The controversial president of Kazakhstan paid £3million above the market value for Prince Andrew’s Royal residence to persuade him to lobby on his behalf, according to a book by the leader’s former son-in-law.
The claim comes from Rakhat Aliyev, who was married to president Nursultan Nazarbayev’s eldest daughter and was once deputy foreign minister and security chief of the oil and mineral-rich former Soviet state.
Aliyev says his father-in-law was behind the £15million purchase of Sunninghill Park in Berkshire – dubbed Southyork – which was a gift from the Queen for her son and Sarah Ferguson on their marriage in 1986.
He says the deal was done in an attempt to secure the help and friendship of the Prince, whose regular visits to Kazakhstan have raised questions about his relationship with President Nazarbayev.
The identity of the buyer of the 12-bedroom mansion has been the source of huge speculation since its sale in 2007. No one has moved in and it has been left to fall into ruin.
But Aliyev’s book, The Godfather-In-Law, says Nazarbayev is the new owner. The book, banned in Kazakhstan, details allegations of corruption, criminality and electoral fraud against Nazarbayev, who, as leader of a largely Muslim state, has been courted by Western leaders as a key ally in the war against terror and for the rights to exploit his nation’s huge natural resources.
Aliyev, who had a fearsome reputation as a hard man of Nazarbayev’s regime, wrote the damning account two years after a dramatic falling-out with his father-in-law which has seen him forced into exile in Austria.
His reference to Prince Andrew is in a chapter called The Man Who Stole Elections, in a passage headed The Paid Friends Of The President.
He writes that in July 2006, ‘the “godfather-in-law” welcomed with open arms His Royal Highness the Duke of York, Prince Andrew. Some time later, information was making the rounds that in selling a villa to the Kazakh magnate, the Duke of York had been overpaid by three million pounds...
‘All the confidants of the “godfather-in-law” knew the buyer’s true identity and why the British seller received far more money than was specified in the contract.
‘In this manner, the “godfather-in-law” was seeking to make Prince Andrew one of the lobbyists to promote the interests of the mining and metals company Kasakhmys. He also wanted to count the British Royal Family among his friends.’
Kasakhmys plc is the FTSE 100 listed copper mining company that netted revenues of $5billion last year. Aliyev’s book details how much of the stock is controlled by the Kazakh president and his family.
Mr Aliyev told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Prince Andrew was not hired. But on a case-by-case basis, when something is wrong, when it is necessary to get some information, or any other business of the president’s in the UK, Prince Andrew could be asked to do something or to clarify something or to know something.’
Whether Andrew has ever lobbied on the firm’s behalf is unclear. But he has developed a close interest in Kazakhstan and regularly meets its president, making five confirmed trips to the country since 2003.
Mr Nazarbayev’s official spokes-man was unavailable yesterday.
A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said last night: ‘The Prince’s role with Kazakhstan is at the behest of the Foreign Office as part of his role as the UK trade and investment representative.
‘This includes his relationship with the president and his networking work. Kazakhstan is of major interest to the UK in terms of trade because of its oil and related industries.’
She said he had visited Kazakhstan several times in an official capacity. She could not comment on any private visits he had made.
She said of Sunninghill’s sale: ‘There was no impropriety in the sale of the property.’
...meanwhile HRH gets yet another helicopter to attend dinner – and spares himself tedious 56-mile car journey
By SIMON MCGEE
Prince Andrew was at the centre of a fresh air travel row last night after costing the taxpayer almost £2,000 to fly to a dinner less than one-and-a-half hours away by car.
The Prince – dubbed Airmiles Andy for his extravagant use of publicly-funded travel – dropped in last Tuesday for an evening with Libyan and British tycoons.
Had he gone in his chauffeur-driven car, the 56-mile journey from his Windsor home to Wilton Park conference centre near Steyning, West Sussex, would, according to travel planners, have taken one hour, 28 minutes.
Instead, he took the Sikorsky S-76 twin-engined helicopter of the Queen’s Helicopter Flight, completing each leg in just 20 minutes – but costing the public purse £900 each way.
He was at the venue for three-and-a-half hours, hosting a dinner for delegates attending a four-day conference on doing business in oil-rich Libya.
Lib Dem MP Norman Baker accused Andrew of ‘complete contempt for the taxpayers’.
Buckingham Palace said he had been acting as the UK’s Special Representative for International Trade and added: ‘All other travel options would have been considered.’
Last month, Andrew charged the taxpayer towards a £2,000 flight to a party at one of his favourite golf courses in Kent.