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Revealed: The Gulf business tycoons backing the Conservative Middle East Council

Alastair Sloan

British and Arab businessmen with strong commercial pursuits in Saudi Arabia are key funders of the Conservative Center East Council, a Westminster physique which has become increasingly vocal in its requires Britain to stand By the house of Saud, regardless of
the latter’s human rights abuses and that you can think of battle crimes in Yemen. An investigation has Printed how the Team has raised just about a million pounds seeing that 2007, the usage of the money to lobby for a better relationship with Saudi Arabia, as well as organize
delegations to different components of the Arab world.

The lately-appointed Chairman of the CMEC is Alan Duncan, a Conservative MP who spoke out in the home of Commons against Justice Secretary Michael Gove’s recent resolution to withdraw a contract with the Saudi jail authorities. Duncan claimed that
the decision used to be no longer based on “professional considerations” on the part of his fellow Tory MP however was once driven as an alternative With The Aid Of a “somewhat caustic private view of Saudi Arabia.” His comments have been made all over a parliamentary debate in December.

Alan Duncan then penned a section for ConservativeHome in favour of continuing the connection with Saudi Arabia, arguing, “Whereas we should by no means condone, we will have to take into account that aggressively condemning isn’t any guarantee of reform

In June last year, Duncan seemed at a excessive-profile Intelligence Squared public debate in London, and argued successfully against
the motion, “The West will have to get out of bed with the home of Saud.” He faced feminist activist Mona Eltahawy and former American diplomat Hilary Mann Leverett. The target market, numbering several hundred, started out the controversy By Means Of indicating their
preferences, with 17 per cent saying that they antagonistic the united kingdom-Saudi relationship. Swayed By Duncan’s arguments, 43 per
cent left the adventure in favour.

In December 2014, the CMEC offered an uncontested platform to Prince Turki Al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief from 1977 to 2001 and a former ambassador for The Dominion; he delivered the Team’s Annual Coverage Lecture. The speech, which covered
a variety of regional safety concerns, incorporated a denial that Saudi and UAE troops had taken section within the crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Bahrain in 2011; Al-Faisal additionally claimed that The Kingdom wished sectarianism “to prevent as fast as that you can think of.”
Questions after the speech, which was once bought with glowing praise, got here from a variety of Conservative MPs and International Place Of Work officials, none of whom raised the problem of Saudi Arabia’s human rights document.

Two months earlier than Prince Al-Faisal made his speech, the most distinguished Shia preacher in Saudi’s predominantly Sunni inhabitants, Shaikh Nimr Al-Nimr, used to be sentenced to loss of life Via the Saudi authorities, Whereas his nephew, Ali Al-Nimr confronted dying By Using crucifixion.
Shaikh Al-Nimr was done on 2 January this yr in a move which was once viewed broadly as a sectarian provocation By Using the authorities. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has additionally been accused of fomenting further sectarian tensions in Yemen By intentionally targeting
Shia mosques, and has stood By Means Of Whereas the Sunni regime in Bahrain has performed the identical thing.

Now, an exclusive MEMO investigation has Printed that almost the entire CMEC’s monetary backers have robust business interests in Saudi Arabia and its smaller Gulf allies, ranging from defence to manufacturing to Power instruments. This Means that
the support By Using the CMEC for an unconditional relationship with Saudi Arabia may be pushed By Way Of donor preferences, something that is denied With The Aid Of officials.

By Means Of a long way the most generous current backer of the Conservative Heart East Council, According To Electoral Commission Information, is David Rowland, a controversial British trade magnate, political financier and Monaco tax exile. Rowland has been concerned
carefully in serving to to secure multi-billion pound defence deals between British companies and the Saudi Arabian government; he has given the CMEC virtually £350,000 considering the fact that 2010. In 2011, Rowland provided his personal jets to Prince Andrew without spending a dime, because the member of the British royal household visited Saudi Arabia to help secure offers for BAE Systems.

