Tony Baldry MP has set libel lawyers Olswang on British bloggers who have had the temerity to refer to this extremely interesting article from Sahara Reporters
Olswang state that Baldry has been hired as a QC to defend the truly horrible James Ibori on charges of money laundering. Ibori was Governor of Delta State in Nigeria, scene of appalling environmental devastation, dreadful human rights abuse, and massive corruption from the oil industry. Ibori chose to launder millions of pounds of his looted wealth through London. The Nigerian government refused to extradite him to the UK, but family and associates of his in London face money laundering charges.
There are two important points here. Olswang state that Baldry was not acting as an MP, but as a QC. That would certainly be true if he were on his hind legs arguing to a jury in court (though why any jury might be swayed by Baldry is beyond me).
But to write to a Minister saying that as a matter of policy, it is not in the public interest to prosecute corrupt foreign officials who launder their money through London, particularly Mr Ibori, is quite a different thing. How can the roles of MP and QC be separated in such policy lobbying of a Minister on behalf of a paying client – and remember Mr Ibori was in a position to pay extremely well?
The separation of Baldry’s MP and QC hats in carrying out this special pleading to Ministers is a vulgar fiction. Not to mention the moral vacuity of the argument: “We can’t turn up our noses at money looted from the African people, old boy. Think of the effect on the City.”
This case raises, yet again, serious questions about the compatibility of MPs highly paid outside interests with what is supposed to be their main job, as impartial legislators on behalf of the British people.
Which leads me to my second point. Did Baldry or his companies have any connection with James Ibori before he was hired as his QC? The Sahara Reporters article lists extensive business interests of Baldry in West Africa, including in oil and gas.
The Nigerian Liberty Forum knows that Mr Baldry, who was the Chairman of the House of Commons International Development Select Committee from January 2001 to May 2005, has extensive interests in the extractive industries of several emerging economies especially in West Africa. For example, he is the Chairman of Westminster Oil Limited (a British Virgin Islands registered company involved in the development of oil licences and exploration) and the Deputy Chairman of Woburn Energy plc (a UK AIM listed company specialising in oil exploration and recovery). He is also a director of West African Investments Ltd (a company that invests in “infrastructure and natural resource projects in Sierra Leone and elsewhere in West Africa”) and a shareholder in Target Resources plc (a company involved in gold and diamond mining in Sierra Leone). Mr Baldry is also the Chairman of the Advisory Committee of Curve Capital Ventures Ltd (“a sector neutral investment company that predominantly invests in India; China and Africa and advises companies on strategic growth and global expansion”).
I know of Westminster Oil Ltd, who are particularly dodgy. More revelations will follow.
I have got hold of a copy of Olswang’s threatening letter, amusingly headed “Not for publication”.