Since 2003 [Prince Andrew] has paid three official visits to [Kazakhstan] in his capacity as Britain’s special representative for international trade and investment, a role which last year saw him run up expenses of £436,000, which were paid by the taxpayer. With his royal status and affable manner, he is an asset to corporations wishing to open doors and smooth the way for multimillion-pound contracts.This is another transfer of money from poor to rich, ordinary taxpayers footing this bill for expenses for a very rich man to visit some rich tyrants on behalf of some rich businessmen who hoped to get even richer as a result. If the trip was worth £450k, the corporations expecting to benefit should have paid, not bus drivers and plasterers. But it gets worse, and this really does smell:
However, the prince has now taken to visiting Kazakhstan for his own reasons, too. He is there this weekend on a “private” visit, according to his spokesman.On the face of it, that's a £3m "fee", disguised in a property transaction - and that's not my opinion. Still from The Times:
His dealings with wealthy Kazakhs are not restricted to his jaunts to their home country either. It has emerged that last year he had several private meetings with one tycoon, Kenes Rakishev, whose financial interests include companies spanning most of Kazakhstan’s abundant natural resources.
The meetings between Andrew and Rakishev, which were held in London, sometimes went on for hours. Their exact nature is unclear. What is apparent, however, is that after their talks, Rakishev and his father-in-law Imangali Tasmagambetov became interested in purchasing Sunninghill Park, Andrew’s home in Ascot, Berkshire, which had then been on the market for five years without a buyer.
According to two sources close to the deal, the guide price was no more than £12m. Rakishev, however, agreed to pay £15m via one of his family’s offshore trusts, even though there were no other bids.
Artur Krivov, who was at the time managing director of the UK branch of Rakishev’s Sat&Co conglomerate, said: “I personally was really surprised because there were much better [houses] at that price because I was helping look for a place for them . . .The Prince denies anything fishy:
“My impression was [the house sale] could be from some other dealings that they had where they owed something. It might have been a way to repay the debt or whatever, I don’t know. It’s definitely not for what it [the house] is.
“I do know that the Duke of York and Mr Rakishev met a number of times and I know that usually Mr Rakishev does not meet with anyone more than once if he does not need anything.”
A source close to Andrew said: “There was no bidding war but it was a spiky, upward housing market. There was no formal asking price, £15m is simply a price that they decided to pay.”But then, this is considered normal by such people:
A spokesman for Andrew, who receives an annual allowance from the Queen of £249,000, insisted that there had been no other “side” deals of a commercial nature connected to the sale.
Since putting Sunninghill Park up for sale, the prince has been able to buy a 75-year lease on Royal Lodge, the Queen Mother’s former home on the Windsor Great Park estate for £1m, despite it being given an estimated market value of 20 times that amount.Again, all transfers of wealth from poor to rich.
He was also allowed by the Crown Estate to forgo paying the 19th-century property’s annual £250,000 rent in exchange for carrying out a refurbishment.