Saturday, 25 October 2008

Russian Billionaires, luxury yachts and our former, much missed (NOT) Hartlepool MP

More details are emerging about Russian Billionaires, luxury yachts and our former and much missed (NOT) Hartlepool MP, Peter Mandelson who originally claimed to have first met the aluminium magnate four years ago. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7690459.stm)

However, The Guardian reported that the two men had been seen together by a journalist at a Moscow restaurant in October 2004. This being after Lord Mandelson was appointed trade commissioner but before he took up the post. The length and nature of their relationship is central to questions over whether Lord Mandelson, while European Trade Commissioner, faced conflicts of interest when dealing with matters connected to Mr Deripaska. Earlier this month, the European Commission cleared Lord Mandelson of any inappropriate links with the tycoon, whose business benefited from a December 2005 decision to ease import duties on Russian aluminium.

Normally I would take anything the Guardian said with a very, very large pinch of salt. According to Lord Mandelson people made incorrect assumptions when he said he met Mr.Deripaska in 2006. People “assumed” this was the first time they met but he now admits “to the best of my recollection we first met in 2004 and I met him several times subsequently." Of course the phrase “best of my recollection” is one that leaves plenty of future wiggle room for further revelations should they need to be revealed.

Lord Mandelson’s earlier statements about his meetings with Mr Deripaska could very much be interpreted as spin, which is now becoming un-spun. Peter Mandelson does not say whether these meetings were in an office in Brussels with other EU officials, or on his yacht eating canap├ęs. Of course if Peter Mandelson really played no part in the aluminium negotiations, as he seems to be claiming, then what was he doing as the EU Trade Commissioner?

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