| How Tony B’Liar helped Colonel Gaddafi in £1bn legal row!

Tony Blair helped Colonel Gaddafi in £1bn legal row ~ , and Edward Malnick, TELEGRAPH.CO.UK

Tony Blair promised to help Col Muammar Gaddafi in a billion-pound legal dispute with victims of a Libyan terrorist attack, according to official correspondence obtained by The Sunday Telegraph.

Tony Blair with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

Tony Blair with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2007. Photo: PETER ACDIARMID/AFP

Documents show that Gaddafi turned to Mr Blair after a US court ordered Libya to pay $1.5billion (£1billion) in damages to relatives of seven Americans killed when a bomb exploded on a Paris-bound passenger jet in west Africa. According to the email, Mr Blair approached President George W Bush after promising the Libyan leader that he would intervene in the case.

Mr Bush subsequently signed the Libyan Claims Resolution Act in August 2008, which invalidated the $1.5billion award made by the court.

UTA Flight 772 from Chad was blown up on Sept 19, 1989, by Libyan intelligence services, killing all 170 passengers. The attack took place nine months after Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up over the Scottish town of Lockerbie killing 270 people.

The relatives of UTA Flight 772 had won the billion-pound court case in January 2008 after a seven-year legal battle, causing serious difficulties for the Libyan regime in the US. The ruling meant the proceeds of Libyan business deals, mainly in oil and gas but including other investments, could be seized in the US.

Mr Blair’s involvement in the case is outlined in an email obtained by The Sunday Telegraph. The document was written by Sir Vincent Fean, the then British ambassador to Libya, and was sent to Mr Blair’s aides on June 8, 2008, two days before Mr Blair met Gaddafi in Libya.

It was one of at least six private trips made by Mr Blair to Libya after he quit as prime minister in June 2007. The first trip to meet Gaddafi was made in February 2008. The previous month a US federal court had made the $1.5billion award to Flight 772 victims.

The email written by Sir Vincent outlines points for Mr Blair to raise in his meeting with Gaddafi. It also shows that a key aide to Mr Blair had met with a senior US diplomat to discuss the Flight 772 case.

Sir Vincent wrote: “On USA/Libya, TB should explain what he said to President Bush (and what Banner [a Blair aide] said to Welch [a US diplomat]) to keep his promise to Col Q [Gaddafi] to intervene after the President allowed US courts to attach Libyan assets.”

The memo went on: “He [Blair] could express satisfaction at the progress made in talks between the US and Libya to reach a Govt to Govt solution to all the legal/compensation issues outstanding from the 1980s. It would be good to get these issues resolved, and move on. The right framework is being created. HMG is not involved in the talks, although some British citizens might be affected by them (Lockerbie, plus some UK Northern Irish litigants going to US courts seeking compensation from Libya for IRA terrorist acts funded/fuelled by Libya).”

The memo reveals that Nick Banner, Mr Blair’s chief of staff in his role as Middle East peace envoy, had spoken to David Welch, the US official who was negotiating with the Libyans over compensation for victims of terrorism.

The American lawyer who had won the court order in January 2008 only to have it made invalid by the act signed by Mr Bush said his clients had “got screwed”.

Stuart Newberger, a senior partner at the international law firm Crowell & Moring, said: “This case was thwarted by President Bush, who directed the State Department to negotiate a package deal that ended all Libyan-related terrorism cases, including my judgment. I had heard rumours about Blair’s involvement but this is the first time that role was confirmed.”

He added: “I never considered this an honourable way to carry out diplomacy. It sent the wrong message to terrorist states – don’t worry about these lawsuits and judgments as the politicians will eventually fix it.”

Under the terms of the Libyan Claims Resolution Act, Libya made a one-off payment to victims of all Libyan state-sponsored terrorism including the bombings of Pan Am Flight 103, UTA Flight 772 and a Berlin discotheque. The payment, totalling $1.5billion, gave Libya immunity from all terrorism-related lawsuits.

The relatives of victims of UTA 772 received about $ 100million, rather than the court award of $1.5billion. Relatives of victims of Pan Am 103 welcomed the agreement which saw them get the final instalment of compensation already agreed. The deal meant all victims of Libyan terrorism received the same award.

The Sunday Telegraph has also obtained a separate letter, sent on June 2 from Gavin Mackay – a Foreign Office official seconded to Mr Blair in his role as Middle East peace envoy at the Office of the Quarter Representative (OQR) – to Libya’s ambassador in London.

