Pictured: Michael Wynne Parker
Shortly after his 40th birthday, during the midlife crisis that would catapult him into the ill-fated orbit of Ghislaine Maxwell, Prince Andrew developed a curious obsession with a young opera singer named Summer Watson.
A vivacious, 22-year-old soprano on the threshold of a professional career, Ms Watson had first crossed his path at a society gathering in 2000, where she performed in a low-cut cocktail dress.
Over the ensuing months, they attended a variety of events — including a sumptuous banquet at Spencer House in London‘s St James’s where guests were entertained by Kiri Te Kanawa, the New Zealand opera star.
Despite the hefty age gap, Prince Andrew appears to have become utterly captivated by the comely blonde, who’d been born Rachel Watson and educated at an all-girls comprehensive school in Didcot, Oxfordshire.
Soon, they began discussing her struggles (as a woman of limited means) trying to break into the sometimes elitist field of classical music.
In particular, Ms Watson revealed that she needed to raise roughly £40,000 to cover her fees, and living costs, while she completed postgraduate studies at the Royal College of Music.
The smitten Duke was keen — nay, desperate! — to help. But having just financed an expensive divorce, funds were tight. And it simply isn’t the ‘done thing’ for the Queen’s son to simply cut a cheque to every perky female who happens to catch his eye. His solution? To telephone a mysterious fixer who likes to call himself ‘the man with the golden address book’.
The Duke’s contact was Michael Wynne-Parker, the owner of a business called Introcom which (quite legally) helps wealthy clients, often of foreign extraction, gain access to the British Establishment.
On its website, the firm explains how it seeks to monetise Wynne-Parker’s links to high society, boasting: ‘In a world of instant communication, who you know is usually more important than what you know. The Introcom formula is simple. A carefully vetted client is introduced to the appropriate personality in the country of his choice. Thus his credibility is greatly enhanced.’
Prince Charles and HE Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz
Introcom’s name may ring a bell, because it’s currently at he centre of a major royal scandal. To blame are two revelations.
Firstly, that Wynne-Parker has been paid a five per cent commission by wealthy donors to The Prince’s Foundation, a charity established by the Prince of Wales, in return for setting up dinners with the heir to the throne.
Secondly, that Michael Fawcett, a senior aide to Charles, offered to help secure a knighthood and British citizenship for one of the firm’s clients.
But while the Palace claims to be shocked by recent developments — Prince Charles has formally denied ‘knowledge’ of the grubby affair — we can reveal that Wynne-Parker has actually been selling access to senior British royals for years.
This fact can be reported with absolute confidence thanks to the fixer’s self-published 2011 vanity memoir If My Table Could Talk, which contains an entire chapter devoted to his efforts to help Prince Andrew secure the £40,000 that his aforementioned protegee Summer Watson so desired.
Describing the singer as ‘a beautiful enchantress’, the book tells how he and Prince Andrew came up with an ingenious plan to raise the funds.
‘I suggested that I could get some friends to subscribe a few thousand pounds each to attend a lunch or dinner with His Royal Highness,’ writes Wynne-Parker, adding that he told Andrew: ‘It will be necessary for you, Sir, to spare a few hours, say over three meals. My friends will be interested to meet you and hence subscribe.’
The book adds: ‘Prince Andrew at once agreed and said that his secretary would be in touch with some available dates.’
Over the ensuing months, Wynne-Parker organised first a lunch in an upstairs private room at Buck’s Club in Mayfair, where guests paid around £2,000 a head to dine with Andrew. They enjoyed a three-course menu of smoked salmon, roast lamb and a glazed exotic fruit plate washed down with bottles of Meursault Narvaux 1995 and Chateau Troplong Mondot 1985.
He then staged a dinner at Berkeley Square nightclub Annabel’s, attended by a selection of foreign bankers (again, each of them paid £2,000) along with a young Russian PR executive named Julia Belokurova.
‘Great joy for Prince Andrew!’ Wynne-Parker writes. ‘Upon my introducing him to Julia, she made the lowest curtsy, revealing more of her anatomy than intended, whilst exclaiming ‘My Royal Highness!’ This set the tone for an entertaining evening.’ Finally, in January 2001, the Duke of York agreed to be guest of honour at a concert at Dartmouth House in Mayfair at which 200 paying punters paid £45 a head to hear Ms Watson sing in what Wynne-Parker describes as ‘a diaphanous dress’.
