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Sun 19 Apr 2015 01:46 PM

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Tony Blair hits back at claims over UAE funding deals

Former UK PM refutes conflict of interest claims; says 'nothing improper' about project being funded by UAE

Tony Blair hits back at claims over UAE funding deals
Former UK prime minister Tony Blair. (Getty Images)

Former UK prime minister Tony Blair has hit back at
allegations of conflict of interest over his role as Middle East peace envoy,
after claims emerged that wealthy businessmen in Abu Dhabi are funding his
private consultancy work to foreign governments.

The UAE was reported to be paying
Blair’s fees for advising several governments, including in Columbia, Serbia
and Vietnam.

In particular, a contract obtained by
the UK’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper reveals that the Columbian government does
not pay Blair any fees for his role advising the country on how it spends a
reported $3 billion earned from mining deals.

Instead, the fees owed to Blair’s
consultancy firm Tony Blair Associates (TBA), are paid for by wealthy
businessmen in Abu Dhabi.

The revelations raise questions as to whether Blair
has used his position as Middle East peace envoy to forge closer connections
with wealthy backers in the UAE.

However, in a statement issued to Arabian
Business
 on Sunday,
Tony Blair’s office refuted the claims, saying there was “absolutely nothing
improper about this project being funded by the UAE”.

According to the Telegraph, the one-year
contract was signed on October 22 2013 between Columbia’s department of
national planning and Windrush Ventures No 3, a limited partnership set up to
channel fees for work done by TBA on behalf of foreign governments.

The two parties signed a further contract
in 2014 under which TBA would provide advice on the management of unspecified
major projects. The 2013 contract reportedly gave Blair and his team
the power to conduct a “stocktake” of the distribution of royalties paid
for by outside companies for mining concessions related to Columbia’s mining
deals.

The contract states that no fees are being paid to TBA
by the Colombian government. But the Colombian government has said “the United
Arab Emirates through the Office of Tony Blair [Windrush Ventures No 3 LP]
domiciled in the UK” had signed an agreement “to support the implementation” of
new rules on how money from mining deals is distributed in Colombia, according
to the newspaper.

Arabian Business reported in March that a new book, Blair
Inc: The Man Behind The Mask
, details how the former prime minister
has amassed a multimillion-pound personal fortune in the eight years since he
left office in 2007 – largely through his consultancy jobs. Among them, Blair
is a paid adviser to Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund, Mubadala, which bought
a gold mine in Colombia two months ago.

The UAE is also understood to be paying
TBA’s fees for advising governments in Serbia and Vietnam. It is not clear how
much the contracts are worth but one source claimed Abu Dhabi could be paying
up to £30 million
($44 billion) in fees - although a spokesperson for Tony Blair dismissed
this figure as “wrong and absurd”.

The latest allegations raise questions
over Blair’s role as a Middle East peace envoy and, according to the Telegraph,
whether he has used that position to befriend wealthy rulers in Abu Dhabi.

The disclosure will heap greater
pressure on Blair to quit as envoy – the newspaper cites one unnamed source as
saying he is expected to announce his resignation in the coming weeks, although
a spokesperson for Blair’s office did not confirm or deny this.

The spokesperson said in a statement
emailed to Arabian Business: “As we have repeatedly made clear, there are no
conflicts of interests with any of Mr. Blair’s work, including his role with
the OQR. All TBA contracts carry a clause explicitly stating that no work
will be undertaken that may be in conflict with that role. We have strict
systems in place to ensure that doesn’t happen.”

The spokesperson added: “The article which appears in
the Sunday Telegraph is the same old mix of the factually inaccurate, smears
and innuendo.

“[The Telegraph] is wrong to say TBA is
overseeing mining deals. Even though we stated that TBA had no involvement
in any laws relating to mining fees or royalties [the newspaper] chose to
ignore it. 

“The suggestion that TBA would breach
the strict confidentiality requirements of legal contracts is untrue and
unfounded. The truth is that the people who keep raising this issue of conflict
are really opposed to Tony Blair’s position on the politics of the Middle East.

“TBA has been working with the Colombian
government since 2013. Information about the project, as well as its funding,
was released in a press statement at the time.

“There is absolutely nothing improper in
this project being funded by UAE. On the contrary, the sole objective is to
support the Colombian government’s reform programme, which aims to modernise
public services and increase prosperity for its people.

“The TBA team works exclusively in the
interest of and for the benefit of the Government of Colombia. As with any
project, we maintain the strict confidentiality requirements of our contract.

“TBA’s work has included support to
improve the country’s [mining-related] royalties’ distribution system, to help
boost economic development and ensure that government revenue is allocated more
equally across the population.

“TBA has also been helping to
establishing a Delivery Unit, so that the government can better deliver
services which will increase jobs, reduce poverty and transform the lives of
people in Colombia. The work being undertaken is solely for the benefit of
Colombia and is at no cost to the government and provided close to cost.”

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall

Francis 5 years ago

Unfortunately no one in the UK would believe a single word that came out of Tony Blairs mouth.

In the UAE he is held in high regard, in the UK he is not.

Rob 5 years ago

Francis,

I am not a supporter of Tony Blair (I vote for Conservative Govt). However, does it matter what Tony Blair does, he does not represent the UK Govt and as an individual everyone has a right to earn money.

Tony Blair's govt may have made mistakes during his time, but it's the people of UK who voted for him 3 times and no point in complaining now.

Rob.

Doug 5 years ago

Of course it matters what Tony Blair does. He is the Quartet's peace envoy and is advising national governments around the world. Therefore, where his money comes from is of great interest and importance as in both of those roles, he is supposed to act with impartiality.

It also raises the question of his priorities - has he neglected in his duty to try and develop a peaceful solution to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian solution while developing business opportunities from the connections that position created for him? Could we have had a solution by now otherwise?

David 5 years ago

I disagree...if TB put himself up for Labour leader he would be taken back by the labour voting 'working class' immediately...they have no idea what goes on in the world outside the UK