The leak of documents known as the Paradise Papers has reached the office of Prince Charles.
After revealing how the Queen’s private income had put money into offshore investments, the papers reveal the Prince’s estate – the Duchy of Cornwall – had an offshore financial interest in a climate change scheme which he had promoted.
The allegation therefore goes like this – the Prince of Wales made speeches about changing an environmental scheme when his estate had investments in a company which would benefit from those changes.
The big question, therefore, is whether this creates a conflict of interest?
The papers claim the Duchy of Cornwall – which pays for the work of Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall as well as Princes William and Harry – purchased 50 shares in Sustainable Forestry Management (SFM).
The company traded in carbon credits – a scheme which allowed countries to offset carbon emissions against projects which mitigated for the emissions.
Prince Charles agreed with the company that the international rules should be changed so that rainforests could be included in the scheme.
The value of the company went up although there is no suggestion it was due to the Princes’ campaign to changes the rules.
Because the rules were never changed.
However, the leaked papers claim that when the Duchy of Cornwall sold its 50 shares, its investment had nearly tripled in value.
Did Prince Charles make speeches and campaign for a change in order to help this investment?
Given the Prince has been campaigning on environmental issues for decades – and has long held views on climate change – that accusation would appear to be wide of the mark.
His passions are deeply held and it would be a surprise to anyone who has followed his work over many years that he would make speeches based on personal investments rather than his own firmly held views.
The office of the Prince of Wales, Clarence House, said: “The Prince has never chosen to speak out on a topic simply because of a company that The Duchy may have invested in.”
The Duchy’s website says the Prince is “actively” involved in its management but – like the Queen and the Duchy of Lancaster – Prince Charles estate says he “does not have any direct involvement in the investment decisions”.
If that is the case, it’s likely he was unaware of this particular financial decision.
And despite the lobbying by SFM, and the speeches made by Prince Charles, the environmental rules were not changed so the increase in the value of the investment can’t be attributed to that.
The Duchy of Cornwall produced a surplus for the Prince’s office of £20.7 million in the last financial year on which Prince Charles paid tax.
A spokesperson for the Duchy says there were “no tax advantage whatsoever” based on the location of investments and “there is no loss of revenue” to the tax man as a result.