Blood money: How Britain’s ex-diplomats are profiting from global conflict zones

© Reuters
Former UK diplomats are cashing in on their contacts and experience and advising despots, venture capitalists and Gulf regimes, according to a new investigation.

Britain’s ex-ambassadors to Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, as well as former MPs, are legally profiting from conflict zones and poor countries in the Global South, according to the Daily Mail.

It has led to concerns that former diplomats are using their years of exposure to state secrets and their enviable contact lists to win lucrative paydays with big corporations.

One of the most high-profile figures involved is a former ambassador to Afghanistan, and one-time critic of the war and occupation, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles.

Cowper-Coles took a job working for British arms firm BAE in 2010 after taking early retirement from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

Critics have connected him with halting a major investigation into the UK/Saudi arms trade in 2006.

He left BAE in 2013 to take up a role with HSBC. Both appointments were approved by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA), which examines if any conflicts of interest arise from such appointments.

Another former diplomat named in the investigation is Sir Dominic Asquith, who served as ambassador to Libya between 2011 and 2012 – the period immediately after the UK’s disastrous intervention to remove the Gaddafi regime.

Asquith now advises the Libya Holdings Group, which seeks out investment opportunities in the war-torn North African state.

Former ambassador to Nigeria Sir Andrew Lloyd later became a vice president of Statoil, under the proviso from ACOBA that he not deal with the firm’s Nigerian operations.

The highly experienced Sir William Patey – a former UK representative to Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia – later became an advisor for private security firm Global Risks.
Elected politicians have also been involved in similar venture capital schemes in the developing world.

Former Tory Africa minister Sir Henry Bellingham once sang the praises of UK mining firm Pathfinder Minerals to the government of Mozambique when the company was involved in a legal dispute. He now chairs the firm.

Blairite ex-Foreign Secretary David Miliband is reported to have earned up to £1 million from his advisory jobs within two years of leaving office. That includes £15,000 for one day of advising a Pakistan venture capitalist and £65,000 for sitting on a foreign ministerial forum in the United Arab Emirates.

Recently a number of retired British military generals have been seen to be involved in similar activities.

On April 27, ex-general Simon Mayall, former Ministry of Defence advisor to the Gulf, told a parliamentary committee on the arms trade that its inquiries were “unwelcome and self-defeating.

After leaving the military in 2015, he took up a role at Greenhill & Co, a major investment bank with global reach and Middle East energy interests.

On April 18, former general and ex-head of mercenary firm Aegis James Ellery was interviewed by the Guardian over allegations the company was using former Sierra Leonean child soldiers as private guards in Iraq.

Ellery, who left Aegis in 2015, lamented the state of the mercenary market, saying: “I’m afraid all we can afford now is Africans.

Ellery’s previous jobs include demobilizing Sierra Leone child soldiers as part of a UN program.