A glamorous Belarusian investment banker can today be revealed as a central figure in a scheme to sell access to the Prince of Wales in exchange for donations to his charities.
Volha Havorchanka – pictured right with her business partner and society fixer Michael Wynne-Parker – was tasked with introducing wealthy Russians to influential figures in the British establishment.
A string of ‘cash for access’ revelations by The Mail on Sunday have sparked an investigation by The Prince’s Foundation and the temporary resignation of Michael Fawcett, the chief executive of the charity and Charles’s most trusted adviser.
Volha Havorchanka (Lebedeva) in a red dress with her husband, Anatoly (Left) and Michael Wynne ParkerImage
Ms Havorchanka denies knowledge of any donations, but the involvement of the 33-year-old raises tantalising questions about the scale of Russian involvement in Charles’s charitable operations.
It also gives a new dimension to one of the more mysterious elements of the saga – how a £500,000 donation to The Prince’s Foundation from a former Russian banker called Dmitry Leus has apparently vanished.
Philanthropist Mr Leus says he wanted to donate to The Prince’s Foundation because it shared his values of supporting young people through sport.
Through a British barrister he met Ms Havorchanka, who introduced him to Mr Wynne-Parker, her co-director of Introcom Ltd, which helps wealthy – and often foreign – clients gain access to influential British figures.
Mr Leus was advised by Mr Wynne-Parker that the suggested £500,000 donation could be made through the accounts of Burke’s Peerage, the gentry guide which is edited by William Bortrick.
A £500,000 donation to The Prince’s Foundation from a former Russian banker called Dmitry Leus has apparently vanished
All seemed well until father-of-four Mr Leus learned that The Prince’s Foundation had decided last autumn not to accept his money because its ethics committee did not consider him appropriate.
Yet a year after that decision, Mr Leus, 51, has still not had his money returned and has become so exasperated that he has not ruled out going to the police.
When the MoS revealed two weeks ago the contents of an email written by Mr Wynne-Parker that offered dinner and an overnight stay at Dumfries House – the country mansion in Scotland saved for the nation by Charles in 2007 – in return for a six-figure donation, Mr Bortrick denied all knowledge of any ‘cash for access’ scheme or of handling any funds.
However, this newspaper has obtained emails from Mr Bortrick which appear to show the contrary.
The two emails sent last month state that Mr Leus’s wife, Zhanna, made a £200,000 payment to Burke’s Peerage marked ‘Charitable Donation HRH Prince of W’ on May 11, 2020. A second payment of £300,000 was made to the same account on September 3 last year.
The emails appear to show that just £100,000 of that sum was sent on to The Prince’s Foundation. In an email on August 31, Mr Bortrick says: ‘£100,000 was sent in tranches on 11 May, 2020, to The Prince’s Foundation, who acknowledged Mr Leus’s kind benefaction in writing.’
But when the £100,000 was returned, Mr Bortrick sent it along with an additional £100,000 to a charity called Children and the Arts in two separate transactions on September 24 and 25 last year.
The charity was started in 2005 by the Prince of Wales. It later split from his foundation and is now in the process of being wound up.
Curiously, the charity’s latest accounts for the year to September 30, 2020, state: ‘The charity organised itself to secure the funds of £233,000 to settle its remaining liabilities and undertake the orderly closure of its business activity.’
It is unclear whether the £200,000 donation to Children and the Arts detailed by Mr Bortrick was used by the charity to settle its liabilities. A spokesman for Hussam Otaibi, a Jordanian merchant banker and chairman of Children and the Arts, declined to say where the £200,000 donation had gone.
In another twist, Mr Bortrick’s emails show that £200,000 was sent to Mr Wynne-Parker’s Introcom International and he says the final £100,000 was ‘retained’ by him. He said the funds ‘remain secure’ for Mr Leus. Mr Bortrick did not respond to requests for comment.
For his part, Mr Leus simply wants his money back and said last night: ‘My contribution to The Prince’s Foundation was intended to support their educational and heritage goals, in particular their innovative training programmes. I never had as my goal a dinner or overnight invitation.
‘My private hope was that eventually some collaboration might have been possible with The Prince’s Foundation for the creation of a national fencing centre to bring the sport to disadvantaged young people nationwide. Given that my private charitable donation has been made public in recent media coverage, I must clarify certain points.
