Blair Took Cash from Korean Oil Firm

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is alleged to have received cash from a Korean oil firm run by a former bribery convict for advice on Iraq's oil-rich Kurdistan, according to news reports in Korea.

It had been kept secret for nearly 20 months before it was revealed last week.

Blair, who has been accused of cashing in on his former premiership through a number of consultancy deals, was allegedly found to have offered consulting in August 2008 to a consortium of investors led by UI Energy Corporation.

Details on the type of consulting and how much he received for the role have yet to be disclosed.

The Korean firm is headed by Choi Kyu-sun, who was convicted in 2003 in a high-profile corruption scandal involving potential bidders wanting to run a national sports lottery and a son of then-President Kim Dae-jung.

The British government's Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, which vets former ministers' jobs for two years after they leave office, has recently disclosed Blair's advisory role.

According to news reports, Blair repeatedly told the committee that the existence of the deal had to be kept secret at the request of the Korean firm, because of "market sensitivities."

According to a committee spokesman, Blair's claims of the need for secrecy were first made in July 2008 and the committee agreed to postpone publication for three months. Blair's office asked for a further six months in October, promising to let the committee know as soon as the "market sensitivity" had passed.

Committee chairman Ian Lang recently told Blair that he saw no reason to keep the deal secret any longer. The committee website now publishes the deal with UI Energy and also discloses another deal with the ruling family in Kuwait.

"Mr. Blair gave a one-off piece of advice in respect of a project for UI Energy in August 2008. He sought and received approval from the advisory committee before undertaking this project," Blair's spokesman told the Guardian newspaper in Britain.

"UI Energy requested of the committee that they delay public announcement for reasons of market sensitivity, which the committee agreed to do."

The company lists a number of influential politicians on its payroll, including former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke and former U.S. congressman Stephen J. Solarz.

( Korea Herald )

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