Tony Blair Institute confirms it received funding from Saudi Arabia

Tony Blair Institute confirms it received funding from Saudi Arabia
The Tony Blair Institute (TBI), an organisation set up by the former British prime minister, has revealed, in accounts released Wednesday, that it received financial donations from Saudi Arabia.

Blair’s non-profit institute confirmed that it received payments from the Saudi-owned Media Investment Limited (MIL), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG), which is registered in tax haven Guernsey. SRMG had been chaired by Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed al Farhan, now Saudi Arabia’s culture minister.

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The Sunday Telegraph reported in July that MIL had given £9m ($12m) to Blair’s organisation. However, the amount donated by MIL is not stated in the accounts. A spokesperson for the TBI could not confirm a figure but insisted the amount will be included in the organisation’s 2018 accounts, which will be published in a year’s time, the Financial Times reports.

Guardian columnist Owen Jones, in a swipe at Blair’s Saudi connections, lambasted the former Labour leader’s working relationships with “murdering dictatorships” on BBC Radio 4. Journalist Paul Mason took to Twitter to claim Blair was clutching on to his “Saudi-financed pearls.”

TBI insist they are “committed to working for modernisation and reform” of Saudi Arabia, and claim no money goes directly to the controversial former PM, who they say, works for his institution without a salary.

The Saudi payment was noted in TBI’s first set of accounts along with donations from the US State Department, the Canadian government, certain African governments and the Victor Pinchuk Foundation — a charity established by a Ukrainian billionaire.

TBI was established by Blair in 2016 after revealing he was wrapping up his business empire to allow him to solely focus on philanthropy. His accounts illustrate, however, that he spends 80 percent of his time on TBI. The rest is spent on several lucrative business roles - including chairing the JP Morgan International Council and sitting on the advisory panel of the Southern Gas Corridor pipeline. Additionally, he receives highly paid sums for speaking engagements.

After stepping down as prime minister in 2007, Blair took on several roles, including his highly criticized job as Middle East envoy for the UN, which he carried out for eight years. He also formed Tony Blair Associates to give “strategic advice” to a myriad of clients, which included governments in Kuwait, Kazakhstan and Mongolia, as well as oil companies.

Blair faced criticism this week for meeting with far-right Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who recently announced plans to create a register of Italy’s Roma and Sinti inhabitants.

The close relationship formed between Blair and the Saudi regime is in sharp contrast to his successor as Labour leader. Jeremy Corbyn has promised that any future Labour government would stop military weapons sales to Saudi Arabia because due to the country “colluding in what the United Nations say is evidence of war crimes” in Yemen.

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