Prince Andrew's charity to be wound up amid investigation into payments

Prince Andrew’s main fundraising body is being investigated by the Charity Commission amid concerns over the payment of hundreds of thousands of pounds to his former private secretary, it has emerged.

An investigation is underway into payments made by Prince Andrew's charity.

The Prince Andrew Charitable Trust (PACT) was set up to make donations to causes close to the 60-year-old’s heart, including wounded servicemen and women involved in sport.

But in what represents the latest blow for the Duke of York, the charity regulator for England and Wales has confirmed it is looking into a “number of regulatory issues.”

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It is understood the commission raised a concern about the payment of £355,297 over a five year period to the duke’s former private secretary, Amanda Thirsk, who is also a former trustee of the charity.

The duke’s household repaid the funds to the trust, and there is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by Ms Thirsk.

A spokesman for the Charity Commission said: "We continue to engage with the trustees of PACT about a number of regulatory issues and will report further in due course."

PACT was unable to comment on the investigation, but confirmed that the trustees were finalising a plan to liquidate the trust and its subsidiaries.

According to its most recent accounts, the correspondence which gave rise to the investigation was initiated by the charity’s own trustees. It notes that the commission considered the remuneration in question was considered by the commission to be “an unauthorised trustee benefit.”

The accounts note: “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 the Duke of York's household.”

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The accounts, for the 12 months to 31 March 2019, also Ms Thirsk resigned as a trustee of the charity on 13 January this year.

It has two other trustees - Richard Parry and Nicola Mitchell. The charity reported a total income of £1.41m for the period, with expenditure totalling £1.3m.

The accounts also point to the crisis that has engulfed the Queen’s second son as a result of his relationship with the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

The duke has said he did not witness or suspect any suspicious behaviour during visits to properties owned by the disgraced financier, who took his own life in a jail cell last August, aged 66, while awaiting trial on sex trafficking and conspiracy charges.

Lawyers representing alleged victims of Epstein have criticised the duke for a lack of co-operation with an inquiry into the financier.

PACT’s trustees said they “became aware of the potential reputational risk by association” following negative media coverage related to the duke last November.

The accounts state that a “serious incident report expressing these concerns” was submitted to the Charity Commission.

Following correspondence with the commission and the trustees’ expert advisers, plans are in place to liquidate PACT, as well as two of its subsidiaries, Pitch CIC and DOYYDL. The accounts add that the plan is to reestablish another subsidiary, known as idea iDEA, as an independent charity.

Last week it was reported that the duke and his former wife, Sarah Ferguson, were being sued for £6m allegedly owed for their ski chalet in the Swiss resort of Verbier, bought in 2014 for £13m.

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