The investigation also Printed that in June 2015, Rosemary Stated, the spouse of Syrian-Saudi businessman Wafic Stated, gave CMEC £20,000; again in 2008, the donation used to be way more large, at £One Hundred,000. Wafic Stated, who was once banned from making
donations to Westminster political events as he does no longer hang British citizenship, is pronounced to have played a key role as a “fixer” in arranging the controversial Al-Yamamah deals between BAE Techniques and the Saudi Arabian govt, using
his extensive network of contacts within the kingdom. Data show that alongside channelling dollars to the CMEC via his wife Rosemary, Wafic’s son Khalid, has also given £12,500 to the employer.

Alan Duncan and Wafic Mentioned are known to be close; in 2012 the MP attended the glitzy wedding ceremony of Mentioned’s daughter Rasha in a ceremony held on the Palace of Versailles near Paris. It was attended Through a whole bunch of friends, together with a couple of participants of
the British royal family.

Any Other businessmen keen on funding the CMEC is Assem Allam, who made his first £15,000 donation to the enterprise in May 2014, regardless of being a Labour Party supporter. Three Hundred And Sixty Five Days later, he gave an additional £15,000. His equipment manufacturing
industry, Allam Marine, has made him a magnate; it exports closely to Saudi Arabia, probably the most moneymaking Power generator market in the Heart East.

The Kingdom accounts for 8.4 per cent of all British exports of mills, Allam’s included. Energy cuts are Popular in Saudi Arabia, which means that mills to run air con gadgets are in big demand in the summertime in a rustic with excessive levels
of disposable income. Allam fled the Nasser regime in Egypt in 1968 and has due to the fact turn into a prominent figure amongst Britain’s super-Wealthy; his belongings include the possession of Hull Metropolis Soccer Membership. Consistent With the Sunday Instances Rich Listing, he is price an estimated £340 million.

Vitality boss Abdul Majid Jafar is also a donor to the CMEC, giving the Group £15,000 in January 2014. His firm, Crescent Petroleum, is the oldest of its type within the Center East, and has extensive interests within the UAE, Bahrain and Iraq, with a
smaller footprint in Saudi Arabia.

The investigation has also Printed that a building firm called World Hospitals Team has donated £40,000 to the CMEC prior to now two years. The Corporate has secured several multi-million pound contracts with the federal government of Saudi Arabia, and bought consequently “more than a few letters of acknowledgement [i.e. references]… from senior Royal Princes” within the house of Saud, with which The Corporate enjoys a powerful trade relationship.

A former funder of the lobby Team is Pierre Rolin, a financier who up to now supplied funding management products and services to a $1bn American property empire owned By Way Of Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Fahd, a distinguished royal in the house of Saud. Details of the extent
of this portfolio had been Published in 2012 Via investigative journalist Seth Hettena. Alternatively, Rolin stopped donating to the CMEC
in 2009, and rapidly afterwards it was Published that his monetary advisory business to the Saudi prince had collapsed.

The MEMO investigation also showed that the CMEC obtained an £18,000 donation from the London-based totally PR agency Bell Pottinger, which has represented Saudi Arabia in a public affairs and advocacy function. Its different clients have incorporated the Bahrain govt;
The Company declined to remark when contacted By MEMO, even supposing a spokesperson for the CMEC Mentioned that the donation had been made as a result of Bell Pottinger “supported the aims of the business enterprise at the time.”

The Director of the Conservative Center East Council, Leo Docherty, advised MEMO that donations (and as a consequence donors) had now not influenced choice-making throughout the Crew. “No donor has given us prerequisites,” he insisted, “but any big industry
individual in the Center East has robust pursuits in Saudi Arabia. We see ourselves as making the case for a positive relationship, however we acknowledge it is now not perfect.”

The CMEC head claimed that a “huge amount of force” was once being placed on the Gulf States to reform. “Somebody who has a long-standing trade relationship with the Gulf States, their job is to enhance these reforming dispositions,”
he added.

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