Kuwaiti finance minister faces questions over deal to pay 'millions' to Tony Blair’s company for advising royal family

 

Kuwaiti MPs are preparing to question the country’s finance minister over a controversial deal in which Tony Blair’s company was allegedly paid millions of pounds to advise its royal family.

The former British prime minister’s consultancy firm was paid a reported £27million in 2009 to advise Kuwait’s rulers on “political and economic trends and governmental reform.”

A number of Kuwaiti MPs are now in the process of gathering information about the appointment, and plan to question the country’s finance minister Mustafa Jassem later this month.

A spokesman for Tony Blair office said at the time that the £27mn figure was exaggerated. The agreement was initially kept secret at the request of the Kuwaiti government, but an audit by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACBA), the body that vets the jobs of former ministers, later revealed that Mr Blair was paid £1mn to advise the royal family.

Earlier this week, opposition MP Faysal al-Musallam wrote to the foreign minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid to ask whether Mr Blair was hired in a personal capacity or as the owner of his consultancy firm, Tony Blair Associates, according to reports in Kuwaiti media.

Dr Abdullah al-Shayji, chairman of the Political Science Department at the Kuwait University, said the move reflected a sense of anger over the deal.

“It was very expensive and was criticised heavily by some newspapers and academics.”

“The MPs are seeking solid information with which to question those responsible for the deal,” he added. 

It is expected that two other opposition MPs, Mosalam al-Barak and Dr Obaid-al Wasmi, will join calls for details of the appointment to be made public.

Mr Blair, who is currently the official Envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East on behalf of the UN, the EU, the US and Russia, has amassed an estimated fortune of £20m since he resigned as Prime Minister in June 2007. 

A spokesman for Mr Blair’s office said the fees paid to Tony Blair Associates were "nowhere remotely near" the £27 million figure previously reported. 

"Mr Blair and his team on the ground are working with the Government of Kuwait on a programme of reform and modernisation. The work involved requires a full-time team of people hired for the project over several years, all of which is a matter of public record, and has been reported extensively in Kuwait and elsewhere.  We are very proud of the work and believe that Kuwait has a great future providing it takes the necessary steps for reform.” 

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