“Whilst Foreign Secretary the front runner in the present Conservative leadership race appeared mainly concerned with selling weapons on behalf of British business, barking at visiting Malaysian dignatories “Aren’t you interested in buying arms?” in lieu of a more conventional welcome. To which the answer has so far been a sensible no.
The question is how will trade and investment flow if Boris takes charge? Brexit to one side (having to an extent performed its purpose in making him leader) it seems likely that Johnson will soon respond to some of the financial interests which supported his rise. These include businessmen behind what is termed as the ‘Commonwealth Agenda’, keen to revive what they see as the UK’s special ties with countries such as Malaysia.
Barely known in the UK, but long since recognised as a key promoter of this agenda and also of former prime minister Najib Razak is Lord Jonathan Marland, who set up a two pound limited company called the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council and appointed himself as Chairman after stepping down from a short stint as a working peer in the Department for Energy in 2014.
The Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC) has a ‘small secretariat’ at the Malborough House headquarters of the Commonwealth according to its website and Marland has hired the former Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire (from the Swire commercial family and previously in charge of Malaysian matters) to be his Deputy.
The focus of CWEIC is concentrated on channelling foreign money into the UK as per a new so-called ‘Commonwealth Partnership Programme’ signed last week with the well-known off-shore haven of Jersey purportedly designed to:
“.. unlock opportunities for Jersey to increase its visibility and access to key decision makers in priority Commonwealth markets through CWEIC’s extensive cross-border networks and in-country expertise.
Lord Marland said: “I am delighted the Government of Jersey is strengthening its partnership with CWEIC. Together we will continue to support the ambitions of the Government of Jersey to increase trade across the 53 members countries of the Commonwealth.”
Senator Gorst [of Jersey] said: “I hope … CWEIC’s support will maximise opportunities and encourage UK-based programmes or inward delegations to visit Jersey.”
As readers of Sarawak Report may be aware Lord Marland likewise claims he was the driving force behind the massive investment of Malaysian public money into London’s most costly ever development project at Battersea Power Station during his short term as a minister:
I think the only legacy [of his role] that… lasting legacy will forever exist would be Battersea Power Station which I was the minister responsible for getting that going… it is fascinating seeing the towers coming down and going back up again which I was utterly insistent upon and actually getting the Malaysians, they were brilliant, they are still. …
Q: What do you regard as your big achievement in office?
LM: .. I think opening trade relationships with some of the biggest countries in the world which had completely died. I mean, Malaysia for example, you know, the amount of Malaysia monies coming in… Getting those relationships going and then buying into British. [Lord Marland]
As testimony to his role Marland attended the earth-turning on the project in 2013 together with private developers SP Setia, former PM Najib Razak (Malaysian Government concerns Sime Derby and EPF already owned 60%), former PM David Cameron and the then London Mayor Boris Johnson.
Swiftly, the major shareholder of SP Setia, Liew Kee Sin, managed to sell out his stake in the company to the Minister of Finance (also Najib) controlled fund PNB the following year at what could only be described as a surprisingly advantageous price of RM3.95 for each of his 67 million shares, which was RM1.00 above the market rate.
Having cashed out so handsomely Liew was perhaps equally surprisingly permitted to remain as Chairman thanks to the acquiescence of the new publicly owned shareholders. Meanwhile he transferred most of the SP Setia staff to a new company under his control, namely the now burgeoning property development company Eco World, which soon got down to a number of rival developments next door to Battersea itself in London.”