The scale of Tony Blair’s globe-trotting is exposed for the first time in secret documents that suggest the taxpayer is paying up to £16,000 a week to help the former prime minister build his business empire.
Documents seen by The Telegraph contain details of Mr Blair’s travels around the world, accompanied by a squad of police bodyguards, flying on private jets and staying in five-star hotels.
The files suggest Mr Blair has used identical trips to carry out both private business meetings and talks in his capacity as Quartet Representative to the Middle East – leaving him open to accusations of a potential conflict of interest.
The documents show how Mr Blair has been visiting up to five countries a week – at a potential cost of between £14,000 and £16,000 to the public purse.
One British ambassador described how a number of companies linked to Mr Blair, including his wife’s law firm, were “sniffing for work” in one European country.
During the trips Mr Blair must be accompanied by a team of Metropolitan Police officers, whose salary, overtime, expenses, travel and meals are picked up by the taxpayer. The most complex trips involve eight officers of varying ranks, while at least four remain at his homes in Britain. Each of the 12 officers is likely to be earning at least £56,000, but can earn upwards of £70,000 due to the overtime they accumulate on foreign trips.
Documents seen by the Telegraph as part of an investigation into Mr Blair’s business interests show how he has nurtured a network of some of the world’s most influential leaders and businessmen to build up a roster of clients paying tens of millions of pounds for his advice.
However, the disclosures prompted suggestions that his paid work had created what appears to be a series of conflicts of interest with his unpaid envoy role, from which he will step down at the end of this month after eight years.
One ambassador who attended meetings with Mr Blair on his Quartet work said the apparent conflict was “pretty distasteful”, adding that Mr Blair “used the ticket of the Middle East Envoy and Quartet” to deal with governments on a commercial basis.
The Telegraph investigation revealed how:
- Mr Blair stays with his entourage in five-star hotels around the world, with each room for his police bodyguards costing the taxpayer an estimated £1,000 on multi-leg trips;
- The former prime minister travels on a series of private jets, in some cases lent by clients and governments;
- Mr Blair secured a £1 million private contract with the World Bank, while simultaneously working with the Bank in his role at Middle East envoy;
- He struck lucrative commercial deals with Abu Dhabi while he was also in negotiations with the emirate as Middle East envoy over $45 million (£29 million) funding for the Palestinian Authority;
- Mr Blair’s team has sought assistance from British officials in order to further his private business interests, including briefings on countries including Canada, Albania and Macedonia;
- In several cases the influential figures Mr Blair meets on private business trips are the same people who are his contacts in his official role as Quartet envoy;
Andrew Bridgen, a Conservative MP who has previously criticised Mr Blair’s wide-ranging business interests, called for Mr Blair to declare fully all his dealings. He said: “Mr Blair has consistently blurred the line between his official and commercial activities, while his security entourage has incurred huge expenses for the British taxpayer.
“It is not appropriate for a man who has held the highest office in the land and has been privy to every one of our nation’s secrets to undertake work for a foreign power.”
The A-Z of Tony Blair’s global business deals
Chris Doyle, the director of The Council for Arab-British Understanding, said: “Mr Blair needs to be transparent about his business activities, otherwise he faces the risk of being accused of having conflicts of interest.”
The investigation gives the most detailed picture yet of Mr Blair’s crowded international itinerary. The files show how he is shepherded around America on a speaking tour, and crams meetings with ministers and business leaders into 24-hour visits to Abu Dhabi – one of his biggest clients.
The total cost of wages and expenses for the 12-strong team guarding him would amount to between £14,000 and £16,000 for each week he is travelling, based on a conservative estimate of the number of officers remaining in Britain, and a reported figure of £5,000 expenses per week.
It is likely that Mr Blair picks up the cost of his bodyguards’ travel when they fly on private jets. In one week in February 2012 Mr Blair travelled to Israel in his role as Middle East envoy and then flew on to UAE, Qatar, China and Kazakhstan where he conducted a mixture of charity work and private business.
He stayed with his entourage at hotels including the five-star Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi and the Four Seasons in Doha.
Mr Blair has also been nurturing a relationship with Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia.
At one meeting in January 2011, apparently attended by Mr Blair at least partly in his capacity as Quartet envoy, he was accompanied by Stephan Kriesel, the then head of his government advisory practice.
A spokesman for Mr Blair said that Mr Kriesel “happened to be travelling with him”.