The letter, on OQR-headed notepaper details Mr Blair’s gratitude that Libya is providing him with a private jet to fly him from Sierra Leone to Tripoli for a four-hour stopover and then on to the UK.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former Foreign Secretary, expressed concern that the trip appeared to be arranged through Mr Blair’s public role as Middle East envoy.

He said: “Unless Mr Blair can come up with a convincing explanation as to why the Quartet secretariat should have been involved in this visit, it would indeed be a reason for legitimate and serious criticism.”

A spokesman for Tony Blair said: “The only conversation he ever had with regard to this matter was to give a general view that it was in the interests of both Libya and the USA to resolve those issues in a fair manner and move on.”

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corruptionA

| Petrodollar mischief: Saudi Prince Alwaleed Loses UK Court Battle!

Saudi Prince Alwaleed Loses UK Court Battle ~ Ellen Knickmeyer, The Wall Street Journal.

For a man who carefully tends his brand, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s image took a hit in a London court this week, when a judge called his testimony unreliable and confusing and ordered him to pay $10 million to a former business associate.

Judge Peter Smith ruled Wednesday that the Saudi prince, a billionaire businessman, was wrong in refusing to pay commission to a Jordanian woman who helped Prince Alwaleed negotiate, from 2001 to 2006, the sale of a luxury jumbo jet to then-Libyan leader Moammar Qadhafi.

The Jordanian consultant, Daad Sharab, filed suit in 2007 in London to compel payment. The High Court of Justice ruled on the case.

In a statement late Wednesday, Prince Alwaleed said he planned to appeal the decision, saying the verdict “had been unduly swayed by the Judge’s own view regarding Prince Alwaleed’s business negotiations with the Government of Col. Muammar Gaddafi.”

Prince Alwaleed underwent tough questioning in court, including Judge Smith asking if the prince lied in telling the Libyans, as Prince Alwaleed was closing the plane deal, that the $95 million plane actually cost him $135 million.

“It is not a lie. It is a tactic,” Prince Alwaleed told the judge on July 2, according to a detailed court room exchange reported by Forbes magazine.

Prince Alwaleed had testified that his understanding with Ms. Sharab was that he would pay her a commission at his discretion, and that he was not satisfied with Ms. Sharab’s performance.

The judge didn’t appear to believe the Saudi. According to an account published by the Bloomberg news service, the judge said in his ruling: “He is a man who is clearly prepared to write false letters” and the evidence “shows that I cannot accept his assertion that he never tells lies in contracts and written documents.”

Prince Alwaleed is known for having an active public-relations campaign, sending out photos and press releases several times a week on the prince meeting with everyone from Prince Charles of Britain to the mayor of Accra, Ghana.

Earlier this year, Prince Alwaleed filed a letter of claim in a British court against Forbes magazine, after the magazine questioned the size of his fortune and downgraded his position on Forbes’ list of the world’s richest people.

The Saudi prince, a nephew of King Abdullah, said Forbes had defamed Saudi Arabia by doing so.

Prince Alwaleed owns sizable stakes in corporations including Apple, Citigroup and News Corp, the parent company of The Wall Street Journal.

Most Saudi papers on Thursday carried no reports of the British ruling.

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Humility Pill

| Jack Straw faces legal action over ‘rendition!’

Jack Straw faces legal action over ‘rendition’ ~ BBC News.

A Libyan military commander is taking legal action against Jack Straw, to find out if the ex-foreign secretary signed papers allowing his rendition.

Abdel Hakim Belhadj claims CIA agents took him from Thailand to Gaddafi-led Libya, via UK-controlled Diego Garcia.

His lawyers have served papers on Mr Straw after the Sunday Times reported claims that he allowed this to happen.

UK ministers have denied any complicity in rendition or torture and Mr Straw did not comment further.

He said he could not do so because of the ongoing police investigation into the UK’s alleged role in illegal rendition.

Earlier this month, the BBC revealed that the UK government had approved the rendition of Mr Belhadj and his wife – Fatima Bouchar – to Col Muammar Gaddafi‘s regime, though it was unclear at what level.

On 15 April, the Sunday Times published an article, which quoted sources as alleging Mr Straw had personally authorised Mr Belhadj’s rendition to Libya.

On Tuesday, Mr Belhadj’s lawyers – Leigh Day & Co – served papers on Mr Straw, referencing the article and seeking his response to allegations that he was complicit in torture and misfeasance in public office.

The civil action is against Mr Straw personally – Mr Belhadj’s lawyers believe it is the first time legal action of this kind has been taken against a former foreign secretary.

Mr Belhadj and his wife allege Mr Straw was complicit in the “torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, batteries and assaults” which they say were perpetrated on them by Thai and US agents, as well as the Libyan authorities.