The prince and the singer: Andrew with a young Summer Watson
With Andrew’s consent, Wynne-Parker had by then set up a trust fund called The Summer Watson Trust to handle the cash raised at the three events. He and a lawyer named Paul Gulbenkian acted as trustees, overseeing the distribution of funds from an interest-free account at the Prince’s bank, Coutts. Its support allowed her to move out of the modest student hostel where she had been living into a spacious rented apartment on Wimpole Street in London’s Marylebone.
She subsequently signed a £1 million recording contract with Sony Classical and released a 2003 album called Summer, which peaked at No 2 in the classical charts. Later, she moved to Los Angeles. Now aged 43, she describes herself on Instagram as a ‘classical crossover singer, vocal coach, adventurer, Buddhist and breast cancer warrior’.
So far, so colourful. Yet Princes Andrew and Charles aren’t the only senior royals to have found space in their busy diaries to entertain friends of Wynne-Parker.
Elsewhere in his 2011 autobiography, ‘the man with the golden address book’ reveals that in the late 1980s he was even able to help an acquaintance from Sri Lanka secure a meeting with Her Majesty the Queen.
The lucky chap was Junius Jayewardene, the country’s former President. After leaving office, he contacted Wynne-Parker saying he would ‘dearly love to see the Queen and Margaret Thatcher’. The fixer duly pulled strings to arrange a trip to the UK in November 1989 at which his chum enjoyed tea in Downing Street (arranged via political contacts) and a lunchtime visit to Buckingham Palace at which he was ‘received’ by Prince Philip prior to an audience with the monarch.
To arrange the latter meeting, Wynne-Parker says he lobbied Sir William Heseltine, the Queen’s then private secretary.
So just who is Michael Wynne-Parker? And how exactly did he find himself able to help wealthy foreigners secure access to the Royal Family.
Let’s start with that impressive double-barrelled surname. According to The Peerage, the online genealogical register, he was actually born Michael Parker in 1945 but acquired the additional handle at the age of 28 when he changed his name by deed poll to Wynne-Parker. Brought up in Derbyshire, he was educated at Lady Manners, a co-ed grammar school in Bakewell, which these days is a comprehensive and whose better known ex-pupils include Sir Maurice Oldfield, the former head of MI6, and Barry Askew, one time editor of the News of the World.
His 20s are shrouded in mystery, but in the 1970s he was putting down roots in Norfolk on the fringes of the so-called ‘turnip toff’ set. In 1975 he married Jennifer Lubbock who had previously been married to Italian nobleman Marchese Giorgio Ciaralli-Parenzi.
The couple settled in Grade II-listed Saxlingham Hall, Norfolk, now a nursing home, and had two daughters. Wynne-Parker also became an aspiring politician, standing unsuccessfully as a Tory candidate in local elections and becoming chairman of the Norwich Conservative candidate committee, as well as a regular at the Monday Club, the Right-wing Westminster pressure group.
By now, he’d proved to be an accomplished networker, and established his Introcom consultancy in the mid-1970s to monetise his growing contacts book. But while the business by all accounts flourished, his marriage did not: he divorced and in 1995 he married for a second time to one Mandana Linderman.
Around the time of the end of his first marriage, in the early 1990s, Wynne-Parker suffered a series of unfortunate mishaps that saw him twice banned by official bodies from giving financial advice and serving as a company director.
In 1990 he was censured over 16 counts of misconduct by the then financial services watchdog Fimbra, which banned him from giving financial advice and fined him £10,000 for acting outside the scope of his business having dealt in high-risk investments.
His then company, Wynne-Parker Financial Management, was closed down by the regulator.
Worse was to follow. In 1998, a Judge Mellor sitting at Norwich county court declared that Wynne-Parker had ‘the modus operandi of a crook’. This reportedly involved a case in which he had deliberately arranged for an ‘unsuitable policy’ for a client because it would make him more commission.
Then there was an iffy affair involving Jonathan Guinness, a member of the brewing and banking family, stepson of Oswald Mosley and now the 3rd Baron Moyne. The two men, who had met via the Monday Club, worked on a series of business ventures, none of which was very successful. One, involving airline Tajik Air, attracted the interest of the police. The City of London fraud squad was reportedly called in after complaints from creditors. Mr Wynne-Parker said at the time that Introcom had no financial involvement, but had only provided consultancy services.
