Thursday, 29 September 2011

Blair Inc.

Tony Blair's Byzantine world of advisers and lucrative deals
Since leaving office, Tony Blair has adopted many roles. The international statesman. The guardian of Africa. The religious leader. The global businessman.

Tony Blair, Special Envoy of the Middle East Quartet, with United Nations Secretary General United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (R) at the United Nations in New York Photo: AFP/GETTY

By Jason Lewis, Investigations Editor

9:29PM BST 24 Sep 2011
He travels the world, a highly publicised diplomatic mission in the morning and a private, never mentioned, business deal signed in the afternoon.
Combining these myriad, sometimes apparently conflicting, personas requires skill and dexterity – and a global organisation he has quietly built to service them.
An investigation by The Sunday Telegraph can reveal new details of the complex structure behind “Tony Blair Inc”. It can also be disclosed that Mr Blair has built links with Monitor Group, an American public affairs consultancy that earned millions of pounds working for Col Muammar Gaddafi, the deposed Libyan dictator.
The former Prime Minister employed at least three staff from Monitor Group as senior advisers to his personal office at the same time as he put together multi-million pound deals in Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The men were all on the payroll of the US consultancy firm at the same time as they were representing Mr Blair.
Monitor, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is the subject of increasing scrutiny in the US over millions of dollars it earned attempting to boost the image of Gaddafi.
Mr Blair’s organisation, a Byzantine web of highly specialised limited partnerships and parallel companies, is baffling in its structure.
He has a commercial consultancy, Tony Blair Associates, and jobs advising JP Morgan, the US bank, and Zurich Financial Services, the Swiss insurer. He has set up two major international charities, the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative (AGI) and the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.
Much of Mr Blair’s income has been funnelled through a structure called Windrush Ventures, which also runs and pays for the Office of Tony Blair in Grosvenor Square, London.
From here, Mr Blair and his staff coordinate his commercial activities, reputedly bringing in £7 million a year. The organisation lets Mr Blair’s roles overlap. A role fostering good governance in Africa, designed to combat corruption, also establishes excellent contacts with local leaders with the power to award contracts.
His diplomatic role as Middle East peace envoy for the Quartet (the UN, Russia, US, and EU) also gives Mr Blair unfettered access to the leading political players in the region. It also allows just the sort of introduction a client might later require.
At its heart of this international juggling act are a loyal coterie of staff. Our investigation shows how Mr Blair has pulled together a team which spans loyal former staff from Downing Street, high-flying management consultants and a series of well-connected, and, in many cases, wealthy, Americans from Wall Street and the Bush and Clinton administrations.
One of the key figures is Ruth Turner, Mr Blair’s former director of government relations at Number 10, who is chief executive of his Faith Foundation and paid a reputed six-figure salary. She has no role outside Mr Blair's charitable foundations and is not involved in his commercial activities.
She leads a line-up of people recruited from senior positions in government, including Nick Thompson, now the chief executive of AGI, who previously headed up the climate change unit at the Department for Business. Paul Skidmore, AGI’s director of strategy and fund-raising, is a former adviser to David Miliband, and Andrew Ratcliffe, its “lessons learned” project leader, was in Mr Blair’s Downing Street Strategy Unit.
Other Whitehall allies are scattered around the world.
Malte Gerhold, once of the prime minister’s Delivery Unit, is project leader for AGI in Sierra Leone, along with two former colleagues, while a similar project in Rwanda is led by Jonathan Reynaga, an ex-Downing Street senior policy adviser.
Mr Blair’s Whitehall links also connect him to the Monitor Group. Monitor paid Sir Mark Allen – formerly MI6 director of counter terrorism and the man who paved the way for Mr Blair’s first visit to Gaddafi in Tripoli in 2004 – as a consultant.
After leaving the Secret Intelligence Service, Sir Mark used his Middle East contacts to help BP win a series of deals in Libya and forged close links with Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the dictator’s son.
Mr Blair began to use Monitor staff in 2008. Between December 2009 and May last year, Abdullah AlAsousi was the Office of Tony Blair’s senior adviser in Kuwait, when he also worked at Monitor to help clients with “opportunities” across the Middle East.
Last year, he was replaced by Naser Almuntairi, another Monitor consultant, who acts as Mr Blair’s government consultant in Kuwait. The former prime minister also employs an American, Holly Barnes, a public relations expert, in Kuwait.
She is paid directly through Mr Blair’s holding company Windrush Ventures. All three are believed to have been involved in Mr Blair’s deal advising the country’s monarchy, which has earned him a reputed £27 million.
Another Monitor employee, Khaled Jafar, is Mr Blair’s “government consultant” covering Dubai and its neighbour Abu Dhabi, to whose Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Mr Blair is close.
Mr Blair has praised the UAE for millions of pounds of help for Palestinian community projects, and Sheikh Mohammed’s state investment fund, Mubadala, is said to have Mr Blair on its payroll. Mubadala’s interests include oil exploration contracts in Libya.
It is with the American worlds of politics and finance that Mr Blair has found especially close ties. He relies on the advice of a series of well connected businessmen, the foremost of which is Paolo Pellegrini, a financier. Mr Pellegrini, is president of AGI in the US, and was once the right-hand man of John Paulson, a hedge fund boss. It was Mr Pellegrini who predicted the collapse of the US subprime housing market, prompting Mr Paulson’s fund to bet on the collapse of the US housing market, netting a $20 billion (£12  billion) profit.
Another key adviser is Tim Collins, a billionaire businessman who accompanied Mr Blair on a trip to Libya to meet Gaddafi.
A friend of Bill Clinton, he is a director of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, like Linda LeSourd, whose husband Philip Lader was an ambassador to London. But he is able to call on people close to the Republicans: one adviser to the Office of Tony Blair is Milli Anne Grigory, an adviser to George W Bush and a Republican fund-raiser.
Last night, a spokesman for Monitor Group said: “Monitor has no business relationship with the Office of Tony Blair.”
Also see:

