling £4.4million and branded him a member of an ‘organised crime group’. But Mr Berezovsky has dismissed the ruling as farce trumped up by his enemies in the Kremlin. The Russian government has tried and failed to extradite him to Moscow.
Simon Astaire, the prince’s spokesman, said the royal was ‘absolutely not’ giving anything in return for the money, which he claimed funded ‘cultural and charitable activities’.
He said: ‘The way this arrangement was processed is a private matter, but suffice to say that it was conducted properly and, for example, all appropriate tax was paid.’
The first payment to the prince in 2002 coincided with criticism from an MPs committee about the £69 a week rent the prince paid for his Kensington Palace home. The Queen later stepped in with a personal subsidy of £100,000 a year to pay a market rent.
Prince and Princess Michael had to sell their eight bedroom mansion in Gloucestershire in 2006 for £5.75million to cut their costs. They have faced claims they used their titles to get free trips and boost their income, earning them the nickname ‘Rent-a-Kents’. In 2010 it emerged taxpayers were footing a £250,000-a-year bill for armed police protection for the royal couple, even though they carry out no official duties.
Prince Michael is allowed to take up to three officers with him on his numerous business trips to foreign destinations such as Moscow and China. Princess Michael has long had expensive tastes, and spends a fortune on fine antiques and paintings. She also found herself exposed by a reporter from the now-defunct News of the World as being available at around £25,000 for appearances such as opening a shopping centre in Dubai.
Details of the payments by Mr Berezovsky come ahead of a case in which the Russian is suing the family of a former partner in a £2billion battle. He is pursuing the widow of Badri Patarkatsishvili, a Georgian tycoon who died in 2008.
The case follows Mr Berezovsky’s high profile £3.5billion legal action against fellow Russian Roman Abramovich. Judgment in his case against the Chelsea FC owner has yet to be handed down.