MAC: Mines and Communities

London Calling picks the links between a UK war criminal ...

Published by MAC on 2010-02-07
Source: Daily Telegraph, Independent

... the darkest of knights, and a pesky aluminium oligarch

While the UK's leading war criminal prances around the globe, delivering back-of-envelope patois urging global peace in the Middle East and the Philippines, he's been working with a slithery hand-picked advisor on a highly dubious project, part-funded by one of Russia's most polluting oligarchs.

Their common objective? - To rescue the world for the benefit of mining and other industries, under the guise of saving it from adverse climate change.

That may be putting it a bit weakly. For the first man is that megalomaniac of megalithic mendacity, Tony Bliar.

The second is the Labour government's morally-corrupt "business secretary", Lord Mandelson ("Prince of Darkness" is the sobriquet by which he's generally known - and that's putting it mildly).

And the third is Oleg Deripaska, head of one of the three biggest global aluminium conglomerates, UC Rusal, globally rivalled only by Rio Tinto-Alcan and China's Chinalco.

The connections between the trio, exposed in late January by The Daily Telegraph, relate to their joint sponsorship of an initiative called "Breaking the Climate Deadlock". This is a public relations' ploy to encourage carbon trading and funnel taxpayers' money towards "green technology". In itself the objective would be contentious, however squeaky-clean the credentials of those behind it.

But, when you examine the long-standing complicity between these three particular men, the enterprise stinks to high heaven.

Under Bliar's New Labour, some Russian oligarchs found a capital gains' tax-free haven in London from which to continue operating their wicked enterprises back in Russia, or escape the legal consequences of having done so. It was typical of the "light regulatory touch" under TB's infectious pretence of government.

Roman Abramovich, owner of Chelsea Football Club, is the best known of the gang. But there's also Boris Berezovsky, granted political asylum from the wrath of Vladimir Putin by the Blair regime in 2001: he'd been accused of fomenting disorder, even ordering murder, on his home turf.

Deripaska, Abramovich and Berezovsky were all intimately involved in the often-violent 1990's break-up of the USSR's state-owned aluminium businesses, reaping obscene profits as a result.

Peter Mandelson's personal backing of Deripaska is, arguably, even more indicative of the corruption prevailing under Blair between 1997 and 2007. As the European Union's Trade Commissioner from 2001, the ignoble Lord personally signed an exemption certificate for Rusal in 2004, allowing the company to export aluminium products into Europe, free of tariffs aimed at protecting domestic manufacturers.

BMD - weapons of mass social destruction

A fornight ago, Tony Bliar, having been hauled before a unique London public inquiry, tried defending his pre-eminent role in causing the deaths of many thousands of Iraqi non-combatants and hundreds of UK soldiers. Critical to the ex-prime minister's self-justification was testimony provided earlier to the inquiry by the government's former law chief, Lord Goldsmith, that Britain's entry into war on Iraq could be justified under iinternational law.

In fact, Goldsmith had earlier ruled such an invasion would be illegal. That is,  until he visited the US in January 2003, where he kow-towed with some of Bush's cronies. On returning to the UK, the precious peer announced a change of mind, even though his U-turn was apparently based on mere chat and an exchange of anecdotes with US colleagues.

Just two months later, in March that year, UK troops joined US forces in razing Iraq.

It's tempting in such circumstances to echo words that Charles Dickens put into the mouth of one of his characters, the doddering Mr Micawber: "If that is the law, then the law is an ass!"

However, not all British  lawyers  are asinine,  nor do they succumb as cravenly as  Goldsmith to pressure from the political executive.

In December 2009, the UK Supreme Court ruled that Oleg Deripaska should stand trial on charges that he defrauded a former colleague, Mikhail Chernoy, of at least US$4 billion which the latter had invested in Rusal.

This long-running case has already prevented Deripaska from listing Rusal (currently registered in the tax haven of Jersey) on the London Stock Exchange; indeed, of his being accepted as a UK citizen.