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Michael Brown 3

No one told us Lib Dem fraudster was on our island, say Dominican police.

New details have emerged of how the millionaire fraudster and Liberal Democrat donor Michael Brown escaped justice.

New details have emerged of how the millionaire fraudster and Liberal Democrat donor Michael Brown escaped justice.
Brown escaped from Britain on a false passport three years ago while on bail awaiting trial for a £36 million fraud 
Police in the Dominican Republic are now searching for the British fugitive, backed by a threat to deport him because he is in the country on false documents.
But they expressed dismay that British police never told them that Brown was on the Caribbean island.
The con man was in custody on unrelated charges for three months this year, but freed because they had no idea he was a wanted man.
"We cannot deal with what we do not know," said the judge who jailed him.
Brown escaped from Britain on a false passport three years ago while on bail awaiting trial for a £36 million fraud. He has been living a millionaire's lifestyle on the Caribbean island, which has no extradition agreement with Britain.
The Sunday Telegraph can reveal that he has been sharing a series of exclusive homes with his "concubina", Carol Baez, 26, a student.
The whereabouts of his wife, Sharon, who has been living in Majorca are unknown. Telephone bills from Brown's home in the Dominican Republic showed that he was in almost daily contact with her until last November.
It can also be revealed that the Parliamentary Ombudsman has begun a "maladministration" investigation into Brown's £2.4 million donation to the Liberal Democrats before the 2005 election, heaping fresh embarrassment on the party at the start of its annual conference.
City of London Police say they have known Brown's whereabouts for some time. Last week two men were arrested on suspicion of helping Brown escape.
Despite this, the island's Policia Nacional and the Dominican branch of Interpol say they were never alerted that Brown, who is living under the alias Darren Patrick Nally, was in their country.
Last February, Brown was sent to La Victoria prison outside Santo Domingo after being arrested as he tried to flee the country. He had been under house arrest after a private prosecution by two local businessmen in a dispute over a £1.5 million oil deal.
Brown apparently persuaded the men to invest in the project but failed to honour the deal.
Judge Ileana Garcia Perez ordered him to be detained at La Victoria prison. Brown had his head shaved and was taken to the jail, where thousands of prisoners are reputed to live in squalid conditions. He was released last May and vanished without the island's authorities knowing he was an international fugitive.
Judge Perez said last night: "I had no idea this man was anyone other than Darren Nally.
"We had not been given any information by the British that he was anyone other than Nally. We had no way of knowing he was someone else.
"It is a little surprising that we were never informed by the British that he was wanted for another crime abroad."
Last week the Interpol office in the Dominican Republic opened a file on Brown and asked its London bureau for more information after being alerted to his presence by The Sunday Telegraph.
Files sent from London showed that the man whose identity Brown had been using for more than three years also had a long criminal record including a history of violence and drug offences.
A senior Interpol officer said: "We have never received any previous requests regarding either Darren Nally or Michael Brown and we are now beginning inquiries about them."
