1. Former PM Tony Blair’s role as Middle East peace envoy opened doors;
2. In 2015 he flew to Nigeria to meet the new president, Muhammadu Buhari;
3. Offered to sell Israeli drones and equipment to help defeat Boko Haram;
4. Credentials then helped him win £20m deal with Kuwait to review economy and
5. Later agreed to help dodgy company in South Korea secure an oil contract
At the Nigerian embassy, Blair was keen to discover more about the threat posed by Boko Haram, the Islamic terror group murdering hundreds of civilians in the north of the country. Then, armed with the classified information, he sped in a motor cavalcade to the president’s office. It was their first meeting. Blair introduced himself grandly as ‘Britain’s most successful Prime Minister’ and then launched into his practised sales pitch. ‘I pioneered the skills to make government work effectively,’ he told the president. ‘The Delivery Unit is the leader’s weapon to make his government effective across the civil service and country.’ He offered to establish a delivery unit within Buhari’s government, with paid staff. But the president — a former army general and military dictator famous for imprisoning his opponents without trial — looked bored. So did Lebedev, who had only come along because he was interested in Blair’s charity work fighting the Ebola virus. ‘Could you all leave us alone now?’ Blair announced suddenly. ‘I have a personal message for the president from David Cameron.’ But it was nothing of the kind.
Twenty minutes later, Buhari emerged looking noticeably disgruntled.
Blair, he told an aide, had used his access to tout for business on behalf of his private company, Tony Blair Associates. Without so much as a blush, he had offered to sell the president Israeli drones and other military equipment to help defeat the Boko Haram uprising. ‘Blair is just after business,’ muttered Buhari. During the drive back to the airport, the local organiser for Blair’s AGI charity asked whether he was mixing charity and business. ‘We don’t do business in Africa,’ Blair replied. ‘Don’t worry. Only AGI and charitable work. We only do business in the Middle East and Asia.’ Two weeks later, the local AGI organiser called Buhari’s office to ask whether the president wanted to go ahead with a delivery unit. He was rebuffed. ‘The president was not happy with Blair pushing the Israeli business,’ Buhari’s office warned him.
Anyone else might have desisted; not the eternally optimistic Blair. Six weeks later, in London, he met Bukola Saraki, the president of the Nigerian senate and third most powerful person in the country. This time, as he discussed opportunities to introduce investors from the Middle East to Nigeria, he was more successful. ‘We’d like that,’ said Saraki — who was fully aware that Blair now also represented a wealth fund based in Abu Dhabi. In his quest for profitable work, Blair sometimes agreed to give well-paid speeches — including an address in Orlando, Florida, to the International Sanitary Supply Association — manufacturers of lavatory cleaners. But for the most part, he concentrated on offering advice to sheikhs, presidents and dictators. He was pushing at an open door — after all, few other people in the world could confide to potential clients that they had access to President Obama and other world leaders. His impeccable credentials helped win him a £20 million deal with Kuwait to review the country’s economy. Selected Kuwaiti experts were hired for the project and flown to London for training. His visitors were directed to conduct exhaustive research in Kuwait to identify the country’s problems. Then they were asked to visit Singapore in order to study the country’s excellent education system, and South Korea to study the health system. Blair’s eventual report — ‘Kuwait Vision 2035’ — was greeted with derision. It was a lengthy repetition of Kuwait’s well- known problems, concluding with a series of impractical solutions, according to critics. To save face, the country’s rulers buried the report.
Not surprisingly, Blair was discovering that trading access to earn millions of pounds could be a grubby business. U.I. Energy of South Korea wanted his help to secure an oil contract. No matter that the company was later embroiled in a corruption scandal — Blair accepted the fee.
From another company called PetroSaudi, he was paid £41,000 a month plus 2 per cent commission on any deals he brokered with Chinese officials. It was short-lived: PetroSaudi was subsequently accused of bribing Malaysian politicians. Another of Blair’s lucrative deals, in 2011, was with Nursultan Nazarbayev, the dictator of Kazakhstan, whom he’d once welcomed to Downing Street. Unfortunately, soon after the ex-PM started working for him, Kazakh security forces shot dead 14 unarmed protesters and wounded 60 others. There were also reports of opponents being tortured. ‘I don’t dismiss the human rights stuff,’ said Blair, trying to justify his connection with the dictator. ‘These are points we make. There’s a whole new generation of administrators there who are reformers, and we’re working with them.’
In an hour-long video about Nazarbayev, Blair could be seen sitting happily beside him, and repeatedly eulogising him. He also arranged for his old crony Alastair Campbell and former Downing Street spokesman Tim Allan to promote the despot. The following year, Nazarbayev asked Blair for advice about a speech he was about to make in Cambridge. How should he address the killing of the 14 civilians? ‘Tragic though they were,’ Blair wrote, ‘that should not obscure the enormous progress that Kazakhstan has made.’ While expanding his empire, Blair has also added greatly to the fortunes of his original employer, J.P. Morgan. Back in 2010, he asked for a one-on-one meeting with the then Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan — ostensibly to offer the services of AGI and the Faith Foundation to help reconcile the country’s Muslims and Christians. Again, he was given an intelligence briefing by the British embassy in advance. But having charmed the president and — in the words of Jonathan’s staff — satisfied his ego, Blair then introduced him to J.P. Morgan chief Jamie Dimon.
The banker offered to manage Nigeria’s sovereign wealth fund — and Jonathan agreed. No other bank in the world was asked to tender for this profitable work. From Nigeria, Blair flew with Dimon to Liberia, where he already had a charity AGI team in place to advise the president. The upshot? J.P. Morgan invested in a commercial project in Liberia. Then, in September 2012, Blair was asked by a banker to help Ivan Glasenberg, the chief executive of Glencore, the world’s biggest commodity trading house, to buy a rival called Xstrata. To succeed, Glasenberg needed the support of the prime minister of Qatar, which owned nearly 12 per cent of Xstrata’s shares. So a hefty fee was agreed for Blair to introduce the pair and encourage the deal. Although present at their hour-long meeting, he remained curiously silent. Afterwards, Glasenberg wondered if Blair’s huge fee had been a waste of money.
In addition to serving bankers, Blair had many other commercial paymasters — such as Mubadala of Abu Dhabi. This was a sovereign wealth fund that reportedly invested £3.6 billion in 2013 to mine bauxite in Guinea — where Blair already had AGI staff in the president’s office. And as Mubadala started investing in Vietnam, Serbia, Colombia and West Africa, Blair was contracted to earn commissions of up to 20 per cent. He also popped up on the advisory panel that supervised the construction of British Petroleum’s £32 billion oil pipeline from Azerbaijan to the Mediterranean.
Oddly enough, he was also paid to advise the president of Azerbaijan. In addition, his services were called in when BP was seeking new oil concessions in Abu Dhabi. The sheikh who employed Blair privately to work for his investment fund also happened to be the head of Abu Dhabi’s Supreme Petroleum Council. And so it goes on. Today, with his tangled web of charity and private interests, Blair remains at the centre of a bewildering number of enterprises. By February this year, he claimed to have established a network of commercial contacts in 25 nations — in parallel with charity enterprises in 20 countries.
In the process, he had amply fulfilled his pledge to Cherie. The Blairs are now indeed seriously rich, and have so far spent more than £25 million on UK property alone. Yet, still, Tony Blair cannot resist seeking new deals. To this day, he continues to be feted as a celebrity in destitute African countries run by corrupt leaders and dictators — the very people he pledged as Prime Minister to remove. But in the rest of the world his stock is besmirched