Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

UK minister: no favoritism toward Russian oligarch

UK minister: no favoritism toward Russian oligarch

Britain's business secretary Saturday denied being influenced by a Russian oligarch while negotiating trade tariffs in his previous role as the European Union's trade commissioner.
Peter Mandelson has been criticized for meeting with Russian aluminum tycoon Oleg Deripaska on his luxury yacht at the same time he was working on EU policies affecting Deripaska's businesses.
Mandelson's dealings with the Russian have come under a harsh spotlight this week as part of a wider row over political contributions and possible influence-pedding by wealthy foreign businessmen.
In addition to the suggestion that Labour Party stalwart Mandelson may have had a conflict of interest because of his friendship with Deripaska, there have also been allegations about George Osborne, the Conservative Party "shadow chancellor" who has also socialized on the Russian's yacht.
Osborne has been publicly accused by banking heir Nat Rothschild, once a close friend, of soliciting campaign contributions from Deripaska, but he denied the allegation. British law makes it illegal for political parties to take contributions from foreigners.
Mandelson, who has twice been forced out of government posts because of finance-related scandals, said in a letter published Saturday in The Times newspaper that he met Deripaska in 2004. Earlier, his office had released a statement indicating he had met Deripaska in 2006.
"Naturally I met a great number of business people round the world as EC Trade Commissioner," Mandelson said. "I think this adds to what I bring to my job now."
But Mandelson said he never showed any favoritism toward Deripaska. He said EU officials investigating his role found that all proper procedures were followed when aluminum tariffs were set.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown expressed support for Mandelson while on a campaign trip Saturday to Scotland, where his Labour Party faces a difficult election next month.
"This was already investigated by the European Commission when he was a commissioner, and the answer was nothing untoward happened," Brown said. "That's where the story lies."
A longtime ally of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Mandelson was brought back into the British Cabinet three weeks ago to help deal with the economic crisis despite his strained relations with Brown.
He said in the letter he would take no actions that might give the perception that he has any conflicts of interest, and would follow the rules on ethics for Cabinet ministers and seek advice from his staff on any possible conflicts.
"As business secretary, I will continue to act with the public interest in mind," he said.
But opposition politicians said Saturday that Mandelson must give a full accounting of all his meetings with Deripaska.
Liberal Democrat legislator Norman Baker said Mandelson's letter seemed like a "pre-emptive strike" designed to protect him if more information comes out about his meetings with Deripaska.
"This letter is clearly an attempt to head off further bad coverage in the press, which he may be anticipating," Baker said. "This seems like a tactic to avoid a third resignation."


Updated : 2021-07-31 13:10 GMT+08:00