Col Maximo Baez, a spokesman for the Dominican Republic's national chief of police, said: "We are alarmed that someone with this criminal background has been living in our country. There is no extradition treaty between Britain and the Dominican Republic.
"But extradition and deportation are two different things.
"If a man comes to the Dominican Republic on false documents he is breaking our laws and we do not want him here. Such a person, if found, will be deported."
In Britain the Parliamentary Ombudsman is examining the Electoral Commission's decision to clear the Lib Dems of any wrongdoing over Brown's donation.
It reached the decision two years ago on the grounds that Brown's company was a permissible donor when it gave the money, and that the party had acted in good faith.
Charles Kennedy, the former Lib Dem leader, said last week that the party "went the extra mile" to check out the legitimacy of Brown's donation. But letters between Brown and senior party officials, obtained by The Sunday Telegraph, suggest this was not the case.
One letter written by the fraudster to Lord Razzall, the party's campaign chairman at the time, criticises it for doing "little or no due diligence" on the veracity of his donation.
Writing in 2005, when he first faced questions from the Electoral Commission, Brown asked why the party had not ensured that the cash met political party rules before accepting it. Accusing them of putting him in an embarrassing position, he said: "I am very unhappy … there could be some legal challenge to the donations."
The Electoral Commission was examining whether Brown's firm, 5th Avenue Partners, was trading in Britain and therefore a permissible donor.
Brown told the peer: "As a donor, I do not have detailed knowledge of the rules and rely on the party to verify that the donation is proper.
"In the case of the donation made by my company, very little due diligence was undertaken.
"Whilst there is no question that the company was set up as a shell vehicle through which to make the donation, it was evident from the public records that the company was recently incorporated and had not filed statutory accounts."
A few days later David Griffiths, the Lib Dem treasurer at the time, wrote to the Electoral Commission detailing its evidence that the donation was above board. In a letter to Brown's company accountants on the same day, Mr Griffiths, who died earlier this month, said he hoped the information given to the commission would be the end of the matter.
In October 2005, Lord Rennard, the Lib Dem Chief Executive, wrote to tell Brown that the Electoral Commission had sanctioned the donation.
The new probe, prompted by a member of the public, is now looking at whether the Electoral Commission was wrong to ignore the evidence presented to the Crown Court that Brown's firm, used to make the political donation, never traded legitimately and was merely a front for fraud.
Brown was tried in absentia and sentenced to seven years in jail for fraud. But the commission apparently decided this was not relevant to its inquiry.
If it decides the commission acted improperly, the Ombudsman can order it to reopen the case and force the Lib Dems to return the cash to Brown's fraud victims.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Michael Brown 2

A new name, but still living the high life; In his tropical hideout,
he is a golfer called Darren. Back home Michael Brown is facing seven
years in jail

JASON LEWIS Investigations Editor in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

11 September 2011
The Sunday Telegraph
Fugitive: Life of luxury at Villa 93

"IT'S MISTER DARREN," says Chito Messon, the ageing president of the
Puerto Plata golf club, as he examines the picture on the mobile phone
screen in front of him.

