Tony Blair’s limitless greed feeds off his war crimesPosted: October 29, 2009
“This beggars belief. It’s absolutely scandalous that he’s now trying to make money from his contacts in the region. It’s money from the blood and lives of the soldiers who died in Iraq.”
by Jon Ungoed-Thomas
First Published: Oct. 18, 2009 – The Sunday Times
TONY BLAIR has been cashing in on his contacts from the Iraq conflict and his role as Middle East peace envoy for a private business venture expected to earn him more than £5m a year.
The former prime minister has sold his political and economic expertise to two countries, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, via his fledgling private consultancy. He also represents the investment bank JP Morgan in the region.
Blair has been working pro bono in the Middle East as a peace envoy while amassing a fortune from the American lecture circuit. By offering himself to the Arab states as a statesman for hire, he could comfortably double his annual earnings.
His consultancy, the London-based Tony Blair Associates (TBA), emulates the New York partnership Kissinger Associates, which was founded by Henry Kissinger, the former national security adviser to President Nixon. One friend of Blair said: “TBA has been set up to make money from foreign governments and major companies. There’s a focus on the Middle East, because that’s where the money is.”
His expanding business interests as he roves across the Middle East means he flips his roles on a daily basis in official meetings: one hour, he is the official peace envoy meeting a Middle East minister or ruler; the next, he is a representative of TBA or JP Morgan.
In some meetings with Arab states, where Blair is introduced as the peace envoy, he has been flanked by Jonathan Powell, his former chief of staff, who accepted a job with Morgan Stanley, another US investment bank, after leaving Downing Street. Powell has no role in the peace process, but is a senior adviser to TBA and helps to win business in the Middle East.
Peter Brierley, 59, of Batley, West Yorkshire, whose 28-year-old son Shaun was killed near the Kuwait-Iraq border in 2003 and who refused to shake Blair’s hand at a memorial service this month, said: “This beggars belief. It’s absolutely scandalous that he’s now trying to make money from his contacts in the region. It’s money from the blood and lives of the soldiers who died in Iraq.”
Just hours after he stepped down from No 10 on June 27, 2007, it was announced that Blair was to work as the Middle East envoy, on behalf of the European Union, the United Nations, the United States and Russia. He was given the job on the strength of his involvement in the Middle East during his premiership.
Four months after leaving office, Blair signed a £5m book deal with Random House. He is working on his memoirs, which are pencilled in for publication next autumn, according to sources at the publisher.
His fees for talks, along with contracts with JP Morgan and Zurich Financial Services, are estimated to put his earnings — excluding the book deal — well in excess of £5m a year. He is also involved in philanthropic works, including his faith foundation and a sports foundation.
TBA’s annual earnings in the Middle East alone could be expected easily to double his income, according to business sources in the region. “The ruling families in some of these countries may be fabulously wealthy, but they crave recognition in the western world,” said one source. “Blair offers that and will be in great demand.”
Blair disclosed last December that he had formed TBA, to advise on “political and economic trends and governmental reform”. One of his first recruits was Powell.
On January 17 this year, Blair was in Saudi Arabia in his peace envoy role to hold talks with King Abdullah on the situation in the Gaza strip and the need to end Israeli aggression. Powell was also on the trip.
Two days later Blair and Powell were ushered in to meet the nephew of the king, Prince Alwaleed, the wealthiest businessman in the Middle East.
Alwaleed, who has a fortune of more than £15 billion, has a 420-room marble palace, a fleet of more than 60 cars and a double-decker jet, the Airbus A380, on order as a private “flying palace”. He has billions of dollars of investments around the world and is chairman of Kingdom Holding Company.
Why would Powell want to meet him? The most likely scenario is that he and Blair were offering TBA’s services or wanted to cultivate Alwaleed as an influential contact. Blair’s spokesman denies TBA business was discussed.
Whether or not they were rebuffed, Blair and Powell packed up their papers to promote TBA’s wares elsewhere. A few days later, on January 26, they popped up in Kuwait. Blair, introduced as the peace envoy, met Sheikh al-Sabah and other senior officials in state rooms. Powell perched discreetly near Blair on a sofa.
This time, they appear to have pulled it off. It emerged a few weeks later that TBA had signed up the country as a client, advising it on “good governance” for what has been reported to be a seven-figure sum. “It’s a big task and he’s working as an adviser on many issues,” a Kuwaiti diplomat said last week.
Blair has enjoyed a longstanding relationship with the Emir of Kuwait. He held talks with Sheikh al-Sabah in May 2003, just weeks after Saddam Hussein was deposed.
