FLYING somewhat under the radar since his absurdist stint as Middle East peace envoy, Tony Blair has resurfaced as the major broker in a booming nexus of Chinese and Saudi oil companies.
The former British prime minister, who led the country for 10 years before an ignominious exit in 2007, has been revealed as a key lobbyist for PetroSaudi in its efforts to penetrate the lucrative Chinese market.
PetroSaudi is partially owned by Prince Turki bin Abdullah, the seventh son of the former monarch, and is based in London despite its Arabian origins. Founded in 2005 by a wealthy Saudi playboy Tarek Essam Ahmad Obaid, the group bills itself as privately owned oil exploration and production company with significant political sway.
A series of documents and emails have now been released which confirm that Blair began lobbying for PetroSaudi in 2010 with his contract stipulating that the oil firm could not reveal his involvement without prior permission. His clients meanwhile expected him to “help deliver transactions, not just make the intros.”
There is no evidence to suggest that Blair went beyond his preferred role of solely making introductions, for which his private company Tony Blair Associates (TBA) was paid £41,000 per month with a two per cent commission for any deals which materialised due to his help.
TBA is actually the trading name of two other groups of companies, Firerush and Windrush, both of which are ultimately owned by Blair through a complex series of partnerships and limited companies which form a chain of Russian Dolls.
A spokesman for the former prime minister said: “His role was made known to the regulators… and he has never undertaken any activity other than making introductions. He does not do ‘deals’.”
The former Labour leader, who has waded in and out of British politics since his departure at the height of the Iraq war, did prove himself to be a worthy investment for the Saudis. Emails reveal that Blair’s efforts in courting influential Chinese leaders paid off with a meeting between PetroSaudi and the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) just months after he was hired.
Owned by the Chinese government, the CNPC is the parent company of the publicly listed PetroChina, and is one of the world’s largest companies with revenue exceeding £300 billion and almost two million employees.
While Blair will doubtlessly be innocent of any legal wrongdoing, the revelations have reopened lingering question marks over his neutrality throughout his role as Middle East peace envoy for the once acclaimed quartet of the US, UN, EU and Russia.
Blair performed the role for nigh on eight years before stepping down in 2015 after making very little, if any, progress on the Israeli-Palestinian question. His announcement as peace envoy raised eyebrows among the satirically minded and sparked fury on the Arab streets.
An opaque network of interests and connections related to Blair and his growing lobbying and property empires now plummets ever deeper into a hardly heartening vortex of totalitarian regimes including Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, the United Arab Emirates, and of course Saudi Arabia and China.