"I know him long time, he played here many times. I know his face very
well. He is a good golfer, he did not beat me of course, but he was a

As he speaks, Mr Messon surveys the lush greens from the whitewashed
veranda of the "Fairways" club house. The course, 18 holes of
immaculately manicured lawns winding their way through palm trees and
past the crystal clear ocean, was, he says, "a haven" for the man he
knew as Darren.

"He would come alone, always alone. He drove an expensive car. He
liked the finer things. He wore immaculate clothes, expensive watches.
He was very wealthy, a millionaire, and used to mixing with wealthy

In the club office, an official opens a filing cabinet and produces a
membership form. "Darren P Nally", it says, occupation, "Empresario".
Clipped to the top of the page is a passport-sized photograph.

His hair is dyed blond and swept across his face in a side parting,
but it is unmistakable.

This is Michael Brown, the former multi-millionaire Liberal Democrat
donor, and a fugitive from justice since June 2008.

The snap bares little resemblance to the publicity shots for which he
once posed to promote his fraudulent schemes. Brown, a Glaswegian,
first attracted the attention of fraud officers in Naples, Florida, in
the mid-1990s, where he owned a large house and was arrested for
writing bad cheques. By the turn of the millennium he was in London,
pretending his father was a lord, claiming connections with royalty
and promising investors huge returns. He used his clients' millions to
fund an "extravagant lifestyle", pay business expenses and keep other
investors happy with "pretend" returns.

He rented a £49,000-a-year Mayfair apartment and office and drove a
Range Rover with the number plate 5 AVE, the name of the firm he used
to channel cash to the Liberal Democrats, as well as a Bentley and a
Porsche. He spent £2.5million on a private jet, £400,000 on an
ocean-going yacht and £327,000 on an entertainment system for his home
in Majorca.

On November 28 2008, a jury convicted Brown of two counts of theft,
one of furnishing false information and one of perverting the course
of justice after hearing how he had carefully crafted an "illusion of
wealth and influence" designed to give him the social acceptability he

But throughout the trial the dock was empty. When Brown was sentenced
to seven years in jail in absentia, he was already in the Dominican
Republic, quietly enjoying a new life of freedom.

While the police have failed to recover millions of pounds from his
fraud, it seems Brown has had no problem accessing the cash.

Travelling on a false passport — his new name is no coincidence:
Darren Nally is the older brother of Paul, the convicted drug runner
who helped him flee Britain - Brown has been living in the same style
to which he became accustomed in London.

But where previously he had happily posed for pictures to promote
grandiose moneymaking schemes and mixed at society events with his
wife, Sharon, he now shuns the limelight.

He rented a $1,000-a-day furnished villa at Sea Horse Ranch in
Cabarete, a gated beachside community for the super-rich, which is
guarded night and day by security guards carrying shotguns.

A dinner reservation at its cliff-top beach club gets you through the
security gate and on to a winding, tree-lined road which runs through
the property. But at every junction leading to its well-appointed
villas, many of which come with their own butler and chef, heavily
armed uniformed guards wave you on your way.

Documents obtained by The Sunday Telegraph show Brown consistently
gave Villa 93 on the estate as his address for more than a year. Owned
by an English businessman called Thomas Bell, Brown took it over on a
long-term let soon after he arrived on the island.

Evelyn Barrientos, the villa administrator at Sea Horse Ranch, denies
even knowing Brown. Shown several photos of the fugitive last week she
says he had never lived at the complex. "I know everyone who lives
here and I have never seen him," she adds. But other staff remember
him and claim he lived there for at least two years.

He joined the Puerto Plata Golf Club in March 2009, nine months after
disappearing from Britain. Those who met him on the course knew he was
"English", but his fluent Spanish betrayed nothing of his Glasgow
roots. He dressed in expensive clothes and chatted about cars, watches
and golf, but little else.

He joined local golfers on two-hour trips up the coast to another more
challenging course perched on the cliffs overlooking the sparkling
Atlantic, where he is remembered by caddies as an occasional visitor.
Mr Messon says: "He never talked about himself.

He did not say where he was from or discuss his business dealings. He
was polite and friendly. Good company.

