The Duke of York acted as a broker for a Kazakh oligarch who wished to buy a London home from the Queen’s estate, documents released under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed. The Duke of York’s office tried to secure a property near Kensington Palace for Timur Kulibayev, an oil and gas tycoon, at the same time as his home of Sunninghill Park was being sold to him for £3m over the asking price. The Duke of York was a government trade envoy during the time of the attempted deal. Timur Kulibayev is also the son-in-law of the Kazakh president, Nursultan Nazarbayev. The publication of these documents will most likely fuel calls for a deeper investigation into the Duke of York’s dealings with the autocratic regime.
According to the emails the Duke of York’s private secretary, Amanda Thirsk, urged the crown estate to sell one of its valuable Kensington properties to Kulibayev, saying: “They are happy to spend very large numbers to get the right property.”
Amanda Thirsk wrote to Philip Everett, a crown estate official at Windsor Great Park: “They [the buyers] are desperate to buy/lease a property in Kensington and are aware of the houses owned by crown estate near to KP [Kensington Palace]. He asked if it would be possible to sit down with you and discuss what might be becoming available in the coming years … All in all, I agree with him that the three of us should have a meeting in September to review all of the above. Would 11 September work for you? We could come down to Windsor.”
Amanda Thirsk then asked about a deal for two pieces of land next to Sunninghill and said they wanted to “work with crown estate on some joint development projects”. Everett responded that the Duke of York should contact the crown estate’s London office for information about property in Kensington, but he also hinted the Duke of York’s office should cease its intermediary role on Sunninghill saying: “I think I should now deal direct with the incoming purchasers on any detail relating to the site.”
No deal was made, but Tim Farron, the leader of the Liberal Democrats said that the Duke of York’s role was “unacceptable” and “looks very fishy”. Two months later, the £15m sale of the Duke of York’s Berkshire mansion to Kulibayev was finalised. Buckingham Palace said the sale of Sunninghill Park “was a straight commercial transaction between the trust which owned the house and the trust which bought it. There were no side deals and absolutely no arrangement from the Duke of York to benefit otherwise or to commit to any other commercial arrangement.”
Prince Andrew stepped down as an official government trade envoy in 2011 following criticism about his former association with a US convicted sex offender, the billionaire Jeffrey Epstein.