Paradise Papers leak: Prince Charles campaigned on climate change after shares purchase

Britain's Prince Charles, Prince of Wales (left) waves to a gathered crowd as Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall (right) smiles after visiting the Sri Mahamariamman Temple in George Town, the capital of Malaysia's Penang state.
Britain's Prince Charles, Prince of Wales (left) waves to a gathered crowd as Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall (right) smiles after visiting the Sri Mahamariamman Temple in George Town, the capital of Malaysia's Penang state. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON - Prince Charles has campaigned to alter climate change pacts without disclosing he has shares in a Bermuda-registered forestry company, one of the offshore companies and funds he has invested in, according to the leaked Paradise Papers.

He bought shares worth US$113,500 (S$154,763) in 2007 in Sustainable Forestry Management (SFM), where his close friend is a director, BBC reported, citing the leaked documents. 

He began campaigning for changes to two important environmental agreements weeks after SFM sent his office lobbying documents, said the report. 

The Guardian reported that Prince Charles has been making speeches and writing books on the environment since the 1980s.  In January 2008, months after he bought the SFM shares, he released a video in which he called for new ways of supporting rain forests. 

Despite his campaigning, the environmental agreements were not changed, BBC said. But in just over a year, his shares almost tripled in value,  though it is not clear what caused the rise in the share value.

BBC cited a Clarence House spokesman as saying Prince Charles had "certainly never chosen to speak out on a topic simply because of a company that it may have invested in".

"In the case of climate change his views are well known, indeed he has been warning of the threat of global warming to our environment for over 30 years.

"Carbon markets are just one example that the prince has championed since the 1990s and which he continues to promote today," the spokesman said.

According to The Guardian, Prince Charles met Hugh van Cutsem when they were at Cambridge University in the 1960s. The latter is a millionaire horse breeder who owned a 1,600-ha estate in Norfolk. 

The prince's decision to buy shares in SFM was regarded as highly sensitive and board members of the company, which invested in land to protect it from deforestation, were sworn to secrecy, said The Guardian. 

It said while there was no tax advantage to the estate, the decision to invest in a company run by a close friend and the insistence that the estimated stake be kept secret, may raise questions. 

One issue that could surface is whether Prince Charles should have publicly declared the investment in a company that might have indirectly benefited from his support for conservation projects. 

The leaked documents also showed the Duchy of Cornwall - the private estate of Prince Charles - made offshore investments totalling US$3.9 million in four funds in the Cayman Islands in 2007, said BBC, adding that this is legal and there is no suggestion of tax avoidance.

A Duchy of Cornwall spokesman was quoted as saying Prince Charles voluntarily pays income tax on any revenue from his estate.

The Paradise Papers are a trove of financial reports leaked mostly from Appleby, a prominent offshore law firm, that show details of business dealings by wealthy people and institutions. They were obtained by Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and some media outlets, and published on Sunday (Nov 5). 

 

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