Eva Rausing, the billionaire Tetra Pak heiress who was found dead by police yesterday in London of a suspected drug overdose, and her husband, Hans Kristian, who has been arrested on drugs charges and taken to a secure hospital, were both friends of Britain’s Prince Charles, and deeply involved in his charities.
Eva was, at the time of her death, a trustee of one of architecture-buff Prince Charles’s most favoured charities, the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment and she was also a co-patron with Kate Middleton of the drug charity Action on Addiction to which she has given hundreds of thousands of dollars.
For all the tragedy of Mrs Rausing’s death, the apparently drug-related tragedy calls into question Prince Charles’s judgement following the events of a controversial 2008 court case involving the Rausings.
The Rausings, who met in rehab in the 1990s, were leading lights of the London social scene in the noughties, living in a $50m house in Cadogan Square. It was not widely known that they were still actively using drugs.
Hans, known for sporting a fabulous beard, and his wife, party girl Eva, the American-born daughter of millionaire Pepsi exec Tom Kemeny and his wife Nancy, were much invited guests, especially as they were known for their philanthropic generosity. Hirstute Hans – known to all as Hans K – was even singled out by Prince Charles for his work and described as, “one very special philanthropist”.
The Rausing family is worth some $10billion thanks to their invention of the Tetra Pak cartons.
Although it was hard not to notice the increasingly haggard appearance of the Rausings when they were out and about, few suspected the true reason for their decline. Their secret only came out in April 2008, when Eva Rausing attended the American Embassy to renew her US passport.
All bags are searched on entry. Mrs Rausing cheerfully submitted to the process – evidently forgetting that she had left 2.5 grams of heroin and 10 grams of crack cocaine in her purse. The police were called, and a further search of the couples palatial London home turned up thousands of dollars worth of pure cocaine as well as more crack and heroin.
What followed next was extraordinary. There is little doubt that the amount of drugs the Rausings had been found with would have earned a street pusher a considerable spell in jail. But in August 2008, all charges were suddenly dropped at Westminster Magistrates Court after what was described as a “protracted correspondence” between their lawyers and the Crown Prosecution Service. This was despite the fact that in June, while on bail, a car registered to Hans Rausing was seen fleeing the scene of an accident.
Under the terms of a conditional caution issued by prosecutors, the couple had to attend a drug treatment course for four months and then have monthly drug tests for six months.
The decision of prosecutors not to proceed was slammed at the time by Sir Ian Blair, the head of London’s police force, who said he was “very surprised” that they escaped prosecution, adding that the decision sent out the wrong message about drug use.
Despite massive public outrage about the handling of the Rausing’s case, and suspicions that their donations of millions of dollars a year were the true reason they enjoyed such leniency, Prince Charles, who in 2004 had personally appointed Mrs Rausing as a trustee of his charity, the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment, took the extraordinary decision to publicly back Eva Rausing.
An aide to the Prince told the Daily Mail at the time: “The Prince’s charities work with young people, many of whom have had problems with drugs. They aim to give these people a second chance to help them rebuild their lives. It would therefore be hypocritical for the Prince not to give Eva Rausing a second chance.”
Chief executive of the Prince’s Foundation Hank Dittmar, a former adviser to President Clinton, said at the time: “We support Eva Rausing in her efforts to overcome her problems and look forward to her completion of her treatment programme. She remains a dedicated member of the Foundation board of trustees contributing to the charity’s education work.”
Now Eva Rausing’s chances are no more. Questions will be asked as to whether the failure of the authorities to administer a short sharp shock to the Rausings in the form of a jail term in 2008, and their continued acceptance at the highest levels of society including royalty, contributed to the continuation of their habit and Eva’s tragic death.
Eva’s family issued a statement about their daughter late last night, saying : “During her short lifetime she made a huge philanthropic impact, supporting a large number of charitable causes, not only financially, but using her own personal experiences. She bravely fought her health issues for many years. The family is devastated at her death.”
Statements have been issued today by the charities she worked for. Action on Addiction said: “Everyone involved with Action on Addiction is devastated to hear the news of Eva Rausing’s untimely death. Without any desire for public recognition, Eva has, through her wonderfully generous support of this and other charities helped so many people for over 20 years.”
A spokesperson for The Prince's Foundation for Building Community said: "Our condolences have been sent following this tragic news. The Rausings have been long term supporters of the education work of The Prince's Foundation, and we have appreciated their generosity and commitment."
Sixty years and hardly a slip.