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Tony Blair: Secret Cash Oil Deal

Watchdog orders publication of former prime minister’s payment by oil firm that was kept secret for 20 months

Tony Blair has received cash from a South Korean oil firm in a deal kept secret until the business appointments watchdog intervened, the Guardian has learned.

After 20 months of secrecy, the former prime minister has now been overruled by the chairman of the advisory committee on business appointments, the former Tory cabinet minister Ian Lang.

Lang this week ordered publication of Blair’s deal with UI Energy Corporation, which has extensive oil interests in the US and in Iraq.

Blair repeatedly claimed to the committee, which assesses jobs taken up by former ministers, that the existence of the deal had to be kept secret at the request of the South Koreans, because of “market sensitivities”.

Lang, who is understood to have reviewed the files, told Blair he saw no reason to keep the deal secret any longer.

The committee website now publishes a statement identifying Blair’s job as “advice to a consortium of investors led by the UI Energy Corporation (Publication delayed due to market sensitivities)”.

The committee also detailed on its website a similarly unpublished Blair deal with the ruling family in Kuwait. He has been in their pay since December 2007, with the task of producing a general report on the oil state’s future over the next 30 years, at a reported £1m fee.

Blair, who set up a commercial consultancy firm, Tony Blair Associates, following the Korea and Kuwait deals, has been secretive in the past about his money-making schemes.

A Guardian investigation last year found that he had put his multimillion-pound income through an obscure partnership structure called Windrush Ventures, which enabled him to avoid publishing normal company accounts.

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Tony Blair, Rick Warren, to launch Faith Offensive across US

Former prime minister builds network of Christian allies as he prepares to launch a religious ‘offensive’ in North America

Tony Blair is preparing to launch a “faith offensive” across the United States over the next year, after building up relationships with a network of influential religious leaders and faith organisations.tony-blair-faith-offensive

With Afghanistan and Iraq casting a shadow over his popularity at home in Britain, Blair’s focus has increasingly shifted across the Atlantic, to where the nexus of faith and power is immutable and he is feted like a rock star.

According to the annual accounts of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, a UK-based charity that promotes cohesion between the major faiths, the foundation is to develop a US arm that will pursue a host of faith-based projects. The accounts show that his foundation has an impressive – and, in at least one case, controversial – set of faith contacts. Sitting on some £4.5m in funds as of April last year, mostly gathered through donations, it is now well placed to make its voice heard.

The foundation’s advisory council of religious leaders includes Rick Warren, powerful founder of the California-based Saddleback church. It attracts congregations of nearly 20,000 and is reportedly one of the largest in the US. Warren, who has addressed the UN and the World Economic Forum in Davos, has been named one of the “15 world leaders who matter most” and one of the “100 most influential people in the world”.

His influence was confirmed in December 2008 when Barack Obama chose him to give the invocation at his presidential inauguration. But the decision angered many liberals, who see Warren as an opponent of gay rights and abortion on demand; a prominent alliance with Warren is likely to attract similar attacks on the former British prime minister.

Also on the council is David Coffey, president of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), a Virginia-based network of churches that spans the globe and is particularly active in the US.

Another initiative has been to team up with the Belinda Stronach Foundation in Toronto. Unknown in the UK, Stronach, daughter of a Canadian billionaire, is hugely influential in Canada where as a philanthropist, businesswoman and former politician she has served in both the Conservative and Liberal parties. Attractive and barely into her 40s, media commentators have dubbed her “bubba’s blonde”, a reference to her friendship with Bill Clinton.

According to the accounts, Blair intends to open an office in Toronto to develop the relationship.

His desire for North America to be the focus of his faith-based operations was confirmed by the decision to hold his foundation’s inaugural event in May 2008 in New York, for the “charity’s key partners and religious stakeholders”.

Tony Blair Faith Foundation:

May 2008Launches the Tony Blair Faith Foundation in New York.

September 2008Opens a three-year programme at Yale exploring the role of faith in the modern era.

October 2008 – Supports Face to Faith programme, a pilot project for schools in the US, Canada and India.

December 2008 – Teams up with the Belinda Stronach Foundation in Toronto.

February 2009 - Speaks at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.

March 2009 – Helps to open a Baptist World Alliance centre in Jordan.

August 2009 – Takes part in launch of the Faiths Act Fellowship, bringing together young leaders from different beliefs in the US, UK and Canada.

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