- Prince reportedly ‘gave scandal-hit charity founder 25 “clinical” papers’
- Kids’ Company then arranged brain experiments on vulnerable children
- In Britain, Kids’ Company was shut down after claims of drugs, abuse of kids, and cash handed to friends of the founder Camila Batmanghelidjh
- Heir to throne now linked to biggest ‘charity’ scandal in UK for years
- Camila Batmanghelidjh and Prince of Wales have no medical training
- Journalist alerted Prince’s office to drug-taking claims
- But Royal ties strengthened – including personal fund-raising
Prince Charles first met Camila Batmanghelidjh in 1998, apparently after hearing about her through friends.
At the same time Batmanghelidjh and her two-year-old charity, then relatively unknown, were hungry for publicity, validity and prestige.
Yet – far more disturbingly – the Prince of Wales was also instrumental in introducing Batmanghelidjh to the possibilities of brain ‘research’ experiments – to which some vulnerable Kids’ Company children were later subjected.
For these reasons, the importance of the role he played in the promotion of Kids’ Company is undeniable.
According to Batmanghelidjh the heir to the throne was so taken with her during their first encounter that he agreed on the spot to start working with her.
In 2009 she recalled their first meeting thus: “I had a call out of the blue that Prince Charles wanted to visit [Kids’ Company’s drop-in centre in south London]. He came down, spoke to the kids and got very tearful. Then he asked me to get into the back seat of his car. It was just Charles, his driver and me, and he turned to me and said: ‘Why do you do this?’ I explained how our social care system was not fit for purpose, that of 550,000 children referred to child protection every year, only 33,000 were put on the register because of lack of capacity, and that Kids’ Company picked up the pieces of a failed system.”
Batmanghelidjh claimed Charles told her: “I’ve long suspected this but people don’t always tell me the full story. I want to help.”
She went on: “He asked me to join him at an event that afternoon in the City where he introduced me to 600 business leaders and gave me the first of many platforms to spread my message.”
Whether or not this story is entirely true, it is the case that Charles and Batmanghelidjh have known each other for almost 20 years.
He visited Kids’ Company’s offices at least five times and effected all sorts of useful introductions to influential – and rich – people.
Yet whereas he has been happy to praise her publicly in the past, providing hugely valuable support for her charity’s work, he is now remarkably coy when her name is mentioned.
For example, when I asked his office a set of questions about his links to Batmanghelidjh and her charity for the purposes of this article, it supplied nothing but an unhelpfully bland comment.
Yet in 2009, long before a string of revelations contributed to the closure of Kids’ Company, Prince Charles was happy to boast of their friendship.
It was reported that year how, seven years earlier, in 2002, the heir to the throne sent Batmanghelidjh a sheaf of 25 so-called ‘clinical papers‘ looking at the impact of clinical abuse on brain development.
The Prince’s view – that a child’s brain would alter depending on external factors – put him ‘ahead of his time’, Charles claimed.
Where these ‘clinical papers’ originated is unclear – and the fact that Batmanghelidjh had – and has – no formal clinical or medical qualifications seems not to have occurred to whoever knew these papers were sent to Batmanghelidjh. Prince Charles is, of course, a promoter of the junk science of homeopathy, so the mention of allegedly ‘clinical’ papers in this context rings alarm bells.
Prince Charles’ view obviously struck a chord with Batmanghelidjh, and goes a long way to explaining why she later arranged to supply vulnerable Kids’ Company children and youths to doctors interested in studying their brains – in exchange for these vulnerable children receiving small amounts of cash and similar incentives.
The questionable ethics of this research will be examined in a subsequent Heat Street article.
That same year, 2002, Charles sent Prince Harry along to Kids’ Company’s drop-in centre in Camberwell, south London, for the day to meet some of its troubled youths.
Harry was 17 at the time and still an Eton schoolboy. He had recently admitted to smoking drugs and drinking to excess. The visit was supposed to remind him of his good fortune in life compared to Kids’ Company’s clients.
After the visit, Prince Charles’s private office wrote a letter to Batmanghelidjh, seen by Heat Street, thanking her for organizing it and declaring his son’s intention to help raise cash for the charity with BBC presenter Zoe Ball.
A couple of weeks later St James’s Palace was alerted to allegations of drug taking, drug dealing and financial impropriety in the form of cash handouts at the Kids’ Company centre Harry had visited. This warning came from a journalist who rang Charles’s office asking for a comment. His spokesman did not address these allegations directly but it is fair to conclude that Charles or his staff were aware of them because they made a page lead in the Mail on Sunday that month.
However, from that point on Charles’s links to Batmanghelidjh seem to have strengthened. In 2005 he helped to lobby businessmen and journalists on her behalf in order to generate funds and positive PR for her charity.
Using one of his own charities, Business in the Community, he even secured Kids’ Company a gift of £100,000 from a group of businessmen. Their identities remain unknown.
