Britain's Prince Andrew. File picture: REUTERS/CHRIS RADBURN.
Britain's Prince Andrew. File picture: REUTERS/CHRIS RADBURN.

One of the British Conservative Party’s biggest donors transferred £1.5m to Prince Andrew days after the prince borrowed a similar amount from a Luxembourg private bank controlled by the businessman’s family.

David Rowland wired the money to a London account at Banque Havilland held by the Queen of England’s second son in December 2017, according to interviews with two people familiar with the transactions and bank documents seen by Bloomberg News. The transfer was earmarked for repayment of a £1.5m loan from the bank that the prince had taken out just 11 days earlier.

The transactions offer a unique insight into something the British public has puzzled over for years — how Andrew could afford his lavish lifestyle on a relatively modest stipend. They also raise fresh questions about the potential conflicts created by his dubious social circle, which included the late paedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein.

Andrew, who had operated as an unofficial door opener for Rowland and his family for more than a decade, was able to borrow the money despite a warning from Banque Havilland staff that the loan was “not in line with the risk appetite of the bank”, an internal credit application shows.

The bank rarely, if ever, made unsecured loans to clients, former employees said. This one was approved partly because it opened up “further business potential with the Royal Family”, a note on the same document said. “While the [increased] loan is unsecured and granted solely against the credibility of the applicant, both his position and that his mother is the sovereign monarch of the United Kingdom should provide access to funds for repayment if need be.”

The November 2017 Banque Havilland loan, which carried an 8% interest rate, replaced an existing £1.25m facility that had been extended or increased 10 times since 2015, most recently that March. The additional £250,000 borrowed by Andrew was earmarked for “general working capital and living expenses”.

The loan was due in March 2018 but was repaid early using £1.503m transferred to the prince from a Guernsey-registered company controlled by the Rowland family, according to one of the people. The documents show the money was routed through a Banque Havilland account belonging to Albany Reserves Ltd.

The Albany Reserves account was one of about 70 that the Rowland family opened at Banque Havilland over the years, said the person, who had direct knowledge of the accounts and asked not to be identified for fear of retribution. David Rowland is listed as a director of Albany Reserves, company filings show. 

“This demonstrates yet again that significant questions need to be asked about Prince Andrew’s business dealings and his association with some dubious characters,” said Norman Baker, a former UK government minister and author of a book about the British royal family’s finances. “Parliament should investigate this matter with some urgency.”

‘Appropriate measures’

A spokesperson for the Duke of York declined to comment about the transactions. Prince Andrew “is entitled to a degree of privacy in conducting his entirely legitimate, personal financial affairs, on which all appropriate accounting measures are undertaken and all taxes duly paid”. 

A spokesperson for Banque Havilland said he couldn’t comment about customers. David Rowland didn’t respond to emails and text messages inquiring about the terms of the transfer.

Rowland has never been a director or had an executive role at the bank, which is owned by a web of offshore companies controlled by his family. Despite the structure, former insiders say there was never any doubt he was in charge. 

The 61-year-old prince, ninth in line to the throne, added some sparkle to the tiny Luxembourg bank the Rowlands bought in 2009. He helped them pitch their services to potential clients from the ranks of the world’s dictators and kleptocrats, Bloomberg Businessweek reported last November.  

He was the guest of honour at the official opening of Banque Havilland. When the Rowlands opened a branch in Monaco in 2012, Andrew was there to give a speech. And when they set up a joint venture with Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund Mubadala in 2018, Andrew cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony. 

When Andrew wasn’t with them, David and his son Jonathan often introduced themselves as investment advisers to the prince and the royal family, Bloomberg reported. They even joined him on an official trip to China when Andrew was the UK’s special representative for trade and attended some of his meetings. Jonathan Rowland said in an email that he left the bank in 2013.

When Andrew received the November 2017 loan, Banque Havilland was under investigation by the Luxembourg regulator for potential money-laundering violations. The probe was initially focused on a €25m loan made to Nigerian oil magnate Kola Aluko despite newspaper reports linking him to a bribery scandal.

Politically exposed 

It was expanded to include other politically exposed people the bank had taken on as clients, including the daughters of Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev. The Rowlands met with Aliyev and his family when they accompanied Andrew on a visit in 2008, one of several they made with the prince to that country.

The regulator fined the bank €4m in 2018 for not having safeguards in place to protect against money laundering, one of the biggest fines it had ever levied. The breaches were apparently serious enough that the regulator informed local prosecutors, who opened a criminal probe that remains open. 

Earlier this year, Luxembourg regulators asked Banque Havilland questions about the network of accounts the Rowland family controls, said one of the people, who has direct knowledge of the matter. 

“Like all financial institutions, we are subject to routine inspections and audits,” the Banque Havilland spokesperson said. “The bank continuously co-operates with the authorities and provides all the necessary disclosures and any inference of wrongdoing is categorically denied. Compliance with legal and regulatory requirements are the foremost priority of the bank.”

Andrew was sacked from his public roles in 2019 after a television interview about his relationship with Epstein. Last month, a US judge ordered the prince to testify under oath in a lawsuit brought by a woman who alleges she was recruited by Epstein as a teenager and forced to have sex with Andrew — a claim he denies.

The November 2017 loan was made when Andrew was still a working royal, flying around the world promoting an initiative to connect young British entrepreneurs with prominent business leaders. 

Pension and stipend

His only known income is a Royal Navy pension of 20,000 pounds and an annual stipend from his mother of 250,000 pounds, yet he has lived the lifestyle of a multimillionaire. In 2007, he sold a mansion his mother had given him for 3 million pounds more than the asking price to a Kazakh oligarch who let it fall into disrepair. He later bought a $23 million Swiss chalet.

David Rowland, the son of a scrap-metal dealer from London who dropped out of school at 16, made his first £1m in his 20s buying and selling property. He later moved on to shipping, timber and chemicals companies, before setting up a family office, which he claimed managed $1bn of his own money and that of friends.

Rowland has donated more than £6m to Britain’s Conservative Party. In 2010, David Cameron, prime minister at the time, chose Rowland as the party’s treasurer, its chief fundraising position, but he resigned before assuming the post after news reports about his business dealings and offshore tax status.

David and Jonathan Rowland and their wives had front-row seats at the 2018 wedding of Andrew’s youngest daughter, Princess Eugenie, at St. George’s chapel in Windsor Castle. It marked the pinnacle of David Rowland’s social ascent. 

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

Correction: 20 November 2021
This article has been corrected to include a picture of Prince Andrew to replace one of Prince Edward identified as Prince Andrew.

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