He and Guinness then launched a business named Access To Justice, which provided free legal advice to those seeking to overturn criminal convictions. But it was claimed the firm misrepresented itself as a charity, and that a convicted fraudster was involved in its operations. Eventually Margaret Beckett, then the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, obtained a court order to shut down the company.
It should be noted that all of these questionable affairs pre-dated his aforementioned dealings with Prince Andrew regarding the comely Summer Watson.
But then the Duke of York has always suffered from a wonky ethical radar when it comes to people who have had a run-in with the authorities: after all, he pursued a friendship with the convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
We digress. In the 2000s, as wealthy Russians began buying up prime London real estate, Wynne-Parker become a vigorous supporter of Vladimir Putin, taking on many clients from the country and starting a UK branch of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society, which he now chairs. It organises events and dinners for wealthy Russians in London, and has faced disputed allegations that it is a front for Kremlin influence. Wynne-Parker has dismissed such claims as ‘crazy’ and insists the society is a religious and cultural organisation. However, he regularly uses his Facebook account to share Kremlin propaganda, including pictures of Mr Putin topless. Last August he shared a picture from a Facebook page named ‘Vladimir Putin Fan Club’ captioned: ‘Keep Calm and Love Russia.’
In October 2019, he even gave a speech at the offices of law firm Pinsent Masons, who have acted for Russian airline Aeroflot, praising the ‘historical ties, covering a thousand years’ that link the UK and Russia. ‘How dare the Americans talk of a special relationship,’ he declared, noting that the U.S. didn’t exist a thousand years ago.
On the domestic front, he and second wife Mandana are no longer together. She lives in a flat in Chelsea while Wynne-Parker keeps a rental home in a village some 15 miles from Norwich. Its book-lined drawing room boasts framed pictures of the businessman with dignitaries, including one in which he is shaking hands with the Prince of Wales. There is also a framed note signed by Prince Philip on Buckingham Palace-headed notepaper.
During the week, he can often be found at the Cavalry & Guards Club on London’s Piccadilly.
‘Wynne-Parker stays frequently, along with about 15 other regular residents, and bores whoever he can lay his hands on with lectures about how we should all be nice about Putin and co,’ reports one fellow member. ‘He is like the Ancient Mariner!’
While the 75-year-old fixer is, of course, entitled to his pro-Kremlin views, some might wonder whether Prince Charles — our future monarch — ought to be breaking bread with a man so close to the West’s greatest strategic enemy.
That is just one of the awkward questions posed by this week’s ‘cash-for-access’ scandal, which revolves around a leaked email, dated November 2019, in which Wynne-Parker described how £100,000 would buy an invitation to an event at Dumfries House, the heir to the throne’s Palladian mansion in Ayrshire. Guests would be photographed meeting Prince Charles, and were promised ‘conversation’ followed by a formal meal, ‘further drinks, conversations, and often entertainment’. They would then stay the night.
Just £75,000 of the fee would then be donated to the Foundation. The rest would go to Wynne-Parker and a second fixer, who suggested that it might lead to a longer-lasting relationship. Under the heading ‘Follow up’, the leaked message stated: ‘Depending in [sic] the amount of synergy between each client and HRH, clients are placed on appropriate guest lists depending on their cultural interests.’
In a further twist, it then emerged that one client of Wynne-Parker, a Saudi billionaire called Dr Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz, had been offered help securing a knighthood and British citizenship by Michael Fawcett in return for giving hundreds of thousands of pounds to his charity.
Fawcett had signed a leaked letter, on headed notepaper from Dumfries House, promising: ‘In light of the ongoing and most recent generosity of His Excellency . . . I am happy to confirm to you, in confidence, that we are willing and happy to support and contribute to the application for citizenship. I can further confirm that we are willing to make [an] application to increase His Excellency’s honour from Honorary CBE to that of KBE in accordance with Her Majesty’s Honours Committee.’
Former valet Fawcett has resigned ‘temporarily’ pending the outcome of a formal investigation and the Prince has denied any knowledge of the grubby arrangement.
Wynne-Parker, for his part, has denied wrongdoing, saying it’s ‘normal practice’ for intermediaries to be paid commission for facilitating donations. Friends say he’s now working on another memoir of his strange and, in some ways, extraordinary career. Whether it will make comfortable reading for the various royals and public figures in his ‘golden address book’ remains to be seen.
Source: Daily Mail UK