This really is a conninglib joke, Mr. William Hague, making phone calls to the Ugandan President, a few years ago there was an almighty stink about the cash for questions saga, well if this isn’t a cash or questions, then what is. I am talking about, Tullow Oil and Hague, Tullow asked Hague to have a word on there behalf about there tax bill for oil revenues in Uganda, and he did and he got the balance some,175 million pounds knocked off there bill.
Now the other serious matter is the chief executive of Tullow oil, Aidan Heavey, is also a major donater to the Conservative party,along with, Tony Buckingham of Heritage Oil, Heritage oil and Tullow oil are basically the same company, and registered in Jersey. This seems strange when you have a high ranking politician making phone calls to another country about private company tax bills, I mean this wasn’t anything to do with the running of the country or a problem with diplomatic relations, this is bordering on corruption, and along the same lines as cash for questions, only in this case the cash didn’t go to Hague it went to his party, the Conservative party.
The Foreign Secretary and another Conservative minister “lobbied strongly” on behalf of Tullow Oil who were embroiled in a dispute over a £175 million unpaid tax bill in Uganda.
Mr. Hague personally telephoned the country’s President and the issue was given a high priority within the Foreign Office, the documents reveal.
The dispute arose after Heritage Oil sold assets in Uganda to Tullow Oil last year for $1.4billion (£870million).
The Ugandan government said that Heritage Oil owed £250million in capital gains tax. Heritage paid £75million, but around £175million remains under dispute. Heritage is registered in Jersey – a tax haven.
The chief executive of Tullow Oil, Aidan Heavey, donated £10,000 to the Conservatives shortly before the general election last year and was among businessmen who signed a letter attacking Labour Party policy.
Yesterday, a spokesman for Mr Heavey refused to rule out further donations, saying it was a private matter for Mr Heavey.
“Mr. Heavey’s private donations have been to his local branch of the Conservative Party mostly at fund raising events and, where appropriate, are a matter of public record,” he said.
Tony Buckingham, the chief executive of Heritage Oil, also donated £50,000 shortly before the general election. In total, they have donated over £70,000 between them.
The disclosures come amid growing scrutiny of the Conservatives’ financial backing. Yesterday, it was alleged that Mr. Cameron now receives more than half of his donations from City financiers – and earlier this year it emerged that ministers had intervened in other disputes involving donors.
There are strict rules surrounding political donations and ministerial involvement. Ministers must report any donations that could lead to a conflict of interest to the Permanent Secretary of their department.
According to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act, the Foreign Minister Henry Bellingham “lobbied strongly for Tullow Oil” in meetings with African politicians and met with the Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in Kampala to raise the issue.
A series of emails and other documents set out the government’s response to Tullow Oil’s “serious problems” over tax in Uganda.
Within weeks of the election, Andrew Pocock, the FCO’s Director in Africa sent an email about arranging meetings with Tullow Oil. Mr. Pocock wrote: “I saw something about the Minister being interested in meeting Tullow Oil.”
On 3 August, an email notes that the dispute over tax is causing difficulties for Tullow Oil in Uganda and should be brought up in meetings with Ugandan politicians.
“Tax disputes could potentially undermine or at least delay Tullow’s interests in Uganda,” states an official, following a meeting with Rosalind Kainyah, the vice president of external affairs at Tullow Oil. “Useful information to be aware of ahead of the Minister’s meeting with Tullow and in related bilaterals in Uganda.”
In July, Mr. Bellingham travelled to Uganda, where he met the President of Uganda and Tullow employees.
After the visit, another email notes: “Very positive visit. Warm welcome too from British business, and useful work done in support of Tullow Oil’s investment in Uganda.”
“Mr. Bellingham said that we were strongly supportive of Tullow Oil’s involvement in Uganda and hoped that Museveni would take the decisions needed to allow them to get on with their deal with [name withheld] and bring in further investment.”
After the visit, Mr. Bellingham wrote to the Foreign Secretary, saying “My meeting with President Museveni allowed me to raise a specific trade issue, again regarding Tullow Oil.”
“Consequently, Tullow have concluded the deal with [Heritage Oil], allowing both companies’ share price to rise by approximately 50p and £1 respectively.”
However, resolution over the tax dispute continued to stall. Another email on 12 August asks for further information for both Mr. Hague and Mr. Bellingham.
“Thanks – could you provide an update on the Tullow situation by tomorrow 3pm please?” states the email. “If nothing has changed since [Mr. Bellingham’s] visit, please let us know asap as he wanted to tell the [Foreign Secretary] that progress was being made after the Museveni meeting and he clearly can’t if this is not true!”
\Another email on the same day discusses sending an email to the Ugandan Foreign Minister on Tullow Oil.
Ten days later, there is a further update. “Tullow Oil has hit serious problems [information withheld] which threaten their [information withheld] investment in Uganda. [Information withheld] Recommendation that we intervene urgently at Ministerial level with President Museveni.”
On the 30 August, Mr. Hague personally contacted the President to raise the issue.
Mr. Bellingham then met with the Ugandan Foreign Minister. He also met with the Foreign Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which borders Uganda.
The Tullow Oil concessions are at Lake Albert on the border of the two countries, and Tullow wanted to close a deal in the DRC.
“[Mr. Bellingham] lobbied strongly for Tullow Oil, stating that they were the logical choice to exploit the DRC block as they already held the Uganda concession,” notes the email.
Mr. Buckingham was previously at the epicentre of the trade in arms and troops shipped into war-torn African states.
He was a partner in the controversial South Africa-based mercenary firm Executive Outcomes and was a leading figure in Sandline International, which provided troops and arms to the government of Papua New Guinea to quell an uprising.
He was also a close business associate of the old Etonian Simon Mann, who spent years in jail in Equatorial Guinea following an unsuccessful coup in the country in 2004.
Mr. Bellingham, who also went to Eton, repeatedly raised Mr Mann’s case in Parliament during his incarceration.
Uganda has huge untapped oil reserves. One billion barrels of oil has already been discovered in the Lake Albert Rift Basin and Tullow believes a further 1.5 billion barrels of oil will be found in the basin. DRC is also believed to have some of the largest untapped natural resources in the world.
Last year, it emerged that Andrew Mitchell, the International Development minister, had intervened in a dispute in Ghana over commodity traders Armajaro Holdings, which was co-founded by Tory donor Anthony Ward. Mr. Hague was not involved in those negotiations.
Yesterday, it emerged that more than half the donations to the Conservatives last year came from City tycoons, according to a detailed investigation into the party’s funding.
The financial sector’s contributions to the Conservative party have more than doubled as a proportion of the total since David Cameron became Conservative leader in 2005.
A study by the Bureau for Investigative Journalism has found that the City accounted for £11.4m of Tory funding in 2010, a general election year. This compared with £2.7m in 2005, when Mr. Cameron became party leader.
Last night, a spokesman for Mr. Hague said that neither Mr. Hague nor Mr. Bellingham knew that Mr. Buckingham and Mr. Heavey were Conservative donors.
“It is part of the Government’s duty to support British business and British citizens abroad. This case is no different from any other case in which a British company seeks assistance through a UK Embassy,” said the spokesman.
A spokesman for Tullow Oil said: “The FCO’s assistance has been entirely consistent with UK government policy and practice in respect of UK companies operating abroad. Furthermore, since Tullow first entered Uganda in 2004, Tullow has had regular contact with the FCO, the UK High Commissioner to Uganda and the Ugandan High Commissioner to London. Finally, Tullow has operated in Africa for over 20 years and has had excellent support from the FCO throughout Africa since then.”