Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Blair and Gaddafi

[The Daily Mail is currently publishing extracts from Blair Inc: The Man Behind The Mask by Francis Beckett, David Hencke and Nick Kochan. Here is part of yesterday’s instalment:]

The confusion Blair creates with his business methods is typified by his contacts with the Libyan dictator, Colonel Gaddafi — as Tim Collins, billionaire founder of a Wall Street investment company and now an ex-friend of the former Prime Minister, discovered to his disgust and dismay.

In April 2009, two years after leaving office, Blair was holding secret talks with Gaddafi about the possible release from prison in the United Kingdom of the convicted Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi.

Libya was threatening to cut all business links if Megrahi stayed in a British jail.

Blair, who flew to Libya at Gaddafi’s expense — and in Gaddafi’s private jet — invited Collins along.

Collins thought he was going in his capacity as a trustee of Blair’s Faith Foundation to promote a campaign for anti-mosquito nets for children in Africa.

When he got there, he found Gaddafi eager to discuss investment to build beach resorts on the Libyan coast.

Mosquito nets were barely mentioned. (...)

Whatever the truth, Collins cringed at Blair’s deferential attitude towards the dictator.

He himself thought Gaddafi quite mad and refused to do business with him.

Blair, however, seems to have had no qualms about an ever closer association with Gaddafi.

In an interview in 2010, a Gaddafi associate acknowledged that the dictator ‘talks regularly to Blair as a friend’ and ‘consults him on many issues.’

Papers found in Tripoli after Gaddafi’s overthrow in 2011 show that Blair held at least six private meetings with him in the three years after he left No 10 Downing Street.

Blair’s involvement with Libya goes back to his days as Prime Minister, when he spotted the considerable commercial benefits to be gained from access to Libya’s colossal reserves of oil and gas, as well as huge opportunities for foreign firms to renew its ancient infrastructure.

In seeking to take advantage of this, he was ably assisted by Sir Mark Allen, a former British spy who spent much of his operational career in the Middle East. He was head of MI6’s counter-terrorism unit, which is alleged to have colluded in the use of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ to torture terror suspects in Libya.

In 2004 his bid to become head of MI6 failed and he retired from public service.

But Prime Minister Blair cleared him to take work immediately as a special adviser for the oil giant BP, despite rules that would normally have prevented a former civil servant from taking money from a large corporation so soon after retirement.

As Blair’s premiership was coming to an end in 2007, Allen used his contacts in both the UK and Libya to resolve issues surrounding the release of Lockerbie bomber al-Megrahi.

This in turn enabled a deal in which BP announced it would return to operations in Libya after a 30-year absence.

Libya under Gaddafi turned out to be a natural place for Blair to exercise his entrepreneurial talent.

On behalf of British companies, he courted the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) and the National Oil Corporation (NOC).

Both the LIA and the NOC were massive and corrupt institutions with fabulous wealth. Regime figures describe Blair lobbying extensively for clients, and in return he intervened personally to aid the Gaddafi clan on several occasions.

He tried to persuade Oxford University to give a place to Saif, Gaddafi’s son, and is thought to have been instrumental in the eventual decision of the LSE to admit him as a PhD student.

His relationship with Gaddafi continued right up to the dictator’s fall.

During the Libyan Revolution, Blair telephoned Gaddafi twice on February 27, 2011, reportedly to ask him to stop the violent crackdown on his opponents.

Gaddafi might reasonably have expected a little help at the time of his greatest need, but that was the last time the two spoke, and a few weeks later Gaddafi was captured and slaughtered.

Perhaps Blair shed a tear for his old chum. Then again, perhaps he didn’t.

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