Malawi: Corruption Scandal-Tony Blair Charity Pulls Out Amid Questions

Tony Blair: Businesses Amass US$21 Million Cash; Quits as Advisor to Malawi PresidentTwo businesses owned by Tony Blair have amassed a cash pile of more than £13m after a key part of his empire enjoyed a jump in profits. New accounts filed with Companies House reveal that one venture in the former prime minister’s complex network of financial legal entities saw profits jump almost 50% to just below £2m.

Since stepping down from politics in 2007, Blair has received millions of pounds from a mix of business interests that include advising governments, consultancy work for US investment bank JP Morgan and the lucrative international speaking circuit.

He has insisted he does not want to be “super-rich”, and has said his income pays for philanthropic projects, including development work in Africa and an inter-faith charity. But after rapidly becoming one of the highest paid public speakers in the world and flying around by private jet he has faced some criticism for his lifestyle.

Blair’s properties include a multimillion-pound London home and a country retreat once owned by the late Sir John Gielgud, bought for £5.75m .

Windrush Ventures, the ultimate owner of which is Blair, made profits of £1,995,000 in the year to the end of March 2013, up £649,000 from a year earlier. The company, which provides “management services”, holds £8.8m in cash. The company now employs 35 people and has a wage bill of £3m, equal to £85,000 per employee.

Smaller company Firerush Ventures, with less detailed accounts also filed with Companies House and are published on the Office of Tony Blair website, has £4.6m in cash.

Blair’s office pointed out that the reports do not show the former Labour PM’s own earnings. It said in a statement: “These are the financial statements of the two companies through which the operating costs of the Tony Blair group’s global activities are paid. They do not represent his earnings or the earnings or the profit of his businesses and are not referable to them. They do not represent either the accounts of his charities or his donations to them.”

The statement also said the businesses pay full corporation tax , adding: “The money made by Mr Blair from the Windrush and Firerush businesses is not published in these accounts; it is though, subject to full personal income tax. and that the former prime minister

“Mr Blair continues to be a UK taxpayer and pays full personal tax on all his earnings worldwide.”

One of Blair’s most high-profile ventures has been advising the Kazakh government under a contract with Tony Blair Associates.

His involvement with a regime denounced by Amnesty International over its “disgraceful” record on human rights has drawn criticism. But Blair has said he is working with the government to push through a programme of political and economic reform.

The jump in profits at Blair’s Windrush is in contrast to the financial fortunes of George Osborne’s family business revealed in the latest filings to Companies House. The upmarket fabrics and wallpaper company Osborne & Little, which is chaired by the Conservative chancellor’s father, Sir Peter Osborne, suffered widening losses of nearly £750,000 before tax, blaming a “poor worldwide economic climate”.[Full article]

Former UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair is facing questions over his role as adviser to the president of Malawi Joyce Banda following corruption scandal that led to the British government freeze of aid to the country.

Blair, through his charity the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative (AGI) has been working closely with President Banda since August last year.

An official working in Malawi’s finance ministry was shot in the face and seriously wounded amid claims by his family he was about to expose widespread state corruption. The assassination attempt and the web of corruption it simultaneously uncovered led to the arrests of several government officials, the sacking of the entire Malawian cabinet and the suspension of aid from the British government and other western donors to the country.

Millions of pounds are feared to have been stolen by officials. The UK, through the Department for International Development (DfID), was due to spend £92 million of aid in Malawi next year, making it the biggest international donor. It has now frozen £17 million aid payments with ‘immediate effect’.

Consequently, Tony Blair and his team are pulling out as official consultants to Malawi’s president. The AIG staffs have been working in the office of President Joyce Banda advising her on how to run the country. But at the end of January 2014, the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative will quit Malawi.

Conservative MPs and campaigners in Malawi are now demanding to know whether Blair and his team were aware of the corruption allegations as some officials arrested worked directly with AGI.

“This is potentially very embarrassing for Tony Blair. He needs to explain what his people were doing there,” said Richard Bacon, a Conservative MP and member of the public accounts committee.[More]