"But in this country many people, especially foreigners, have much to
hide. It seemed he did not want to talk about himself, so we asked no

The young German owner of the petrol station opposite Sea Horse Ranch
remembers Brown's Audi Q5 and says he also had access to a Jaguar
sports car - a rare luxury on the area's rutted roads, where hundreds
of motor scooters hurtle past at breakneck speed, often driven on the
wrong side of the road.

"I saw him often," he says. "He came in for petrol and for English
language magazines. We were neighbours but I know nothing about his
past or his background, but that is not unusual here." Brown seems to
have avoided the beach bars and restaurants in and around Cabarete,
which are a magnet for tourists and the large British and American
expat community.

Several months ago he suddenly stopped playing at the local course and
seems to have vacated his smart villa. At other local businesses where
he went to buy food and English magazines, he had not been seen for
"several weeks". There is some suggestion that he started a new
business involving telemarketing. There are a couple of references to
a "Darren Nally" running a company that was still active a month ago.

Others talk of him buying into a real estate company on the island and
investing in property in Samana, the country's north-eastern
peninsula. The unspoilt haven of vast white beaches, palm trees and
bays where pods of humpback whales come every year to breed and nurse
their young, is awash with money and half-baked, get-rich-quick

Last week, City of London Police confirmed that Brown was still on
their top 10 most wanted list, but unofficially they seem resigned to
never getting their man.

The Foreign Office has extradition treaties with more than 100
countries across the globe and there are few places today's criminals
can run to and stay hidden.

But Britain appears to have little sway in the Dominican Republic,
where bribery is endemic and international drug cartels have operated
with impunity.

The country's constitution protects its citizens from extradition to
face trial abroad and these rights also extend to foreigners with
residency status.

According to the Dominican government, "in the absence of
international treaties, Dominican laws provide that the country can
grant extradition according to reciprocity principles". But this will
usually involve a diplomatic chess game in which Britain would have to
promise some hidden, costly concession in return for their wanted man.
In reality, the only countries with extradition agreements and the
influence to use them are the USA and Spain, though even then a local
judge must rule that the offence has a "certain importance" and is not
"politically motivated".

No one has ever been extradited from the Dominican Republic to Britain
and there is little hope that Michael Brown will be the first. "It
seemed he did not want to talk about himself, so we asked no questions

Michael Brown

Revealed: secret new life of fugitive Lib Dem donor

Three years after going on the run, Michael Brown, the multi-millionaire fraudster and Liberal Democrat donor, has been tracked down to a Caribbean hideout.

