- By Region
A legal battle over three of London’s most exclusive hotels on Friday offered a glimpse into the world of Tony Blair Associates and the willingness of the former Labour prime minister and his team to exploit his connections with the royal family of Qatar and a British government minister.
The High Court heard that Mr Blair had personally set up a meeting between Patrick McKillen, the Irish property developer at the heart of the legal battle, and Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad, a member of the Qatari royal family, to discuss a financing deal relating to Coroin, which owns the three landmark hotels.
The High Court was also told of an email sent in early 2010 by Tony Blair Associates, his consultancy firm, to Mr McKillen which emphasised its links with Lord Myners, then City minister, when Mr McKillen was seeking advice from Mr Blair about Nama, the Irish state bank dealing with toxic loans.
The latest revelations came in the bitter High Court battle between Mr McKillen and the billionaire Barclay brothers over the future of Coroin, the company which owns Claridge’s, the Berkeley and the Connaught hotel.
The court heard that Mr McKillen was introduced to Mr Blair by Matthew Freud, the PR executive who is Rupert Murdoch’s son-in-law, after the Irish developer sought advice and wanted to prevent Coroin’s loans being taken into Nama.
“You were seeking Mr Blair’s assistance to see whether he could lobby any influential person in order to slow down or prevent that from happening,” Kenneth Maclean QC, acting for the Barclay brothers’ interests, told Mr McKillen in cross examination.
Mr McKillen said he wanted Tony Blair Associates to act as an “honest broker” and said there had been no discussion about remuneration.
The High Court heard that an email was sent from Varun Chandra, an employee of Tony Blair Associates, to Mr Freud. It was copied to Jonathan Powell, former chief of staff to Mr Blair, as well as to an employee at the hotels group.
The email discussed the politics of the Nama situation and stated: “As suggested Tony feels his conveying any of these messages may not be worth the risk for Maybourne [a subsidiary of the Coroin hotels group] … However if Lord Myners is able to take this forward, then Jonathan is more than happy to work with you on ensuring that they are communicated to the right people.”
Last night, Lord Myners strenuously denied any wrongdoing. He told the Financial Times: “At no time during the period when I was a minister from September 2008 until May 2010 did I have any contact with Tony Blair Associates or anyone representing Tony Blair in connection to the business referred to in court.”
Lord Myners said he had held meetings with Nama in Dublin and London but these had been general policy meetings and were not connected to specific assets.
Mr Blair’s office did not respond to requests for comment.