Tony Blair’s close relationship to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has come under fresh scrutiny after it emerged he had six private meetings with the dictator in the three years after he left Downing Street.
Five of those meetings took place in a 14-month period before the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber.
Mr Blair is coming under increasing pressure to make public details of all his meetings and discussions with Gaddafi. It follows the disclosure in The Sunday Telegraph last week that on at least two occasions Mr Blair flew to Tripoli on a private jet paid for by the Libyan regime.
Among the new meetings uncovered by this newspaper is a visit to Gaddafi in January 2009, when JP Morgan, the US investment bank which pays Mr Blair £2 million a year as a senior adviser, was trying to negotiate a deal between the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) and a company run by the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a friend of Lord Mandelson. The multi-billion dollar deal, which later fell through, would have seen the LIA provide a loan to Rusal, the world’s largest aluminium producer.
JP Morgan’s involvement in the deal is revealed in an email sent to the LIA by the bank’s vice-chairman, Lord Renwick, in December 2008, in which he sought to “finalise the terms of the mandate concerning Rusal before Mr Blair’s visit to Tripoli”.
JP Morgan said Mr Blair had no knowledge of the Rusal proposal. A spokesman added: “JP Morgan declined to participate on such a transaction and thus Mr Blair was never involved, and it was never discussed with him.”
A spokesman for Mr Blair said: “Neither Tony Blair nor any of his staff raised any issue to do with a Russian aluminium company.” He added that the “bulk of the conversations” with Gaddafi had been about Africa and how Libya could develop infrastructure. While Gaddafi raised the issue of Megrahi’s release, Mr Blair always repeated that “it was a matter for the Scottish government”, the spokesman added.
Global Witness, an anti-corruption campaign group which obtained the Rusal email, said Mr Blair’s links to the LIA raised potential conflicts of interest between his roles as a Middle East peace envoy, fund-raiser in Africa and business adviser. Robert Palmer, a spokesman, said: “It’s hard to see how being Middle East peace envoy squares with doing business with a tyrant.”
Mr Blair’s spokesman said: “Tony Blair has never had any role, either formal or informal, paid or unpaid, with the Libyan Investment Authority or the Government of Libya and he has not and has never had any commercial, business or advisory relationship with any Libyan company or entity.”
This newspaper can also disclose that the Foreign Office granted a visa for Gaddafi’s daughter Hana to come to Britain last year, even though she was supposedly killed in a US bombing raid in 1986. Evidence has also emerged of the full extent of Britain’s deals with Khamis Gaddafi, the tyrant’s feared son, whose Khamis brigade has been accused of committing atrocities.