The Telegraph’s investigation also reveals how Mr Blair’s firm, Tony Blair Associates, now has a £1.1 million contract with the World Bank to carry out consultancy work, after he enjoyed a close relationship with the Bank as Quartet envoy. A member of the World Bank staff was seconded to work in his Quartet office.
As part of its contract with the Bank, Tony Blair Associates has provided a team of consultants to advise the Romanian government on setting up a “delivery unit”.
The Bank said Mr Blair’s firm offered “the most competitive price” of five competing bids. A spokesman for Mr Blair said the work was “not for profit”.
In October 2013 Nicholas Cannon, the British ambassador to Albania, told Whitehall mandarins that several “Blair-related outfits” were “sniffing for work in Albania”, including Cherie Blair’s law firm Omnia Strategy.
A spokesman for Mr Blair said: “There are no conflicts of interests with any of Mr Blair’s work, including his role as Quartet representative.”
“Clear policies and procedures” were in place to prevent conflicts, including a clause in his commercial contracts stating he will not undertake work that conflicts with his Quartet responsibilities.”
The spokesman added that Abu Dhabi’s funding for the Palestinian Authority came from a “separate organisation” to Mubadala, the sovereign wealth fund that Mr Blair advises.
She added that Mr Blair had “absolutely never used his position as a Quartet representative to further business interests” and suggested that it was in “the country’s interests” for Foreign Office officials to support Mr Blair’s work abroad.
Spokesmen for Mr Blair and Scotland Yard declined to comment on his security arrangements.
A day in the life of Tony Blair
Tony Blair’s diary is planned meticulously while he is on the lecture circuit. On one trip to the US in 2011, he attended three business events in as many days in California.
At 7.30am on Nov 1, having arrived in San Francisco the night before, Mr Blair was driven to an event for Charles Scwhab, an investment bank. His duties began at 7.45 with a 45-minute meeting “with 10 VIPs”, before making a 30-minute speech. There was then half an hour of questions, then 45 minutes of photographs.
Then, Mr Blair was on his way to the airport for a 500-mile trip to San Diego, where he was to appear at 2.45pm at the annual conference of the Professional Liability Underwriting Society.
An hour later, Mr Blair was on a plane back to San Francisco to appear at a fundraising event for the US arm of his Faith Foundation.
The next day he had a morning meeting before lunch with Sergey Brin, the Google co-founder, then departing for Napa at 2.30pm for a JP Morgan conference . He arrived at Auberge du Soleil, a hotel and spa, for cocktails at 6.30pm, where he was “to mingle” for an hour among the 130 attendees.
After dinner he would take part in a “fireside chat” with a news presenter, then after another 20-minute Q&A, Mr Blair, duties over, was on his way to his hotel in Napa — at no later than 9.05pm.
Tony Blair’s global empire of influence
Photo: Reuters/Ronen Zvulun
27 June 2007
After a decade in office, Tony Blair steps out of Downing Street as prime minister for the last time. The same day, he announces that he will be the Quartet’s envoy to the Middle East, representing the UN, US, EU and Russia.
July 2007UAE FOREIGN MINISTER SHEIKH ABDULLAH BIN ZAYED AL NAHYAN MEETING BLAIR
Mr Blair flies to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for talks with senior officials and members of the royal family, his first official visit as Quartet Representative.
Mr Blair sets up two companies: Windrush Ventures Limited and Windrush Ventures No.1 Limited. It is later understood that Windrush Ventures Limited pays money for Mr Blair’s Government Advisory Practice.
November 2007A REAL ESTATE FIRM HIRED BLAIR TO SPEAK AT A ‘VIP BANQUET’
During a tour of China, Mr Blair is hired for £200,000 to give a speech to businessmen and government officials. He is criticised by local media for charging a huge sum of money yet apparently failing to say anything interesting.
2008BLAIR AND PAUL KAGAME, THE RWANDAN PRESIDENT
The Rwandan government becomes the first to be advised by Mr Blair’s new charity, the Africa Governance Initiative (AGI). Mr Blair also begins advising the government of Sierra Leone through AGI.
In January, it emerges that Mr Blair is earning around £2million a year from the Wall Street bank JP Morgan, providing “strategic advice and insight on global political issues”. The Swiss financial services company Zurich separately announces that it has signed up Mr Blair to advise on “developments and trends in the international political environment” in a deal thought to be worth £500,000 a year.
In August, he strikes a deal to advise South Korea’s UI Energy Corporation, which is said to have extensive oil interests in the US and in Iraq.