Michael Brown has changed his appearance since fleeing Britain before his trial
Michael Brown has changed his appearance since fleeing Britain before his trial Photo: PAUL GROVER/ JULIAN SIMMONDS
Brown, who gave a record £2.4 million to the party, is living under an assumed name in the Dominican Republic, which has no extradition treaty with Britain.
Convicted in his absence and given a seven-year jail sentence for a multi-million pound theft, he has changed his appearance, eluding both an international manhunt and attempts to seize his fortune. Our exclusive photograph, taken from his golf membership card, shows that Brown has now grown a beard and allowed his blond-dyed hair to turn grey.
Living in luxury on the island and posing as an investor, he has set up a string of business ventures with unsuspecting local entrepreneurs, but has faced a criminal investigation over a disputed oil deal.
Brown has rented a series of grand properties, at one point living in a $1.4 million (£882,000) villa guarded by armed security guards, driving a $100,000 Audi Q5 car and playing golf on the island’s finest courses.
An investigation by The Sunday Telegraph has established that his escape from justice, which came after a Liberal Democrat peer unwittingly put up a £250,000 surety – money he has now lost – was intricately planned. He was aided by a convicted drug smuggler with links to organised crime, who has supplied him with a new passport.
Coming on the eve of the Liberal Democrats’ conference, the disclosures will embarrass Nick Clegg because his party has never repaid Brown’s donation, made in 2005, despite little doubt that the cash came from criminal means.
Claiming to be an international bond trader, Glasgow-born Brown, 45, who flew senior politicians around in his private jet, was running a massive pyramid fraud. Clients, including Martin Edwards, the former chairman of Manchester United, from whom he took £8 million, never saw a return on their investment.
In total, he persuaded wealthy clients to part with at least £36 million, although there are suggestions that the figure was more than £50 million, much of which has never been recovered. After being charged in 2008 on various counts of fraud and money-laundering, Brown was initially held in custody but lawyers persuaded the courts that he was not a flight risk. He was freed and his electronic tag removed.
As well as using a fake surname to open a new bank account, he altered the way he looked. He planned his escape with the help of Paul Nally, a convicted criminal who had served jail sentences for smuggling 18.7lb of cocaine through Heathrow and for his role in a £4 million ketamine distribution operation.
On June 30, 2008, at 6.15am, two minicabs picked up Brown and Nally from their homes in London and took them to Gatwick North terminal for a 10.30am flight to Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic.
Brown booked the journey through a business account, leaving his and his accomplice’s name, address, mobile telephone number and flight details with the minicab firm, though he never paid the bill. Nally spent a week in the Dominican Republic – about the same amount of time it took before Brown was reported missing — before arriving back at Gatwick alone.
Since 2008, Brown has used the name Darren P Nally, embarking on a series of ventures that includes a real estate business which has opened a subsidiary in the Bahamas.
Last February, he was investigated over an oil deal after being accused of failing to honour a contract for 4,820 tons of oil. He was ordered to be held in custody for three months.
But he has always eluded the efforts of City of London police to bring him back to face justice in Britain. Last week, they were told by the Crown Prosecution Service that, with no extradition treaty in place between the two countries, he was effectively beyond the reach of the law.
Senior sources involved in the case have admitted that the chances of bringing him back to the United Kingdom are remote.
The Liberal Democrats have steadfastly resisted all attempts to force them to repay Brown’s donations. They insist they received the money in good faith from his British firm.
Brown’s flight from justice was personally embarrassing for Lord Strasburger, a Liberal Democrat donor, who put up the surety and allowed his home to be used as one of Brown’s court-appointed places of residence.
He told The Sunday Telegraph he had wanted Brown to have “a fair trial and an opportunity to defend himself, whether he was innocent or not”.
Brown was also facing a private prosecution for fraud by HSBC whom, Lord Strasburger says, “were spending heavily and employed a top QC to prosecute Mr Brown.
“Brown’s assets were frozen and legal aid was not an option which meant that he could not pay lawyers. I just wanted there to be a level playing field so that justice could be served.”
He added: “It was not a political issue as far as I was concerned, it was all about justice.
“It was my decision alone and I had no input whatever from anyone else.”
In 2009, an inquiry by the Electoral Commission cleared the Lib Dems of any wrongdoing over the £2.4 million donation from Brown on the grounds that his company was a permissible donor when it gave the money, and that the party had acted in good faith.
But last year Robert Mann, the US tax attorney whose $5 million (£3 million) investment with Brown provided a proportion of the donation to the Lib Dems, called on Nick Clegg to return the money.
“I hope that everyone involved in this travesty will ultimately do the honourable and right thing,” he said.
Mr Mann eventually had to drop his claim against the party after running out of funds to pay legal costs. During one of last year’s general election debates, Mr Clegg was challenged by David Cameron to return the money which the party had received from Brown.
The Lib Dem leader rejected the call on the basis that it was “years ago”. However, it is understood that the Electoral Commission may soon reopen the case.
Brown had charmed Charles Kennedy, then party leader, in early 2005 when he was still an unknown businessman and his money helped the Liberal Democrats to what was, at the time, their best election performance since the war. In fact, Brown was a practised con man who had managed to convince potential “clients” that he was a highly educated member of the landed gentry who would use US security services to vet potential investors.
In reality, he had run a string of failed businesses and was subject to an outstanding warrant for cheque fraud in Florida.
Shortly after he made the donation his mother, Patricia, said: “Let me just say he has certain character flaws and leave it at that. He is not someone I know very much about these days.”