British corruption, Big oil and the Libyan dictators

London School of Useful Idiots

Click on the pic for the story. More from Bob:

Jonathan Freedland has an excellent article on the West’s bipolar disorder when it comes to Arab tyrants. Inter alia, he mentions the appalling apologetics of the London School of Economics establishment, including Baron Anthony Giddens’ 2007 belief that Libya would become the Norway of the region without regime change (see also Andrew Coates) and [former Financial Service Authority head] Howard Davies’ bizarre equation between Gaddafi and George Soros. It turns out that Saif Gaddafi’s LSE PhD (lauded by Lord Desai and acknowledging David Held) is at least partly based on plagiarism. I think LSE founder Beatrice Webb, who whitewashed Stalin’s dictatorship, would be proud. [UPDATE: I wrote that last night and was glad to see hear this morning that Davies has resigned, my second schadenfreude moment. Also read Stephen Pollard on British universities and blood moneyUpdate 2: Just read Jim’s post on same topic, which links to more from Nick Cohen. See also Marko on why hostile democracies are better than friendly dictatorships.]

But while Colonel Qaddafi has been happy to receive the British elite in his Tripoli villa or desert tent, Saif has proved a much more committed Anglophile, being entertained by the good and the great of British society on frequent visits.

Two years ago, he bought a £10 million house, complete with suede-lined cinema, in north London. He has overseen central London property purchases by the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) amounting to at least £300m.

But it has been his relationship with Prince Andrew, the Duke of York who acts as Britain’s international trade envoy, that has raised the most eyebrows.

The prince has hosted events at both Buckingham Palace and St James’s Palace in London for the dictator’s son. In addition to heading trade missions to Libya, the prince has also made three private visits there in recent years as Saif’s guest.

A friend of the prince was quoted in the Daily Mail yesterday as saying: “He and Saif became incredibly close. Both enjoy having a good time and they had fun together. Andrew could open doors with his royal status and Saif could open other doors with his family’s money.” This closeness led Chris Bryant, the shadow justice minister, to demand in the Commons on Monday that Prime Minister David Cameron sack the prince as trade envoy. “Isn’t it increasingly difficult to explain the behaviour of the UKTI [UK Trade and Investment] special ambassador for trade …?” asked Mr Bryant, a former foreign office minister. “Isn’t it time we dispensed with the services of the Duke?”

Mr Cameron responded that he was not aware of the prince’s connections with Saif but said he would be “very happy to look into them”.

Questions are also being asked about Mr Blair’s closeness to Saif and his father – which many blame for the release of the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset al Megrahi in 2009 – and also that of Lord (Peter) Mandelson, the former business secretary and éminence grise of the Labour Party during its 13 years in power.

Days before al Megrahi’s release, Lord Mandelson and Saif were both guests at the Corfu villa belonging to billionaire financiers Jacob and Nat Rothschild.

[Saif keeps his pet tigers]  at his villa on a hillside overlooking Tripoli, along with his hunting falcons, sporting guns and other  trappings essential to the life of a  desert princeling. Saif often emerges from his encounters with the big cats bloodied and bruised, yet cheerfully game for a re-match. It may help to explain why, in his campaign to release Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Al Megrahi, he found Labour ministers were mere pussycats.

Saif has a house close to Bishop’s Avenue, the so-called Millionaire’s Row, in Hampstead, north London. The Georgian style, newly-built property has eight bedrooms, an indoor pool, sauna and a cinema lined in suede-covered panelling.
It cost him £10million. In Britain, Saif moves in exclusive circles. He and Prince Andrew have a mutual close friend, the Kazakh-born socialite and businesswoman Goga Ashkenazy.

She recently helped arrange Saif’s visit to Kazakhstan where he met the president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, and senior figures in the energy industry.