2009BLAIR SHAKES HANDS WITH GADDAFI
In January, Mr Blair visits Muammar Gaddafi. It later emerges that Mr Blair had six private meetings with the Libyan dictator within three years of leaving Downing Street and on at least two occasions Mr Blair flew to Tripoli on a private jet paid for by the Libyan regime.
In May, Mr Blair sets up Firerush Ventures Limited and the following month Firerush Ventures No.1 Limited is incorporated. It is later understood that Firerush Ventures Limited administers the funding for Mr Blair and his team’s work advising companies and sovereign wealth funds.
Around July, TBA strikes a lucrative deal to advise Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund, Mubadala, which has a portfolio worth more than £44 billion. Mr Blair also begins advising Liberia’s president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf through his AGI charity.
TBA secures a contract with PetroSaudi, an oil company founded by a senior member of the Saudi royal family, for a fee of £41,000 a month and a two per cent commission on any of the deals he helps broker.
November 2011BLAIR AND NAZARBAYEV PHOTO: AFP/GETTY
Mr Blair strikes a deal to advise Nursultan Nazarbayev, the autocratic president of Kazakhstan. The deal is thought to be worth millions of pounds.
Mr Blair later advises him on how to manage his image after the slaughter of unarmed civilians protesting against his regime.
December 2011ALPHA CONDE SHAKES HANDS WITH BLAIR. PHOTO: AFP
Mr Blair begins advising Alpha Conde’s government in Guinea through his charity AGI, later offering advice on how to improve the government’s image following mass civil unrest, in which nine protesters died and hundreds were injured in clashes with government.
August 2012BANDA PRESENTS A GIFT TO BLAIR. PHOTO: AFP
AGI begins work in Malawi, advising President Joyce Banda’s government. Mr Blair’s team later pulled out of the country amid a corruption scandal, but the president’s office insisted the events were not linked.
Separately Mr Blair’s consultancy strikes a deal worth almost £4 million a year to advise the state government of São Paulo, the economic powerhouse behind Brazil’s rapidly growing economy. However the sum is disputed by Mr Blair and a key organisation in the deal said he had never started work because the money was never found to fund his team.
Mr Blair is reportedly paid $1 million to broker deal to create world’s largest mining company, Glencore Xstrata, in which Qatar had a sizeable stake.
October 2012NGUYEN TAN DUNG, PRIME MINISTER OF VIETNAM, SHAKING HANDS WITH BLAIR.
On a trip to Vietnam, Mr Blair reportedly offers to advise the government on issues including reforming the country’s economy and attracting more foreign investment.
He later reaches an agreement for TBA to provide a team of consultants to work in the country, funded by UAE.
Mr Blair strikes a deal at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to advise the Peruvian government on issues including public-private partnerships (PPPs).
TBA also begins advising Myanmar’s government, where his office says his work is pro-bono.
March 2013BLAIR IS GREETED BY A MONGOLIAN OFFICIAL.
Mr Blair negotiates a contract to advise the Mongolian government just as the country strikes it rich from a vast copper and gold mine in the Gobi desert.
TBA begins advising Edi Rama’s government in Albania. Mr Blair insists his firm is not paid by the Albanian government. Albania is also part of the World Bank-backed Global Network of Delivery Leaders, led by Mr Blair.
October 2013BLAIR AND COLOMBIAN PRESIDENT JUAN MANUEL SANTOS.
Two of Mr Blair’s most senior aides fly to Bogota, Colombia’s capital, to sign a deal under which his consultants would monitor the redistribution of billions of pounds earned by Colombia from mining deals.
TBA’s consultancy fees are paid for by the UAE, as part as the firm’s deal with the Gulf state.
Mr Blair proposes a deal to advise the UAE, which one source claims could be worth £30 million.
His team discusses the proposed deal with the UAE’s foreign ministry, which is headed by the minister with whom he works in his role as Quartet Representative.
February 2015BLAIR AND VUCIC SHAKE HANDS.
It emerges that Mr Blair is advising Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, through AGI. Kenyatta was indicted by the International Criminal Court for the deaths of hundreds of his countrymen in post-election violence in 2007, but later cleared.
The same month TBA confirms that has struck a deal to advise Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, with his work in the country believed to be funded by the UAE.
An audio recording of senior Egyptian military officials suggests that the now- president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s rise to power was partly funded by the UAE.
Mr Blair reportedly agrees to advise the Egyptian government as part of a UAE-funded programme promising to deliver huge “business opportunities”.
27 May 2015
Mr Blair steps down as Quartet representative amid criticism that his diplomatic role had been compromised by his lucrative consultancy work and business deals with governments around the world.