Excuse me officer, can you lend one £3,000?

Royal Family repays Scotland Yard after Prince of Wales's protection officers put 'travel expenses' on Met Police account
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The Independent Online

The Queen famously does not carry cash, and it appears that this lack of liquidity has rubbed off on her eldest son. Prince Charles repaid the Metropolitan Police nearly £3,000 after borrowing money from his protection officers, an official document obtained by The Independent shows.

The Prince of Wales returned £2,744.34 to Scotland Yard after his Royal Protection team paid for "travel expenses", thought to be flights abroad, on a Metropolitan Police-issue corporate American Express (Amex) card.

The money was paid back by Clarence House on 4 December 2007, and the Met cashed the cheque on 17 December of that year. The previous month Charles and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, had visited Turkey and Uganda.

The misuse of corporate Amex cards in the Met is an ongoing issue. An internal investigation, which started in October 2007, is continuing into the alleged widespread abuse of the credit cards issued to 3,533 officers. Three people have been convicted for abusing the system, enriching themselves by thousands of pounds at the expense of the taxpayer. While there is no suggestion of any wrongdoing in the case involving Prince Charles, the transaction provides an insight into the financial relationship between members of the Royal Family and their police protection teams.

Sources at Scotland Yard insist it is normal procedure for officers guarding VIPs to pay for things in this manner, with the money being repaid by the office of the borrower at a later date. A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police said: "On occasion, and if the need arises, protection officers will incur expenditure on behalf of principals, which are then repaid."

But the practice was widely unknown, even to members of the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA), one of whom described it as "totally unacceptable". Jenny Jones, the Green Party member of the MPA and former deputy mayor of London, said: "I definitely did not know this was going on and I am really quite surprised.

"The Royals should have known this was happening and they really ought to have known better. If they need things paid for then they should have their own office pay for it or give their protection teams their own cards or cash. They should not expect the Metropolitan Police to pay for things like flights and then casually pay it back at a later date.

"It it just another example of the mess the Amex system was in. The whole system was out of control and it makes you wonder what else officers were spending money on."

But Ken Wharfe, a former Metropolitan Police protection officer for Princess Diana, said it was commonplace among him and his former colleagues and that there was "nothing sinister about it".

He added: "It would be the usual practice if a protection officer was in a situation where something had to be paid, be it rail tickets or food, he would pay for it and the money would be paid back to the officer, if he had used cash, or the police force if he used a police-issue credit card.

"It is very rare for members of the Royal Family to carry cash or credit cards so protection officers paying for things is quite a normal practice. When I worked with the late Princess Diana I did this on numerous occasions for things like meals at restaurants to hotel bookings.

"It is usually for unofficial, private business and it is done for security reasons, to keep things as private as possible. Official trips are usually paid for by the individual Royal's office." A spokeswoman for Prince Charles said: "We would not comment on this matter."

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