Tony Blair has added a new country to his portfolio of multi-million-pound business interests — the mineral-rich backwater of Mongolia.
The former prime minister has negotiated a contract to advise the Mongolian government just as the country strikes it rich from a vast copper and gold mine in the Gobi desert.
The Sunday Telegraph can disclose that Mr Blair spent two days in March in Ulaanbataar, Mongolia’s capital, striking the deal with the country’s president and prime minister.
His diplomatic skills will be needed in a country undergoing a rapid economic transformation. The Mongolian government has been in dispute with Rio Tinto, the Anglo-Australian mining conglomerate, over the operation of the country’s biggest mine. Sources have suggested Mr Blair was called in to mediate between the two although Mr Blair and Rio Tinto both denied that last night.
The addition of Mongolia to Mr Blair’s portfolio will bolster the income of Mr Blair’s Government Advisory Practice, which operates as part of Tony Blair Associates, “the umbrella organisation” for Mr Blair’s “commercial operations”.
Sunday Telegraph investigations have shown Mr Blair and a team of consultants are now paid millions of pounds to advise governments in Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Colombia, Brazil and has a deal to work in Albania as well.
It is estimated that Mr Blair, who owns eight homes in the UK, has earned in the region of £50 million since leaving Downing Street in 2007. He makes his money through his consultancy work, speeches and paid posts with JP Morgan, the investment bank, among others. Mr Blair points out a large amount of his money is ploughed back into philanthropic work including two international charities he set up after leaving office.
Mr Blair refuses to reveal the full extent of his government consultancy empire but the deal in oil- and gas-rich Kazakhstan alone is said to be worth as much as £13 million. No figure has ever been confirmed. The Mongolian deal is also likely to be lucrative given that the country is about to cash in on a mining bonanza. The country is now being referred to in some circles as Minegolia.
Mongolia, wedged between Russia and China, has a population of only three million – almost half of whom have abandoned their traditional yurts for life in Ulaanbaatar. But it is three times the size of France and, with a booming mineral-rich economy, is predicted to grow by 15 per cent this year alone.
Mr Blair travelled with his entourage to Ulaanbataar on March 22nd for a two-day visit. He was accompanied on the trip by John Grogan, a former Labour MP for Selby and who is now chairman of the Mongolian-British Chamber of Commerce. During the trip, Mr Blair met with Tsakhia Elbegdorj, the Mongolian president, as well as its prime minister Altankhuyag Norov.
It is understood that a deal was put in place for Mr Blair and his team to provide a consultancy service although it is likely to kick in after elections at the end of this month.
A senior Mongolian official confirmed that Mr Blair had pitched his firm’s services to the government during the visit in March. The official said: “He offered technical assistance to the Cabinet Secretary for his delivery unit concept. That’s from his years as prime minister, a structure to implement policy reforms”.
The official said the matter will be discussed again after June 26, which is the date set for presidential elections. Mr Elbegdorj is expected to win easily.
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