This is the blog of British investigative journalist Jason Lewis.
It features articles from my time as Investigations Editor of the Sunday Telegraph and Whitehall and Security Editor of the Mail on Sunday.
I specialise in writing on intelligence and security matters, human and civil rights and the activities of the British State.
Monday, 19 December 2011
Lord Mandelson courted Mubarak’s dying regime
Lord Mandelson lobbied for business from Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s regime days before it was overthrown.
Image 1 of 3
Lord Mandelson founded Global Counsel with the backing of Sir Martin Sorrell, the multi-millionaire businessman, and his international communications firm WPPPhoto: Getty Images
The former Cabinet minister approached senior Egyptian officials before the uprising in an attempt to win lucrative work for Global Counsel, his Knightsbridge-based “strategic advisory” firm.
At the same time, he was publicly defending “reformists” in the regime, including the Egyptian president’s son Gamal Mubarak.
He also apparently offered to use his role at a think tank which is close to Labour to help his international clients.
The disclosure follows controversy over former prime minister Tony Blair’s business interests and his relationships with the former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and the current Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Patrick Mercer, a Conservative MP, said last night: “I would never criticise Lord Mandelson for being involved in business, but you have got to ask yourself why he gave such plaudits to a regime that was obviously oppressive and which ultimately fell at the will of the people.”
Lord Mandelson voiced support for the regime of Hosni Mubarak
Lord Mandelson’s company was set up last December to “support international businesses” and to devise “market entry strategies”.
A month later he wrote to the Egyptian ambassador in London, Hatem Seif El Nasr, who contacted the then minister of foreign trade in Cairo, Rachid Mohamed Rachid, on January 31, outlining Lord Mandelson’s offer.
Mr El Nasr’s letter, written in Arabic and bearing the Egyptian government seal, stated that Lord Mandelson was “establishing a new international company of his own for economic advisory to render support and economic consulting for businessmen and enterprise”.
“The new company aims at renewing and reintroducing the commercial franchises to new communities, and helping grand agencies and organisations to accomplish new goals and make use and adapt with the globalisation consequences on these companies,” it added.
Mr El Nasr wrote that Lord Mandelson had said the firm’s aims included “helping companies and organisations understand the economic challenges… to overcome the business obstacles of new markets”.
He went on to explain that Lord Mandelson “will be the head of the new company” and Benjamin Wegg-Prosser, his former Whitehall aide, “who used to be… an adviser for… Tony Blair” will be its chief executive.
“Lord Mandelson will also be the head of a new committee set up by the Institute for Public Policy Research [IPPR] to research how the global economy can benefit from globalisation,” he wrote.
“Lord Mandelson hopes that his new positions can contribute to the development of the interrelations between the West and the rising markets around the world in order to achieve the common interest.”
Lord Mandelson’s spokesman said the peer had written to a number of embassies, although he would not disclose which ones, and also to company chief executives about Global Counsel.
On Feb 1, Lord Mandelson wrote to the Financial Times in support of the Egyptian regime as it clung on to power in the face of mass demonstrations and violent clashes which left at least 846 dead. Mubarak was ousted on Feb 11.
In the letter, he defended “reformers” in the regime, including the president’s son, Gamal, saying the president was a “civilian facade” for the security forces while his son was “the leading voice in favour of change”.
Mr Rachid, the ex-Egyptian foreign trade minister, fled to Dubai and was found guilty in absentia of embezzlement and squandering public funds. He has been sentenced to five years in prison.
Lord Mandelson founded Global Counsel with the backing of Sir Martin Sorrell, the multi-millionaire businessman, and his international communications firm WPP.
Shortly after its creation, Lord Mandelson sent letters to possible clients explaining that Global Counsel drew on his career “in the creation of New Labour” and as a minister and European trade commissioner.
“Since leaving public office last year, I remain committed to understanding and supporting the expansion of businesses from the fast-growing economies of the world,” the letters stated.
“While the benefits of globalisation are clear there are still many obstacles in the way of businesses wanting to take advantage of new open markets and access to capital.”
A spokesman for the Egyptian Embassy in London confirmed that its letter had been an “official communication”.
She said: “The ambassador received a letter from this person [Lord Mandelson] and passed it on to the appropriate minister in the then Egyptian government, conveying its contents and translating it into Arabic.
"This is normal procedure. The minister…did not reply”
A spokesman for the IPPR said: “Peter Mandelson is voluntarily leading a piece of work for us on the future of globalisation”
A spokesman for Global Counsel said it “respects the privacy of those that it does and does not work for but is able to confirm that it has not and does not work for the Egyptian government”.
The spokesman insisted that Lord Mandelson was not using his role at IPPR for commercial purposes.
Lord Mandelson: secrets of a filthy rich fortune
When Lord Mandelson said Labour was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich” he may have been talking about himself.
When Lord Mandelson said Labour was 'intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich' he may have been talking about himselfPhoto: Christopher pledger
His declarations on the House of Lords register of members’ interests give little clue as to how the 58-year-old career politician has made his fortune.
Neither his public speaking and writing firm Willbury, which collects proceeds from the sales of his memoirs, nor his consultancy firm Global Counsel have published accounts yet.
And the remuneration for his senior advisory role at Lazard investment bank has not been disclosed, although some reports have suggested it could be as much as £1 million a year. Under restrictions imposed on Lord Mandelson by Whitehall watchdogs, he was banned from lobbying ministers and civil servants after leaving government. But there are no restrictions on his work overseas.
He has developed close links with the rulers of oil-rich Kazakhstan and recently spoke at two events organised by the Kazakh investment company Samruk-Kazyna. He has also made shrewd property investments. In 1997 Lord Mandelson was living in a one-bedroom flat worth £250,000. Earlier this year, he and his partner, Reinaldo Avila da Silva, moved into an £8 million home in north London.