Blair’s wife represented Rwandan General accused of ordering massacres
Trading on his impeccable connections in order to earn millions of pounds, Blair soon discovered that life after Downing Street could be a dangerously grubby business.
So when dealing with corrupt governments and companies, he took care to try to distance himself from any public controversy.
Notably, he initally denied having dealings with Qatar — a corrupt dictatorship that supported extremist Muslim groups, suppressed freedom of the Press and was accused of offering bribes to win the FIFA football World Cup in 2022.
In fact, the Qataris had hired Cherie. Amid some acrimony, she resigned from Matrix Chambers — where she worked as a barrister — after her husband ceased to be Prime Minister.
Like him, she’d established two charities — in her case, the Cherie Blair Foundation For Women and the Africa Justice Foundation — alongside a lucrative money- making venture.
With Omnia Strategy, her new commercial business, she then reinvented herself as a consultant advising Middle Eastern and African governments.
Among those grateful for her help was Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al-Missned, the wife of a Qatari royal.
In 2009, on her behalf, Cherie bombarded Hillary Clinton, then U.S. Secretary of State, with requests to engage in a woman-to-woman meeting to improve relations between the countries.
After an exchange of 19 emails, Clinton finally agreed.
Cherie was jubilant. ‘When I see what a difference you are making,’ she wrote unctuously to Clinton, ‘it reminds me why politics is too important to be left to the bad people.’
Making millions — for their charities or their swelling bank accounts — is a family business for the Blairs.
With her husband’s help, Cherie made it onto the Albanian payroll — an honour she shared with Alastair Campbell — for advice to prime minister Edi Rama.
One of the Blairs’ earliest clients was bagged in October 2007.
Cherie had been due to meet the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, who was widely accused of being a mass murderer, to discuss the creation of a justice ministry in his impoverished country.
But she didn’t show up to their planned dinner in London. Instead she explained she had an ‘emergency’. ‘I can’t come,’ she said, ‘but Tony says he’d happily join you.’
At the dinner, Blair set out his stall. ‘You are a man with a vision, a leader I’ve always admired,’ he told Kagame. ‘Now you need advisers to show you how to run a government, and I’m your man.’
Kagame agreed to welcome Blair’s team. In return, he was also introduced to the international circuit of leaders’ conferences across America and in Davos, where Blair presented him as Africa’s ‘Mr Clean’.
No one mentioned the continuing massacre of Hutus in the neighbouring Congo by militia dispatched by Kagame.
Nor did they refer to the systematic theft by Kagame’s armed forces of diamonds and gold from Congo.
The following year, Blair visited Kigali, the Rwandan capital, and was flown home on Kagame’s $30 million Bombardier BD-700 ‘Global Express’.
The cost of the round-trip flight? About £280,000. Rwanda’s 11 million people earn an average daily wage of £1.40.
By the time he returned to Kigali again in 2009, the country was in uproar. Any journalist or businessman who was critical of the government was being beaten up, and a UN investigation was due to report that the President was guilty of genocide in Congo.
Blair’s friend won the Rwanda election in 2010 — but the beheaded corpses of leaders of the small opposition party were found strewn about the countryside.
Blair ignored all this and hailed his protégé’s success.
And what of Cherie? Did she see the report sent to Blair by the U.S. Department of State in 2014, describing the murderous oppression in Rwanda? Did she follow the 2015 Congressional hearings in Washington, which denounced the murder of Kagame’s opponents?
That year, General Karenzi Karake, the head of Rwanda’s intelligence service, arrived at Heathrow on an official visit.
To his surprise, he was arrested on an international warrant for ‘war crimes against civilians’, issued in Spain.
To resist his extradition to Spain, he hired… Cherie Blair. She told the magistrate that Karake was ‘a hero in Rwanda and they want him home as soon as possible’.
Karake was released on bail of £1 million. Two months later, he was freed on a legal technicality before the charges could be heard, and flew home.
His opponents were shocked. But Cherie, like her husband, was hailed by Kagame as a hero.