Palace defends prince's Enron link
LONDON, England -- Britain's heir to the throne met with Enron executives after the now-collapsed U.S. energy giant donated £800,000 to his charity.
Prince Charles met with both Enron chief executive Ken Lay and former chairman of Enron Europe, John Wing, during the 1990s after the company gave corporate sponsorship for the Prince's Trust.
In a statement on Sunday, St James' Palace -- Prince Charles' official residence -- said it had no regrets over the meeting.
A spokeswoman at the palace told the Press Association it was common practice for the Prince to meet with sponsors.
She said: "The Prince's Trust receives donations from a large number of corporations and Enron is one of a number of these donors.
"It is very normal practice for the Prince to meet executives to thank them. There is nothing more to it than that."
Prince's Trust spokeswoman Rachel Faulkner said Enron donated £500,000 in 1991for projects over five years and another £300,000 in three equal instalments from 1996, the last of which was paid in 1999.
The Prince's Trust is one of Prince Charles' main charities and provides opportunities to disadvantaged young adults aged 16 to 30.
The collapse of Enron has already had repercussions in the UK.
Within days, the head of Britain's press watchdog, Conservative ex-minister Lord Wakeham, stepped aside to answer questions about his links with the company, for which he was a non-executive director.
Wakeham, 69, chairman of Britain's Press Complaints Commission and a former Conservative energy minister, said the move was temporary while U.S. investigators looked into his links to Enron.
It was a "matter of honour," he said in a statement.
"As chairman of the Press Complaints Commission for the past seven years, I am only too aware of the damage that can be done to individuals and institutions that are thrust into the public spotlight," his statement said.
"Since the collapse of Enron, I have been unable to make any statement or undertake any interviews on the subject for legal reasons. I am conscious that some see this position as incompatible with the chairmanship of the commission," he added.
Questions have also been asked in Britain as to the ruling Labour Party's links with Enron.
The opposition Conservatives have said Tony Blair's party had strong ties with Enron and has even stronger ties with its accounting firm, Andersen.
They are questioning whether the now-bankrupt energy trader gave financial support to Labour after it came power in 1997 and wherther it helped change government policy?
The Labour Party denies any influence, telling CNN that Enron did not donate one penny to the party.
But Enron Europe did buy tables at various Labour Party functions and did pay $20,000 for one conference reception, for a total of some $50,000.
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