A forthcoming British TV documentary claims that Tony Blair is making tens of millions of pounds a year by exploiting his position as the Quartet’s envoy to the Middle East. According to a report on the documentary in the British newspaper, The Telegraph, Blair’s Middle East financial activities apparently represent a glaring conflict of interest with his responsibilities as Quartet envoy. This conflict would not be tolerated if Blair were a British, IMF or World Bank official, according to the newspaper.
The new documentary, “The Wonderful World of Tony Blair,” claims that the former British Prime Minister has earned vast sums as a consultant for the U.S. banking giant JP Morgan, British Gas, the former Libyan government and QTEL, a Qatari telecommunication company, among others.
According to the TV film, Blair’s company, Tony Blair Associates, earned an eye-popping £27 million for providing advice to the Kuwaiti government on its future economic policy. The Telegraph characterized this payment as exorbitant, implying strongly that the intent of the transaction was not fully disclosed. The Kuwaiti deal was secret for two years, and its details and the amount paid Blair have still not been officially acknowledged.
The Telegraph criticizes Blair for spending only a week or less on his Quartet job and the rest of the time making use of his position as envoy to become an enormously rich man. Here is how the newspaper describes Blair’s QTEL (Ataxia Mobile) deal in which he helped the Qatari company set up a mobile telephone system in the West Bank:
Let’s take the example of the deal trumpeted by Mr. Blair as one of his greatest achievements in his role as Quartet Representative [emphases mine] – his success in persuading the Israeli government to open up radio frequencies so that the phone company Ataxia Mobile can operate in the West Bank.
Ataxia Mobile’s chief executive officer Bassam Hanoun cannot praise Mr. Blair too highly. He told us that the Ataxia network had been built, “but it was dead, not operational” – until Mr. Blair’s forceful intervention with Israeli ministers.
Yet Wataniya’s owner, the Qatari telecoms giant QTEL, is a major client of one of the former prime minister’s most significant paymasters, JP Morgan. When QTEL bought Ataxia Mobile’s parent company, Ataxia International, in 2007, the company did so with a $2 billion loan that JP Morgan helped to arrange, and the bank stood to make huge profits once the radio frequencies were released.
Update: The Telegraph has followed the report above with an investigative piece on the varied business empire of Mr. Blair.