Prince Andrew has made a number of visits to Libya as Britain’s ambassador for trade and has spent time with Saif in Tripoli. In return, the prince has hosted Saif at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. […]

Mandelson and Saif got along famously and the subject of Al Megrahi, who was still in jail, was raised. Mandelson insists there was no negotiation. Also at Waddesdon Manor was Nat Rothschild, Lord Rothschild’s son. Nat and Saif are great pals. They also have a friend in  common, Oleg Deripaska, the controversial Russian oligarch who was the last man standing after the bloody war for control of Russia’s aluminium industry in the 1990s.

Deripaska, it will be recalled, was part of the infamous summer gathering at the Rothschild house on Corfu in 2008 when Mandelson and George Osborne, then chancellor-in-waiting, were guests. Saif has also stayed with the Rothschilds on Corfu and, on a separate occasion, met Mandelson there.

Deripaska has a valuable interest in Porto Montenegro, a vast marina and superyacht project in the Bay of Kotor on the Adriatic. The driving force behind the scheme is Peter Munk, the 83-year-old billionaire head of the world’s biggest goldmining concern, Barrick Gold.

Jacob and Nat Rothschild are also investors in the Montenegro venture which, Munk says, will become the new Monaco. When Saif threw a huge party to celebrate his 37th birthday he held it close to his friends’ Montenegro development, inviting some of the world’s leading business figures, including Munk, a few very powerful Russians and Lakshmi Mittal, the British-based steel tycoon.

The party was seen as an effort to give a boost to the profile of his friends’ marina project. His closeness to Nat Rothschild and Deripaska is also believed to be behind Libya’s decision to invest heavily in Deripaska’s aluminium concern, Rusal.

The Libyan Investment Authority took a $300million (£185million) stake in Rusal when it was floated in Hong Kong last year.

The Rothschilds were Deripaska’s advisers and separately Nat invested $100million (£62million) in the company, the world’s largest producer of aluminium. Saif was also involved in an ongoing plan for Rusal to produce aluminium on a major scale inside Libya.

And Chris Bryant in the Mail again, bringing the story more up to date:

[Prince Andrew’s] hosting of the senior Libyan Interior minister, Major General Abdel-Fatah Yunis al-Obeidi at St James’ Palace only last summer was also, I suspect, at the suggestion of the new Coalition Government. […]

There’s his friendship with the Libyan-born Tarek Kaituni, who was convicted for secretly taking a machine gun from Holland into France and who hosted the Duke in considerable luxury in Tozeur in Tunisia in 2008 before they continued their holiday in Libya. What benefit to Britain did this have?

It’s also difficult to explain his attraction to the company of Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted child sex offender, at whose mansion in New York he spent five days only last November.[…]

And then there’s his involvement in the oil-rich Wild West state of Kazakhstan. I learned about this first hand when Kazakhstan was one of the countries in my Foreign Office portfolio.[…]

Here’s one way to think about all of this:

On being a force for goods

Wall Street Journal:

Companies may not want to be lapdogs to dictators. But they also don’t want to tick off their chief customer. It’s a balancing act, one that inevitably leads to a policy of corporate discretion: Best to stay off the radar screen.

Reflecting on Mr. Ghonim’s extracurricular activities, an executive at one big U.S. manufacturer operating abroad was adamant: “Anything that affects the brand — we hate that,” he said. “It wouldn’t be allowed.” Mr. Ghonim can be admired for his considerable contribution to civil liberties in Egypt, but also shunned as too great a liability to business.

Let’s put it this way: You might not believe in dictatorship, but if your employer is “cool” with it because they perceive some benefit, and you spend most of your waking hours doing what they say; then for all practical purposes you are “cool” with it too, at least most of the time.

What I would ask you to do at this point is to substitute for “dictatorship” any other social malady of your choosing — pollution, poverty, war, animal suffering — and see whether you are any better positioned to respond as you might like; taking into account this prior obligation that forms the basis of your daily life!

So it is said that all that evil needs to thrive is for good people to do nothing. I say: All that is required for good people to do nothing is to spend their lives working for people whose fortune is made by doing the same!

 

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