Three months after his Kuwait visit this year, on May 24, Blair — in his role as peace envoy — was in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), meeting the education minister. On the same day, he walked into another meeting with the UAE finance minister, representing JP Morgan, the US investment bank, as an adviser. The bank refused to comment on the meeting last week.
Blair is now a regular visitor to Abu Dhabi, typically staying in a £1,500-a-night double suite at the Emirates Palace. The hotel — the most costly ever built — is decked out with acres of gold leaf and renowned for offering guests the chance to consume real gold flakes; scattered on cappuccinos and cakes it can be ingested harmlessly. Guests are said to consume about 13lb of gold each year.
Blair enjoys cordial relations with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the Crown Prince, who was educated at Sandhurst and who is a Ju- Jitsu expert. He held talks with the Crown Prince on his December 2006 prime ministerial tour of the Middle East.
Blair has praised the UAE for helping the Palestinians with millions of pounds for community projects. The country is also on TBA’s secret client list. Sheikh Mohammed’s state investment fund, Mubadala, is understood to have put TBA on its payroll three months ago.
Mubadala’s interests include oil and gas exploration contracts in Libya, a partnership with EADS, the European defence group and a stake in Ferrari.
John McGaw, a senior adviser at Golden Oryx, a business development company in the UAE, said: “[Blair] has a fantastic network, which is still sort of warm from his former days. He lends global credibility to one of the top sovereign wealth funds.”
One of Mubadala’s subsidiaries is building Masdar City, a zero-carbon development that will be powered by solar energy. Blair supported the successful bid for the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) to be based in the city.
On September 3, Blair was once again in Abu Dhabi, giving a speech before the crown prince and other dignitaries on the opportunities of globalisation. His talk — ranging from the Palestinian issue to the profits from globalisation — illustrates how he deftly blends his unpaid role in the Middle East with opportunities to showcase the political and business talent that is available for hire.
While TBA may guarantee Blair’s financial security, he risks, like Kissinger, ruling himself out of future public service as the client list expands.
Kissinger was appointed in 2002 to chair an inquiry into intelligence failures before the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, but came under pressure to reveal the clients of Kissinger Associates. He subsequently stood down, citing a controversy over a conflict of interest.
Blair himself will come under pressure to disclose the client list of TBA if he becomes European Union president, even if he removes himself from the partnership’s day-to-day business.
MPs also believe his work already undermines his role of peace envoy in the Middle East. Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrats’ foreign affairs spokesman, said: “The role of peace envoy, the office of which is subsidised by the taxpayer, is not meant to be an opportunity to look for new business opportunities for Tony Blair Associates.”
Blair’s spokesman said it was “absolute nonsense” to suggest that Blair was using contacts from the Iraq conflict or his work as peace envoy for business purposes. He said Blair had known the Emir of Kuwait since 1995.
He said TBA work did not represent a conflict of interest with his peace role. Kingdom Holding Company was not a TBA client and paid consultancy work with Kuwait had been completed, he said. “Tony Blair is in high demand for his advice and analysis in geopolitics,” the spokesman said.
“However, the vast majority of his time is spent on his unpaid activities, principally his role as quartet representative.”
Voters against EU treaty
The Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, has called for a national referendum on the Lisbon treaty as it emerged in a survey that Britain would vote more than two-to-one against.
In a YouGov poll for The Sunday Times, 41% of respondents said they would vote against the treaty in a referendum, with 18% in favour; 41% were undecided.
An equal proportion of the population — 38% — were for and against Tony Blair becoming president of the European Union.
Klaus’s intervention on a referendum came in an open letter addressed to the Czech constitutional court. He has so far refused to sign the treaty, which has been ratified by all other EU members.
The houses that Tony bought
South Pavilion, Buckinghamshire
Purchase price: £4m
A seven-bedroom mansion bought in 2008. The mansion, once owned by Sir John Gielgud, is a few miles from Chequers, the prime ministerial retreat.
Connaught Square, London
Purchase price: £3.65m
A five-storey grade II listed Georgian townhouse bought in September 2004. The house is now the Blairs’ main London residence.
Archery Close, London
Purchase price: £800,000 (estimated)
A mews house bought in February 2007. The intention was to improve the security of the Blairs’ main London residence.
Myrobella, Co Durham
Purchase price: £30,000
A four-bedroomed home bought in 1983 after Blair was elected as MP for Sedgefield.
Now for sale for £300,000.
Purchase price: £1.13m
Mews property bought in September this year with no mortgage.
The house — with three bathroooms and a sun terrace — is owned by Cherie Blair and her son Nicky.
The Panoramic, Bristol
Purchase Price: £525,000
Two flats bought for £260,000 and £265,000 in 2002. Peter Foster, a conman, helped with the purchase.