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The Prince, his former valet and a curious property deal

VPrince Charles faced an unwanted intrusion into his financial affairs yesterday, when the Commons Public Accounts Committee held its first ever public investigation into the running of his Duchy of Cornwall estate.

One pressing matter escaped scrutiny, however. It concerns a pounds 500,000 property deal between the Prince, right, and Michael Fawcett, the aide who resigned from his office in 2003, amid criticism of his role in a scandal over the sale of royal gifts.

Fawcett, who organises Charles's social engagements, was forced to leave Clarence House and set up his own company, to distance the royals from any allegations of wrongdoing.

However, documents passed to Pandora show that some six months later the Duchy of Cornwall quietly sold him a four-bedroom house in South-west London for the sum of pounds 490,000.

Land Registry papers show that Fawcett and his wife, Debbie, who previously occupied the home on a grace-and-favour basis, were allowed to purchase the property with the help of a mortgage from the Halifax.

Asked about the wisdom of entering a deal of this nature with the controversial Fawcett, a spokesman for the Duchy said yesterday that it had gained permission for the sale from the Treasury.

Although local agents say similar properties go for more - and previous reports valued the house at pounds 600,000 - the spokesman said: "it was independently valued".

Vine may still bear fruit for Saatchi

VCHARLES SAATCHI still carries a torch for Stella Vine, the former lap-dancer described as his "big find" of last year.

Rumours of a rift surfaced recently, when it emerged that Vine, left, wasn't among the 56 artists included in Saatchi's new series of exhibitions, "The Triumph of Painting".

But Vine explains that personal commitments prevented her doing any work for BritArt's most powerful patron.

"I've been at my grandma's in Alnwick," she tells me. "Charles Saatchi wanted to commission a large painting, but I've had such a mad year, I haven't had the right mindset. I'm sure we'll do something together in the future, though."

Vine is now working again, and recently painted Pete Doherty, troubled rock star and Kate Moss's latest accessory.

"I'll always be grateful to Charles," she adds. "My life is going really well now: I couldn't have been a stripper for much longer."

It's the drink talking...

V AL MURRAY, the comedian, isn't afraid to upset his many friends in showbusiness.

At a recent performance of his Pub Landlord show, Murray, left, listed the well-known guests he'd booked for a forthcoming An Audience With... television programme: "So far, we've got Gordon Ramsay, the cast of Bad Girls, and Abi Titmuss," he said. "The word `celebrity' does not do these people justice: something else beginning with `C' does, though."

Apopros of Titmuss and the Bad Girls, Murray's spokesman yesterday defended the comment. But he was anxious to avoid conflict with Ramsay.

"It was one of the very early warm-up gigs, and he meant to say Dean Gaffney," I'm told.

Kilroy's ilk

V ROBERT KILROY-SILK'S new party, Veritas, has until now been treated as a harmless political freakshow. But that could be about to change: for the BNP has admitted that it could be seriously damaged by the rise of Orange Gob.

"The launch of Veritas may well be greeted with horror by hard-working BNP supporters around the country, aware that such a party may well steal votes from our candidates," reads the BNP website. "We have to acknowledge that this will certainly be the case in the general election this year."

Kilroy is this week living with gypsies, for a Channel Four show. His new landlords may now concede that the old cove does have his uses.

VTony Blair's dinner parties are noted in society, but his deputy John Prescott is a beer and sandwiches man. Last month, the PM was forced to name scores of so-called celebrities - including the likes of Des O'Connor and Geri Halliwell - who have dined at Chequers.

Ever resourceful, Pandora used the new Freedom of Information Act to command Mr Prescott to do the same. And so I can reveal that the taxpayer paid for - wait for it - zero guests to be entertained at Dorneywood (his country retreat) in 2003 and 2004.

It is of course unthinkable that Prezza has no friends. "He entertains quite often but pays for it himself" says one expert. "There's a housekeeper, but his wife Pauline does the shopping. She likes Marks & Spencer."

pandora@independent.co.uk www.independent.co.uk/pandora

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