Mystery £750,000 gift ‘from fraudster’ to Prince Andrew ‘was wedding gift to Beatrice’

Duke of York’s daughters named in High Court dispute between Turkish millionaire and former banker

Andy Gregory
Saturday 02 April 2022 13:42
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Prince Andrew allegedly received 'suspicious' payments of over £1 million by a suspected fraudster

A gift of £750,000 sent to Prince Andrew on the orders of an alleged fraudster was described as a “wedding gift” to his daughter Princess Beatrice, a judge has been told.

The Duke and Duchess of York, and their daughters Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, have all reportedly featured in evidence given in a High Court financial dispute between an elderly Turkish woman and a former Goldman Sachs banker.

Nebahat Isbilen, the 77-year-old wife of a former politician jailed in Turkey on charges said to be politically motivated, is suing businessman Selman Turk over nearly £40m she alleges went missing when he acted as her financial adviser while she fled her homeland.

In an ongoing court case, Ms Isbilen alleges that the London-based former banker “breached fiduciary obligations he owed to her” and advanced “claims in deceit” while supposedly helping her move her assets out of Turkey.

A judge overseeing the dispute has been told that “substantial sums” were paid to Andrew and his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson.

Ms Isbilen said police had seized her previous passport and that Mr Turk had obtained her a new passport through connections with Turkish authorities, with the duke also allegedly paid £750,000 for “assistance” he provided “in relation” to Ms Isbilen’s passport.

In her affidavit, she said that in November 2019 she authorised a bank transfer of £750,000 to the duke.

“Mr Turk told me that he received help from the Duke of York to show or send the picture of my old passport to Turkey and that this service would normally be worth £2 million, but it would cost less if we made the payment by way of a gift,” the affidavit said.

“I did not understand the nature of the services received then and have also difficulty of explaining it now.

“I have seen an e-mail from Mr Turk ... explaining that this transfer was a wedding gift to Princess Beatrice owing to the close connection between our families. This email is entirely false.”

Ms Isbilen’s solicitor, Jonathan Tickner, told the Daily Telegraph that transcripts have since been obtained of telephone conversations between Mr Turk, Ms Isbilen’s bank and Prince Andrew’s private office in which the claim the money was a gift to Beatrice – who had got engaged two months earlier – was allegedly repeated.

Purported transcripts of two calls on 14 November 2019 – the day of Andrew’s infamous Newsnight interview – published in the Daily Mail, appear to show a bank representative separately asking Mr Turk and Andrew’s office what the money is for, and on both occasions being told it was believed to be a wedding gift.

There is reported to be no suggestion in court documents that Beatrice was aware of the conversations.

According to both newspapers, Ms Isbilen has told the court she now believes the payment was connected to Mr Turk’s appearance at the duke’s Dragons Den-esque competition held at St James’s Palace, known as Pitch@Palace, just days prior to the alleged payment.

The duke reportedly handed Mr Turk an award at the event, but the Mail reported that the royal did not cast a vote in the award.

A document outlining Ms Isbilen’s case said the duke had subsequently returned the £750,000.

According to the Telegraph, Mr Tickner has also told the court that bank statements obtained by his legal team show that Eugenie was paid £25,000 – allegedly from Ms Isbilen’s funds – over the course of two consecutive days, with £15,000 sent from Mr Turk’s account with the reference, “birthday gift”.

In a statement given to the paper, Eugenie said she understood the money to be “gifts from a long-standing family friend to assist with the cost of a surprise party” for her mother’s 60th birthday, and that she knows neither Ms Isbilen nor Mr Turk, nor any other details of the claim made by Ms Isbilen’s lawyers.

She is also alleged to have received £250,00, which she reportedly claims she was owed by renewable energy firm Pegasus Group Holdings for her role as brand ambassador.

According to the Telegraph, Eugenie has stressed she had no idea that the money from Mr Turk was anything other than “entirely respectable”, and is reported to be distraught at the thought of her daughters being unwittingly dragged into the case.

Neither Beatrice nor Eugenie are believed to have had any knowledge of their parents’ dealings with Mr Turk, nor knowingly corresponded with him in any way, the paper reported.

A number of preliminary rulings in the case have been published.

Deputy High Court judge David Halpern said in a ruling that a lawyer representing Mrs Isbilen told him in an affidavit that information had emerged to show evidence given by Mr Turk was “misleading”.

He said Mr Tickner told him evidence showed “money was used for purposes unconnected with Mrs Isbilen, (for example) substantial sums were paid to Prince Andrew, Duke of York, and to Sarah, Duchess of York”.

Judge Halpern said barrister Dan McCourt Fritz, who is leading Ms Isbilen’s legal team, told him the “total sums which his client claims were misappropriated” amount to $50m (£38m).

“Mr Turk has provided explanations for approximately two thirds of these sums, most of which have been allegedly spent on professional or other fees or lost in bad investments,” the judge added in his ruling.

“No explanation at all has been given for the remaining one third.”

A statement of claim drawn up by Mrs Isbilen’s lawyers said: “In or around November 2019, Mr Turk told Mrs Isbilen that she needed to make a purported ‘gift’ of £750,000 to HRH Duke of York by way of payment for assistance that he told her HRH Duke of York had provided in relation to Mrs Isbilen’s Turkish passport.

“The representation that Mrs Isbilen needed to make a gift to HRH Duke of York in connection with her passport (or for any other purpose) was false, and Mr Turk made it dishonestly, knowing it to be false and intending Mrs Isbilen to rely on it.”

The lawyers added: “Mrs Isbilen authorised a transfer of £750,00 ... on 15 November 2019.

They continued: “Mrs Isbilen has now received £750,000 from HRH Duke of York.”

Mr Tickner, head of fraud and commercial disputes at law firm Peters & Peters, said in a statement on Friday that Mrs Isbilen had trusted Mr Turk to help her through “extremely difficult” circumstances.

“The court documents and decisions given in her case to date speak for themselves,” he added.

A spokeswoman for the Duke said: “We are unable to comment on ongoing legal proceedings.”

Additional reporting by PA

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