Now it looks likely that Oleg's prospects of achieving either goal will be dashed. (He's been trying to launch a share IPO on the Hong Kong stock exchange instead, and might just have achieved that last week.)

This won't be to the liking of his buddies, Bliar and Mandelson. If a final court decision goes against Deripaska, it also raises serious questions about the latter's "dirty" funding of their Climate Deadlock gambit.

However, the two bullying Brits may yet derive some consolation from their Russian confrere, by joining the oligarch on his luxury yacht at any time.

As they aimlessly speed through the Mediterranean, all three will doubtless admire the vessel's splendid aluminium fittings - while blissfully ignoring the impacts of its own greenhouse gas emissions.

[Sources: Lord Goldsmith's tainted testimony to London Iraq Inquiry: Philippe Sands, in The Guardian, 27 January 2010; Fraud charges against Deripaska: John Helmer, Asia Times, 18 December 2009; Rusal's planned listing in Hong Kong: Investment News, 1 February 2010; Financial Times, 8 December 2009]

Tony Blair's climate change project paid for by Oleg Deripaska, oligarch who entertained Lord Mandelson and George Osborne

Tony Blair is lobbying world leaders on the environment on behalf of an organisation funded by the Russian oligarch with close links to Lord Mandelson.

By Martin Beckford

The Daily Telegraph

29 January 2010

The former Prime Minister has given speeches and presented reports on climate change, including at the Copenhagen summit, which focus on the need for governments to fund new technology while allowing industries to keep polluting.

His initiative, called Breaking The Climate Deadlock, is partly paid for by Oleg Deripaska, the billionaire tycoon who entertained both Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, and George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, on his yacht.

Mr Deripaska is the chief executive of the world's biggest aluminium producer, Rusal, and was said to be Russia's richest man with wealth estimated at £17billion before the financial crisis.

It comes after questions were raised about the extent to which Mr Blair is using the status he attained during his decade in Downing Street to make money for himself and raise the profile of his new employers.

He is said to have earned more than £5million a year since stepping down in 2007, through consultancy and advisory work for JP Morgan Chase and giving lectures.

Last weekend, just a few days ahead of his critically important appearance at the Chilcot inquiry into the invasion of Iraq, Mr Blair spoke at a conference in Saudi Arabia about "sustainable competitiveness". However he missed the funeral in Australia of his university mentor, Peter Thompson.

Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes, said: "Having discovered the links between Peter Mandelson and Oleg Deripaska, it shouldn't be surprising that the links between Tony Blair and Oleg Deripaska are not far behind.

"One wonders what interest either Tony Blair or Oleg Deripaska have in climate change given their track records.

"If the policies being pursued by Breaking The Climate Deadlock come to fruition, industry will be given a get out of jail free card."

In 2004, when Mr Blair was still Prime Minister, he helped launch The Climate Group, a charity set up by multinational firms but also funded by the Foreign Office, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Greater London Authority.

He later took part in the organisation's conference in Long Beach, California, where he spoke alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger.

After leaving Downing Street, Mr Blair became the frontman for a political arm of The Climate Group, called Breaking The Climate Deadlock.

Its first report, published to coincide with the G8 summit in Japan in 2008, states that "additional financial support" was provided by "Mr Oleg Deripaska, Chairman, Basic Element".

Further funding was given by Stanley Fink, a hedge fund tycoon and friend of Lord Levy, Mr Blair's former Middle East special envoy whose fundraising activities for the Labour party saw him drawn into the cash-for-honours investigation although he was never charged with any offence.

The project received £558,226 from The Climate Group's backers in 2007-08 although a spokesman for Mr Blair insisted his "advocacy" work was unpaid.

The reports published by Breaking The Climate Deadlock, and presented by Mr Blair at environmental and political conferences, put forward the view that substantial public sector funding is essential for developing green technology so that the global economy does not suffer from enforced reductions in carbon dioxide.

They also argue that a global carbon-trading scheme is necessary so that polluting industries and countries can buy the right to emit extra greenhouse cases from those with lower emissions.