They are seeking damages from Mr Straw for the trauma involved.

Sapna Malik: ”Renditions such as this would have been sanctioned at the highest level”

Analysis

image of Frank  Gardner
Frank GardnerBBC security correspondent

Serving legal papers on Jack Straw probably marks the high water mark in this case, in terms of trying to apportion blame in Britain for what happened to Mr Belhadj.

The only person higher up the chain at the time was Tony Blair.

And much as Mr Blair’s detractors may want to see him embroiled, as PM it is unlikely he would have been involved in the minutiae of a secret intelligence operation.

So for now, this will be a matter for the Foreign Office, MI6, the Met Police, Jack Straw and the lawyers.

Whatever the final outcome, Mr Belhadj will draw some comfort that his case is now being aired in the most public way possible.

‘Inhuman and degrading treatment’

Downing Street declined to comment on the case but said it was “looking closely” at the legal action brought against Mr Straw.

A spokeswoman said: “The Government’s position on torture is well-known. We stand firmly against it and any cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. We do not condone that and we do not ask others to do it on our behalf.”

In 2004, Mr Belhadj was the leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) and was living in exile after leading opposition to the Gaddafi regime. MI5 had believed the LIFG was close to al-Qaeda.

Mr Belhadj alleges he and his wife were detained by CIA agents in Bangkok as they travelled to Britain to claim political asylum – he believes the plane they were transported on refuelled at the UK territory of Diego Garcia, in the Indian Ocean.

Mr Belhadj claims that he and his wife were tortured during the rendition process and in Libya, where he was subsequently imprisoned.

Papers have already been served in the High Court to sue the UK government, its security forces, and senior MI6 officer Sir Mark Allen, for damages.

Mr Belhadj’s lawyers said their letter of claim against Jack Straw relied on the same allegations and evidence set out in the letters to Sir Mark and the government.

They said Mr Straw had been foreign secretary with responsibility for MI6 at the time of Mr Belhadj’s rendition and that a 2004 letter from Sir Mark to Libya’s former intelligence chief congratulated the Libyans on Mr Belhadj’s safe arrival.

‘Neither confirm nor deny’The lawyers said they anticipated that Mr Straw’s response would mirror the government solicitor’s “neither confirm nor deny” reaction to their previous letters of claim regarding Mr Belhadj.

They said therefore that, while Mr Straw would ordinarily have six months in which to respond their allegations, they sought a response by close of business on 17 May “following which proceedings may be issued against you without further notice”.

If Mr Straw did not admit liability within that time, they said they expected him to provide copies of the documents described in the Sunday Times article and copies of government communication and memos relating to Mr Belhadj.

Abdel Hakim Belhadj
Mr Belhadj wants to know whether Jack Straw personally approved his illegal rendition in 2004.

Sapna Malik, a partner at Leigh Day & Co, said she believed Mr Straw did approve Mr Belhadj’s rendition.

“If the former foreign secretary does not now own up to his role in this extraordinary affair, he will need to face the prospect of trying to defend his position in court.”

Speaking to BBC Radio 4‘s Today programme, Ms Malik said that the real issue was not the amount of compensation but a public acknowledgement and an admission from Mr Straw and those involved about their role in the rendition.

“It’s not some sort of cheap publicity stunt, but there are real concerns here about who signed off on what.”

‘Not complicit’Cori Crider, legal director of the campaign group Reprieve, described the case as a breakthrough.

“I think what makes this case unique is that finally people are coming forward and saying exactly who it was.”

The Metropolitan Police is investigating Mr Belhadj’s claims and Ms Malik said that if its inquiry were broadened, Mr Straw could face criminal prosecution.

In an interview with Radio 4 last year, Mr Straw said the Labour government had been opposed to unlawful rendition.

“We were opposed to any use of torture or similar methods. Not only did we not agree with it, we were not complicit in it and nor did we turn a blind eye to it.”

But Mr Straw added, “No foreign secretary can know all the details of what its intelligence agencies are doing at any one time.”

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*ALSO SEE:
| Special report: Documentary proof that Britain initiated ‘extraordinary rendition!’   April 9th, 2012.

| Jack Straw sued over illegal rendition of Abdel Hakim Belhadj ~ , The Telegraph, 18 Apr 2012.

A Libyan military commander is suing the former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw over his alleged complicity in illegal rendition and torture.

Former Justice Secretary Jack Straw (left) and Abdelhakim Belhadj former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group
Former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw (left) and Abdel Hakim Belhadj former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group Photo: Lewis Whyld/PA/Geoff Pugh