Long before 2005 Business in the Community had also fallen into the habit of contacting national newspaper journalists, notably those working on The Guardian and its sister title, The Observer, asking them to write about Kids’ Company’s work. Some reporters responded obediently to these requests. Indeed, some journalists refuse to accept to this day that there was anything wrong with Kids’ Company activities.
In May 2005, Charles stepped up his Kids’ Company campaign. He delivered a speech at St James’s Palace in which he heaped praise upon Batmanghelidjh, calling her “remarkable”.
He said: “Let me just tell you something about Kids’ Company which, as those of you will know who visited it, is run by a remarkable lady called Camila Batmanghelidjh. She has been struggling for nearly a decade to keep her unique service for excluded youngsters open – it’s been a significant struggle I can assure you, I’ve been there – and she hosted many “seeing is believing” visits. This is what she wrote to me after the Budget this last March: “We heard this week that the Government will be giving us a grant of £3.4 million over three years. Kids’ Company would not have lasted for nine years and helped thousands of children had it not been for the amazing support we received from the business people involved in Business in the Community.”
What Charles highlighted in fact marked the first time that the government had ever pledged a cast iron sum to Kids’ Company. Until then, the charity had merely been bailed out from time to time, including in 2002 when the Treasury mysteriously waived a £590,000 employment tax bill. (This cash had been deducted by those running Kids’ Company from staff wages but never given to the taxman. What happened to the cash forms part of the Charity Commission’s ongoing inquiry).
So, from 2005, Kids’ Company was essentially on a state-subsidised retainer of more than £1 million per year. Arguably, this is evidence that Charles’s endorsements were working.
In the spirit of mutual backslapping, Batmanghelidjh wrote a short dedication to Charles in her 2006 book Shattered Lives. She gushed: “Thanks are due to HRH The Prince of Wales for his commitment to young people and for helping to galvanize the business community to assist disadvantaged children. They consider him a true friend.”
By September 2007, the charity was seeking further government funding, threatening closure if it did not receive this taxpayers’ cash. Around this time Charles wrote a letter to Batmanghelidjh praising the charity. It is not clear to whom this letter was later shown, but it is unthinkable that it was not read by government officials. The fact of its existence emerged in an Observer report on September 30. The piece explained that Charles’s friend, the then-Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who had officiated at his 2005 marriage to Camilla Parker Bowles, had weighed into a debate about Kids’ Company’s future funding. Williams, like Batmanghelidjh, was demanding more cash from the government to support vulnerable children.
Once again, Charles’s involvement, no matter how slight, seemed to do the trick. A few months later, in March 2008, it was announced that the Department for Education had awarded Kids’ Company its biggest ever government grant – £12.7 million spread over three years.
Two months later, in May 2008, Prince Charles was given the inaugural Kids’ Company award “in recognition of his work with The Prince’s Trust and other charities.”
During a ceremony in London in which he was described as an “iconic leader” he was given a papier mache trophy made by Kids’ Company.
Accepting the award Charles said Batmanghelidjh was a “national treasure” for the way she had transformed so many people’s lives. He added: “Camila has helped to remind us of the power of love.”
She in turn praised Charles for setting up The Prince’s Trust. She said: “At a street level, where the young people are, The Prince of Wales is considered as an iconic leader – someone they feel represents their views.”
There is no doubt that Charles’s support of Kids’ Company raised its status to a level which was unimaginable when the charity was launched in 1996 and helped it to reach the sort of financial heights of which most other charities can only dream.
It is worth adding that at least three of Charles’s aides were found to have been working in government departments, including the Cabinet Office which became so important to securing government funds for Kids’ Company, between 2008 and 2013. One was seconded for two years, another for six weeks. And Charles himself held private meetings with another key Kids’ Company supporter, David Cameron, seven times between 2010 and 2013. It is not known what they discussed.
More recently Charles’s affection for Kids’ Company and Batmanghelidjh has cooled noticeably.
Some believe this may be because his daughter-in-law, Kate Middleton, became the patron of a rival childrens’ charity, Place2be, in 2013. Intriguingly, Place2be was the forerunner to Kids’ Company, having been founded by Batmanghelidjh in 1993. She quit in 1994, in mysterious circumstances which have never been explained publicly.
Kids’ Company remains under investigation by the Charity Commission in an inquiry which could end up taking more than a year. Charles will know that he played his part in helping to promote its cause. Yet even after alarm bells about it rang in his own office, he carried on supporting it.
When asked whether he had apologized to any of those whom his charity, Business in the Community, persuaded to fund Kids’ Company, his office did not comment.
His spokesman said in a statement: “Like thousands of supporters of Kids’ Company, which was a UK registered charity, The Prince of Wales lent his support in good faith, based on the information available at the time together with the considerable impact which the charity was credited with achieving. The Prince of Wales was not directly affiliated to the charity; Kids’ Company was an independent charity with an independent Board of Trustees.”