A spokesman for Mr Deripaska said: "Mr Deripaska has a long standing interest in the science and economics of climate change. He has spoken at great length about the subject in Russia and abroad, and was one of 16 global business leaders who drafted the CEO Climate Policy Recommendations to G8 Leaders in 2008, a project coordinated by the World Economic Forum and World Business Council for Sustainable Development and endorsed by more than a hundred global CEOs.

"As part of his engagement with this issue he has donated to The Climate Group, which aims to help government and business set the world economy on the path to a low-carbon, prosperous future. He has been involved in its discussions, a fact that has been openly declared for many years. He does not intend to detail either the amount of his funding or meetings he has had in relation to it."

Steve Howard, CEO of The Climate Group, said: "Tony Blair has been a supporter of the Climate Group since our launch in 2004. As UK Prime Minister he was the first major head of government to bring climate change to the top of the international political agenda at the 2005 Gleneagles G8 summit.

"We were very keen to continue this relationship once Tony Blair stopped being Prime Minister, which was why we established the ‘Breaking the Climate Deadlock' initiative as a strategic partnership between The Climate Group and The Office of Tony Blair.

"The initiative aims to generate political support amongst key countries for a new global climate change deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support the global transition to a low carbon climate resilient economy.

"Mr Blair undertakes this advocacy on an unpaid basis."

Lord Mandelson in conflict of interest row over oligarch

Euro MP queries decision on Russian friend's firm

By Jonathan Owen and Brian Brady

The Independent

29 November 2009

Lord Mandelson: a model for us mortals

Lord Mandelson was under pressure yesterday when it emerged that his close friendship with one of Russia's richest men - the oligarch Oleg Deripaska - has prompted accusations of a conflict of interest.

The row centred on calls for a fresh investigation into his part in a controversial decision that exempted his friend's aluminium company from trade tariffs. The now Business Secretary and the Russian businessman were introduced several years ago by a mutual friend, Nat Rothschild. Their friendship was cemented over dinners in Moscow since 2004, and the closeness of the two men was highlighted when Lord Mandelson, 56, holidayed on Mr Deripaska's luxury yacht off Corfu last year.

As reported in The Independent on Sunday last July, their friendship developed at a time when Mr Deripaska's company Rusal was lobbying for exemption from tariffs imposed by the European Commission in 2001 after allegations of Russian and Chinese producers flooding the market with cheap aluminium foil. Yesterday it was revealed that, in December 2005, Lord Mandelson, at that time the EU trade commissioner, personally signed the decision to exempt Rusal.

Now Dr Ingeborg Grässle MEP, a member of an EU committee that has examined the commissioners' code of conduct, wants an investigation. In an interview for Channel 4's Dispatches - investigating links between Russian oligarchs and British peers - being broadcast tomorrow, she said: "This is a completely improper doing... I didn't know that he has signed the decision himself... That means that I will also go on with questions to the commission. Because I think that these kind of things we really do not need."

Dr Grässle added: "I will ask the question: what was his role in this decision? Because for me it is a conflict of interest, when you have a close friend who profits from your decision. What else can you say but that it is a conflict of interest?"

Speaking to The IoS yesterday, she added: "I couldn't believe that somebody took this decision for the company of a good friend. Either he's somebody who doesn't believe in anything or somebody who is rather naive."

Dr Grässle criticised Lord Mandelson's role as being "incredible" and "unethical". "When I talk about the Mandelson case now, and when I tell that Mandelson he has a friend, and sometime after the friend got this decision, everybody is smiling; nobody believes that these things have nothing to do with each other."

A spokesman for Lord Mandelson said the allegations ignored the fact that EU decision-making is "based on a college system where decisions are taken by 27 commissioners. The idea that one individual can influence the process is laughable". The spokesman added that commissioners were not subject to any code of conduct when Lord Mandelson was in Brussels.

Last week Lord Mandelson was criticised by relatives of the Lockerbie victims when he attended a shooting party along with Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the Libyan leader.

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