Sunday, February 28, 2016

Tony Blair given sensitive Foreign Office papers before business trips to China

Tony Blair has been obtaining sensitive government documents to help him on private business trips to China, The Telegraph can disclose.
The former prime minister has been provided with briefings, including diplomatic cables, by Foreign Office officials for regular visits to Beijing and Shanghai.
The documents include sensitive information from the British Embassy in Beijing which had to be handed over in London to avoid possible interception by China’s security services.
Andrew Bridgen, a Conservative MP who has called for Mr Blair to be more transparent about his business activities, said: “It is surprising that given Mr Blair’s commercial interests he is receiving these confidential Foreign Office briefings before his business trips,” he said.
The Ambassador would particularly welcome the opportunity to brief Mr Blair in person during his visit
Diplomatic official
“Whether their use is in the UK national interest is open to question. It is almost certainly in Mr Blair’s interest, I should imagine.”
Emails seen by The Telegraph show Mr Blair’s staff regularly contact the Foreign Office in advance of his trips to China, often asking for written briefings from officials. He has visited the country 20 times since leaving Downing Street in 2007.
One email sent on Dec 1, 2014 to an official at the British embassy in Beijing by a member of Mr Blair’s staff read: “Mr Blair will be visiting Beijing next week. It would be great if you have a written update on political and economic situation in China that I could have before the end of this week to give to Mr Blair – he always finds them really useful.”
An official replied confirming that a colleague would “pull some written briefing together for you”.
“The Ambassador would particularly welcome the opportunity to brief Mr Blair in person during his visit,” the official added.
The following day an official emailed Mr Blair’s office again, writing: “I can send you recent diptels [diplomatic telegrams]/reporting to cover political and economic situation if that would be helpful?” An email on Dec 5 from the embassy to Mr Blair’s office confirmed a conversation “about passing more sensitive papers to you in London (rather than here in Beijing).”

The A-Z of Tony Blair's global business deals

His trip is thought to have included meetings with Chinese ministers and the president of a health service company in Beijing.
This weekend one former ambassador said it appeared “a bit odd” that Mr Blair was being provided with sensitive material. “He could have been promoting British interests,” the ambassador said. “But we just don’t know.”
Last month a Telegraph investigation disclosed how Mr Blair has been courting influential Chinese political and business leaders and then introducing them to Mubadala, the Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund he works for.
In February 2012, according to an official website, representatives of his firm Tony Blair Associates signed a “strategic cooperation deal” with the government of Kashgar, the westernmost city in China, to help attract international investment.
Mr Blair’s office said that he “received no payment” for the introductions involving his Abu Dhabi client. A spokesman for Mr Blair also denied any “deals” were struck to advise Kashgar.
Yesterday a spokesman for Mr Blair said: “The FCO supports many MPs, select committees and former ministers when travelling overseas as it is in the country’s interests to do so. Mr Blair is no different in this respect.”
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “All former prime ministers are entitled to briefings before they travel abroad. This could include local political briefing to inform them ahead of any visit and relevant security support as appropriate.”
Tony Blair: his global empire of influence
June 27, 2007
After a decade in office, Tony Blair steps out of Downing Street as prime minister for the last time. The same day, he announces that he will be the Quartet's envoy to the Middle East, representing the UN, US, EU and Russia.
July 2007
Mr Blair flies to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for talks with senior officials and members of the royal family, his first official visit as Quartet Representative.

UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan meeting Blair
October 2007
Mr Blair sets up two companies: Windrush Ventures Limited and Windrush Ventures No.1 Limited. It is later understood that Windrush Ventures Limited pays money for Mr Blair’s Government Advisory Practice.
November 2007
During a tour of China, Mr Blair is hired for £200,000 to give a speech to businessmen and government officials. He is criticised by local media for charging a huge sum of money yet apparently failing to say anything interesting.

A real estate firm hired Blair to speak at a 'VIP banquet'
2008
The Rwandan government becomes the first to be advised by Mr Blair’s new charity, the Africa Governance Initiative (AGI). Mr Blair also begins advising the government of Sierra Leone through AGI. In January, it emerges that Mr Blair is earning around £2million a year from the Wall Street bank JP Morgan, providing "strategic advice and insight on global political issues”. The Swiss financial services company Zurich separately announces that it has signed up Mr Blair to advise on "developments and trends in the international political environment" in a deal thought to be worth £500,000 a year. In August, he strikes a deal to advise South Korea’s UI Energy Corporation, which is said to have extensive oil interests in the US and in Iraq.

