Tony Blair has no problem with the human rights abuses of tyrants in Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Kazakhstan and -- until Gaddafi's demise -- Libya, when he's making deals earning him tens of millions.
31 October 2011
Tony Blair bonding with Nursultan Nazarbayev, the tyrannical president of (surprise, surprise) oil-rich Kazakhstan
Tony Blair may have lost one dictator friend with the death of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
But he need not despair. He has found another autocrat to do business with in the guise of Nursultan Nazarbayev, the president of oil-rich Kazakhstan.
Mr Blair's spokesman has admitted that the former prime minister had set up an 'advisory group' to implement economic reforms in Kazakhstan, a country ruled over for the past 20 years with an authoritarian grip by Mr Nazarbayev.
The deal, according to one source familiar with the deal, is worth as much as £8 million a year although Mr Blair's spokesman denied the amount.
The former prime minister is understood to be working in Kazakhstan with other well-known figures from his New Labour past among them Alastair Campbell, his former spin doctor, and Jonathan Powell, his one-time chief of staff.
The announcement will once again open up Mr Blair to allegations he is cashing in on contacts made during his time in Downing Street.
The Sunday Telegraph revealed last month how Mr Blair had secretly visited Gaddafi six times since leaving Downing Street, travelling on at least two occasions to Tripoli on private jets paid for by the Libyan regime.
Mr Nazarbayev, 71, and Mr Blair, 58, first bonded during a state visit to the UK in 2000, the relationship sealed when Mr Blair allowed the Kazakh president to cradle his then six-month old son Leo. Mr Nazarbayev, who remarked on the importance of family ties, visited again in 2006.
Since leaving Downing Street, Mr Blair has made a number of trips to the former Soviet Republic, despite serious concerns over its human rights record.
The US State Department said in an official report earlier this year there were problems in Kazakhstan with "detainee and prisoner torture", "arbitrary arrest and detention" and "pervasive corruption" among a litany of concerns. Amnesty International noted that "reports of torture or other ill-treatment remained widespread".
Mr Nazarbayev, a former Communist Party boss, has ruled Kazakhstan since independence in 1991. In the presidential elections in April, he won more than 95 per cent of the vote.
Mr Blair last visited the country in May "for the 24th plenary session of the Foreign Investors' Council" held at the new Nazarbayev University in the capital Astana.
Mr Blair was fulsome in his praise for Mr Nazarbayev. "Kazakhstan's achievements are wonderful," he told dignitaries.
Mr Blair also met the president in January this year to discuss the deal which has now been put in place.
Ten days later, in February, Mr Powell flew into Kazakhstan for further negotiations. Mr Campbell , who has his own advisory firm ACFM, visited this month. "Partly, I do some work with some energy companies," Mr Campbell said at the time by way of explanation.
Another former Downing Street adviser Tim Allan, who now runs the public relations company Portland, is also advising Kazakhstan, having won a contract said to be worth as much as £1 million a year.
Lord Mandelson, who has not so far been connected to the Blair deal, has also forged Kazakhstan links in recent times.
He flew there in October last year to address a conference organised by Samruk-Kazyna, the state's sovereign wealth fund whose deputy head is Mr Nazarbayev's son-in-law Timur Kulibayev.
Mr Kulibayev incidentally is close friends with the Duke of York, another regular visitor to the country. Mr Kulibayev bought Prince Andrew's former home in 2007 for £15 million - £3 million more than the asking price - although the house has remained empty ever since.
Mr Kulibayev had a child with Goga Ashkenazi, a Kazakh socialite and businesswoman, who is also a close friend of the prince.
According to reports, the tie-in between Mr Blair and Kazakhstan has delighted authorities there. "His advise is priceless," one official said, "Kazakhstan will get the best advice possible from him on issues connected with policy and the economy. We could not have a better adviser."
Mr Blair has earned a fortune since quitting Downing Street in June 2007.
His wealth is estimated at anywhere between £20 million and £50 million following lucrative contracts with JP Morgan, the US investment bank, and Zurich Financial Services, the Swiss insurance group.
Mr Blair also runs his own business Tony Blair Associates, which advises among others the Kuwait government and Mubadala, an Abu Dhabi investment fund.
After two weeks' of apparent stonewalling on the subject - the suggestion Mr Blair was working for the Kazakhs was first put to his spokesman Matthew Doyle on Oct 7 - Mr Blair's office finally released a statement yesterday confirming the deal.
The statement said: "Tony Blair has helped put together a team of international advisers and consultants to set up an advisory group for the Kazakhs, with a team of people working on the ground. The work they are doing is excellent , sensible and supports the reforms they are making. The Kazakhs also engage with a number of other former European leaders.
"Tony Blair last visited Kazakhstan in May of this year to attend a conference. Tony Blair is not personally making a profit directly or indirectly through Tony Blair Associates or any other company on this."
Follow the oil: Tony's cronies
The details of Mr Blair's consultancy work in Kazakhstan are shrouded in mystery. In statements released to the media Mr Blair has said he has "put together a team of international advisers" in Kazakhstan but insists neither he nor Tony Blair Associates are making a profit. Mr Nazarbayev's top presidential adviser, Yermukhamet Yertysbayev, said Mr Blair would work on "the question of social-economic modernisation of Kazakhstan". Relations between Britain and Kazakhstan are booming and the country's new wealthy elite, which includes the oil tycoon Goga Ashkenazi,below, are making London their second home.
Tony Blair Associates has a contract to provide advice on governance for "several years". The tiny oil-rich Gulf country was the first client of Mr Blair's consultancy business and the Emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Sabah, counts himself a close friend of the former British prime minister. Mr Blair became popular there after he backed the removal of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and the invasion of Iraq.
United Arab Emirates
Mr Blair has fostered a range of business interests in the Gulf kingdoms including acting as an adviser for Mubadala, the sovereign wealth fund which invests Abu Dhabi's oil profits. Mubadala's interests included oil exploration contracts in Libya.
During his time in office Mr Blair – alongside MI6 and Foreign Office staff – was instrumental in bringing Colonel Gaddafi in from the cold. Following his departure from Downing Street he made a number of trips to Tripoli. Critics have accused him of visiting Libya to promote the business interests of JP Morgan, which hired Mr Blair as a consultant. Mr Blair has firmly denied this and said his trips to Libya were part of his ongoing initiative to improve governance in Africa. Documents uncovered in Tripoli after Gaddafi's fall show how Mr Blair flew in the Colonel's private jet twice to Tripoli, in June 2008 and April 2009.