The former UK prime minister, Tony Blair’s relationship with Saudi Arabia has come under the spotlight following revelations that the non-government organisation he runs has received millions of pounds from the Saudi regime.
Accounts which were published earlier this week by the Tony Blair Institute confirmed earlier reports that Blair had received “donations” of up to £9.3m from Riyadh.
The Financial Times reported that the Saudi funding came via an organisation called ‘Media Investment Limited’ (MIL), which is a subsidiary of the Saudi Research & Marketing Group, registered in the tax-free haven of Guernsey.
Publication of the accounts confirmed earlier report in July that the Tony Blair Institute had made an agreement with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman earlier this year to assist with a “modernisation programme” for the oil-rich Kingdom.
The Telegraph’s report in July resulted in the institute to defend its dealings with the Saudi regime, claiming that the ex-prime minister did not receive any money from Riyadh and profits are not generated from its consultancy work.
They added that that their objective was “to promote stability and reform in the Middle East” – with staff ironically based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a key ally of Saudi Arabia in the region.
After the revelation, concerns were raised over the institute’s decisions, including Blair himself, who led the UK to war in Iraq based n false intelligence, as well as supporting military intervention in Syria.
The Tony Blair Institute also published articles praising Bin Salman during the Saudi prince’s visit to the UK earlier this year.
One article stated: “Britain should learn from Saudi Arabia and how it has demonstrated a clear commitment to tackling the politicisation of Islam to inform policymaking”.
Another article overtly supported Bin Salman’s political vision for Saudi: “As part of his broad, sweeping and ambitious plans to revolutionise Saudi Arabia, economically, socially and religiously, the crown prince has demonstrated a level of conviction, clarity and coherence in identifying and understanding the nature of Islamist extremism that Western policymakers should seek to learn from”.
However, the Kingdom has recently seen some of the worst repression under Bin Salman, as popular scholars and female activists face the death sentence for criticising the policies of the ruling monarchy.