Blair and Paul Kagame, the Rwandan president
2009
In January, Mr Blair visits Muammar Gaddafi. It later emerges that Mr Blair had six private meetings with the Libyan dictator within three years of leaving Downing Street and on at least two occasions Mr Blair flew to Tripoli on a private jet paid for by the Libyan regime. In May, Mr Blair sets up Firerush Ventures Limited and the following month Firerush Ventures No.1 Limited is incorporated. It is later understood that Firerush Ventures Limited administers the funding for Mr Blair and his team’s work advising companies and sovereign wealth funds. Around July, TBA strikes a lucrative deal to advise Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund, Mubadala, which has a portfolio worth more than £44 billion. Mr Blair also begins advising Liberia’s president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf through his AGI charity.

Blair shakes hands with Gaddafi
November 2010
TBA secures a contract with PetroSaudi, an oil company founded by a senior member of the Saudi royal family, for a fee of £41,000 a month and a two per cent commission on any of the deals he helps broker.
November 2011
Mr Blair strikes a deal to advise Nursultan Nazarbayev, the autocratic president of Kazakhstan. The deal is thought to be worth millions of pounds. Mr Blair later advises him on how to manage his image after the slaughter of unarmed civilians protesting against his regime.

Blair and Nazarbayev (AFP/GETTY)
December 2011
Mr Blair begins advising Alpha Conde’s government in Guinea through his charity AGI, later offering advice on how to improve the government’s image following mass civil unrest, in which nine protesters died and hundreds were injured in clashes with government.

Alpha Conde shakes hands with Blair (AFP)
August 2012
AGI begins work in Malawi, advising President Joyce Banda’s government. Mr Blair’s team later pulled out of the country amid a corruption scandal, but the president’s office insisted the events were not linked. Separately Mr Blair’s consultancy strikes a deal worth almost £4 million a year to advise the state government of São Paulo, the economic powerhouse behind Brazil’s rapidly growing economy. However the sum is disputed by Mr Blair and a key organisation in the deal said he had never started work because the money was never found to fund his team.

Banda presents a gift to Blair (AFP)
September 2012
Mr Blair is reportedly paid $1?million to broker deal to create world’s largest mining company, Glencore Xstrata, in which Qatar had a sizeable stake.
October 2012
On a trip to Vietnam, Mr Blair reportedly offers to advise the government on issues including reforming the country’s economy and attracting more foreign investment. He later reaches an agreement for TBA to provide a team of consultants to work in the country, funded by UAE.

Nguyen Tan Dung, Prime Minister of Vietnam, shaking hands with Blair
January 2013
Mr Blair strikes a deal at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to advise the Peruvian government on issues including public-private partnerships (PPPs). TBA also begins advising Myanmar’s government, where his office says his work is pro-bono.
March 2013
Mr Blair negotiates a contract to advise the Mongolian government just as the country strikes it rich from a vast copper and gold mine in the Gobi desert.

Blair is greeted by a Mongolian official
June 2013
TBA begins advising Edi Rama’s government in Albania. Mr Blair insists his firm is not paid by the Albanian government. Albania is also part of the World Bank-backed Global Network of Delivery Leaders, led by Mr Blair.
October 2013
Two of Mr Blair’s most senior aides fly to Bogota, Colombia’s capital, to sign a deal under which his consultants would monitor the redistribution of billions of pounds earned by Colombia from mining deals. TBA’s consultancy fees are paid for by the UAE, as part as the firm?s deal with the Gulf state.

Blair and Columbia's President Juan Manuel Santos
September 2014
Mr Blair proposes a deal to advise the UAE, which one source claims could be worth £30 million. His team discussed the proposed deal with the UAE’s foreign ministry, which is headed by the minister with whom he works in his role as Quartet Representative.
February 2015
It emerges that Mr Blair is advising Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, through AGI. Kenyatta was indicted by the International Criminal Court for the deaths of hundreds of his countrymen in post-election violence in 2007, but later cleared. The same month TBA confirms that has struck a deal to advise Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, with his work in the country believed to be funded by the UAE.

Blair and Vucic shake hands
March 2015
An audio recording of senior Egyptian military officials suggests that the now- president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s rise to power was partly funded by the UAE. Mr Blair reportedly agreed to advise the Egyptian government as part of a UAE-funded programme promising to deliver huge “business opportunities”.
May 27, 2015
Mr Blair steps down as Quartet representative amid criticism that his diplomatic role had been compromised by his lucrative consultancy work and business deals with governments around the world.