Daily Mail: Ian Birrell on Tony Blair's links with dictators and financiers

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It is hard to sum up the excrebale former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair. Why do peple give him so much money and apparent influence ?

He's taken millions from dictators and cosied up to warlords. As its reported 'Teflon Tony' is plotting an alliance with a super-rich financier, a devastating critique of the... Man who turned amorality into an art form

By Ian Birrell

Ian Birrell @ianbirrell http://www.ianbirrell.com/

PUBLISHED: 00:26, 12 January 2013 | UPDATED: 00:26, 12 January 2013


It was the sort of event the former Labour leader seems to love: a private jet to take him there, a £3,000-a-night hotel suite, and networking with the super-rich. Yet his sanctimonious speech was little more than hypocritical hogwash coming from a man who, to my mind, has turned amorality into an art form.

For all his honeyed words about serving humanity, this is a man who used his contacts book from Downing Street to launch a lucrative career advising absolute monarchs, wealthy bankers and despots.


Take the mystery of his fee for that Beijing speech. Sources in China said he was handed about $200,000 (around £125,000) to deliver the lecture on philanthropy.
But when I asked his office if he was paid -- which might seem at odds with the spirit of both the conference and his speech -- they flatly denied it. His spokeswoman gave me an unambiguous, one-word answer: 'No.'

Yet when I queried this, saying that it conflicted with what I had heard from Beijing, her reply changed. He was not personally paid, she said, but a payment went to one of his charities.


But criticism seems to have no effect on Teflon Tony. Recently he was back in Britain, joking with journalists in Westminster at a Lobby lunch. He sidestepped a question about his earnings while undermining the policies of current Labour leader Ed Miliband, an ally of his detested successor Gordon Brown.

The appearance was a reminder that he still holds ambitions for a leading role on the world stage, perhaps as President of Europe. Unfortunately, it coincided with a key Palestinian official giving a damning verdict on his peacemaking role as 'useless, useless, useless'.

The lunch also came days after another sharp reminder of one of the most sordid episodes in Blair's decade in power -- his disgraceful 'deal in the desert' nine years ago with Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, which brought the despot in from the cold in return for him renouncing his weapons of mass destruction programme.

Less publicised was the apparent agreement for our intelligence services to act as outriders for a regime infamous for its barbarity.

Blair's failed "Quartet" Middle East Peace Envoy role pays for his office in the Georgian listed builing at 9 Grosvenor Square (in sight of the Canadian and USA Embassies)

Inside the intriguing world of Tony Blair Incorporated

Days after Gaddafi's fall, I stood in the wrecked home of the British high commissioner to Libya and found piles of secret documents revealing the disturbingly close links between Blair and the oil-rich tyrant in Tripoli.

There were obsequious letters from Downing Street to Gaddafi, suggested questions from our security services to put to detained dissidents, and even offers to use British special forces to train the regime's most feared troops.

Little wonder that Saif Gaddafi -- whom Blair infamously helped with his dodgy PhD thesis at the London School of Economics -- called him 'a personal family friend'.

Another friend of the former British PM was ousted Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, who used to lend Blair a luxury villa on the Red Sea for holidays. When the Arab Spring erupted and protesters poured into Cairo's Tahrir Square, Blair hailed his corrupt pal -- who embezzled billions -- as 'a force for good'.


Or take his dubious activities in central Asia. Three years ago, Blair was thought to have been paid £90,000 by an obscure oligarch to officially open a methanol plant in Baku. 'I've always wanted to visit Azerbaijan,' he gushed.


Even more disheartening are Blair's dealings in Kazakhstan, where President Nursultan Nazarbayev is reported to have paid an astonishing $13 million to hire him in 2011.

The Kazakh government was delighted by the coup: 'We could not have a better adviser,' said one official. No wonder -- a nasty regime had bought itself a fig-leaf of respectability, albeit for a small fortune.

It seems they did not just get Blair but his acolytes: former spin doctor Alastair Campbell was spotted at the airport in the capital Astana, and Lord Mandelson has reportedly been paid to speak by the state's sovereign wealth fund. Business leaders close to New Labour are also active there.


One New Labour insider told me that Blair was transfixed by money and power. 'His view of the world is totally realist,' the source said. 'So there is nothing to inhibit him from doing business with some of the world's most awful people.'


Since then, he has displayed similar courage standing up to the murderous regime of President Paul Kagame. It has clamped down on internal dissent, sent hit squads to kill dissidents overseas and provoked chaos in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, inflaming the world's deadliest conflict since World War II.

Kagame has been helped by huge sums in foreign aid, but in recent months even his biggest backers in Britain and America suspended funding after the United Nations showed that he was fomenting unrest again in the Congo.

Blair, however, still supports this monstrous man through his personal charity, the African Governance Initiative, which is advising governments in five countries in Africa. Indeed, their relationship is so close that Kagame even put a £30 million private jet at his disposal.


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