The emails appear to show that just £100,000 of that sum was sent on to The Prince’s Foundation
‘I made two separate donations together totalling £500,000 to The Prince’s Foundation via Burke’s Peerage. I have now learned that not all of these funds were then transferred on to The Prince’s Foundation. No funds at all were returned to me from Burke’s Peerage.
‘This is especially upsetting as these funds could have done so much good for all the children and young people our foundation supports. My commitment to supporting children and young adults in the UK and beyond remains undiminished.’
Ms Havorchanka, who studied at London’s City University, declined to comment and denies any knowledge of a ‘cash for access’ scheme involving the Prince and his charities. Intriguingly, however, her profile disappeared from Introcom’s website hours after the MoS revealed the existence of the scheme a fortnight ago.
Her biography – which has vanished from the site – read: ‘Specialising in working with high net worth individuals, Volha has developed an understanding of the client’s all-round requirements.
‘Successful people are not only looking to find the right place for their money and the right manager but they are keen on social opportunities that most successful people find difficult to fulfill […] Together with Michael, Volha has managed to achieve great client satisfaction and peace of mind.’
A source close to Ms Havorchanka, who has been director of Introcom Ltd since 2017, denied receiving any money which had been destined for The Prince’s Foundation, but said that Mr Wynne-Parker had recently sent her money which was the repayment of a personal loan.
Douglas Connell, chairman of The Prince’s Foundation, said: ‘Following the publication of an initial allegation relating to “middlemen” and donors, the trustees instigated a full and rigorous investigation with the assistance of forensic accountants from one of the “big four” accountancy firms. This investigation is ongoing. The full review is expected to take several weeks.’
Charles project ‘bailed out by Prime Minister’s flat donor’
By Ashlie McAnally
A Tory donor caught up in the row about the refurbishment of Boris Johnson’s flat also ‘bailed out’ Prince Charles’s struggling eco village at Dumfries House.
Lord Brownlow was revealed this year to have partly funded work at No 11 Downing Street after Mr Johnson’s then fiancée, Carrie Symonds, allegedly objected to the ‘John Lewis furniture nightmare’ left by Theresa May.
But the peer, who was a policeman before making a fortune in the finance sector, also stepped in when the Prince of Wales struggled to sell properties at Knockroon in East Ayrshire.
Lord Brownlow was revealed this year to have partly funded work at No 11 Downing Street
The new development of 770 homes was intended to be like Poundbury – the Dorset village built to meet the Prince’s architectural and community values.
In plans drawn up after Charles put together a consortium to buy Dumfries House in 2007, the sale of the houses at Knockroon would produce millions of pounds that could be used to renovate the run-down Palladian mansion. But after developers struggled to sell even the first phase of 31 houses, Lord Brownlow’s Havisham investment group stepped in to buy nine properties as buy-to-lets and a cafe.
The £45 million acquisition of Dumfries House – including £20 million borrowed through Charles’s charitable organisation, The Prince’s Foundation – was a financial risk for the future king.
However, it came with 68 acres of farmland where he hoped to create his eco-village and raise more than enough money to repay his charity’s debts and fund ambitious plans for restoring Dumfries House. Experts say the scheme was worthy but misconceived, with the properties too expensive for the former mining area.
The first tranche of flats and houses went on sale in 2011, with a four-bedroom house costing £220,000. By comparison, a three-bedroom property in nearby Cumnock was on the market for £39,950 at the time. The failure of Knockroon is thought to explain why Charles turned to donors to bankroll Dumfries House.
A Tory donor caught up in the row about the refurbishment of Boris Johnson’s flat also ‘bailed out’ Prince Charles
‘Charles really put everything on the line financially and emotionally for the purchase of the house and estate,’ said royal author Ingrid Seward. ‘Knockroon was crucial to the economics. He wanted to create his own Scottish Poundbury, a showpiece model village of sustainable living to help offset the cost and create long-term sustainability. But it hasn’t worked out so far.
‘The failure to build as many houses as he would have liked put pressure on raising money from other sources – including donors.’
Despite the intervention of the Havisham Group, Knockroon developer Hope Homes walked away from the project in 2015.
Lord Brownlow contributed £58,000 towards the refurbishment of No 11. Mr Johnson subsequently repaid the money.
The Havisham Group did not respond to requests for comment.
A spokesman for The Prince’s Foundation said last night: ‘As our annual accounts show, The Prince’s Foundation remains in robust financial health.’
A source stressed that the sum borrowed to partly enable the purchase of Dumfries House in 2007 has long since been paid off.