The estate’s decision to invest was regarded as highly sensitive and board members were sworn to secrecy.
According to the documents, company’s director Hugh van Cutsem had met Prince Charles while they were at Cambridge University. Cutsem is a horse breeder who owns 1,600-hectare (3,400 acre) estate in Norfolk.
Even though there was no tax advantage to the estate but the decision to finance a company run by Charles’ close friend and to keep it a secret raises many questions.
However, it is being said that the prince did not have any “direct involvement in investment decisions”, reported The Guardian.
On the issue, Labour MP and tax campaigner Margaret Hodge said the disclosures confirmed the need for more transparency.
“It seems clear to me that Prince Charles could not have known or understood the nature of the investment in his friend’s company,” she added.
“What is clear is that there should be proper transparency of all investments made by the Duchy of Cornwall, that the Prince of Wales should not be involved in investment decisions and that the Treasury should monitor the investments to ensure that the reputation and integrity of our royal family is protected.”
Before the Paradise Papers leak, there was no public disclosure that prince’s estate had an investment in offshore companies.
What is Duchy of Cornwall?
Established in 1337, the Duchy of Cornwall is a private estate which Edward III formed to provide independence to his son and heir, Prince Edward.
The duchy’s main purpose is to fund the “public, charitable and private activities of the Prince of Wales and his family”.
The duchy owns 53,000 hectares of land in 23 counties, including Prince Charles’s Gloucestershire home of Highgrove.
The duchy’s portfolio included shares in a company called Sustainable Forestry Management, which it bought in early 2007, the Paradise Papers revealed.
Van Cutsem, who died in 2013, was a director of SFM, a company that aimed to generate “attractive returns … by investment in the world’s tropical and subtropical forests”.
Minutes of meeting for SFM from February 2007 reveal that the duchy had recently become an investor in the company.
“The chairman thanked Mr Van Cutsem for his introduction of the Duchy of Cornwall and asked and the board unanimously agreed that the subscription by the Duchy of Cornwall be kept confidential, except in respect of any disclosure required by law,” the minutes say.
The shares are believed to have been held for a year, after which they were transferred to another investor for $325,000.