Pro-Saudi Tory MP Accepted $20,000 to Speak at Qatari Opposition Event

Pro-Saudi Tory MP Accepted $20,000 to Speak at Qatari Opposition EventPro-Saudi Tory MP Accepted $20,000 to Speak at Qatari Opposition Event

A Conservative MP once dubbed the “Honorable Member for Riyadh Central” for his close ties to Saudi Arabia was paid £15,000 ($20,700) to help organize and then speak at a controversial Qatari opposition conference in London, it has emerged.

Figures published in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests reveal that Daniel Kawczynski, a former adviser to prime minister David Cameron, received the fee from Akta Group Ltd for advising and then speaking at the Qatar, Global Security & Stability Conference in September last year, Middle East Eye reported.

Organized by London-based Qatari exile Khalid al-Hail, the event was billed as bringing together “hundreds of world-renowned political figures, policy makers, academics, commentators and Qataris,” but was sparsely attended, attracted few Qatari exiles and was dismissed by analysts as a “cack-handed” attempt at promoting a coup in Qatar.

On the day of the event, Kawczynski told MEE he was not accepting a fee to attend after saying he was not “backing” the event, but his subsequent disclosure to parliamentary authorities shows that he received two $10,370 (£7,500) installments from Akta Group, a small public relations firm.

The MP for Shrewsbury also did not disclose the exact details of his speaking engagement or related advisory work, to the dismay of transparency campaigners.

The conference, held on 14 September at the InterContinental Hotel in North Greenwich, took part as an information war raged across the Persian Gulf over the Qatar dispute. It saw a string of influential speakers attack Qatar’s poor human rights record, alleged support for terrorist groups and relationship with regional rival Iran. 

Qatar is an absolute monarchy were the emir holds all executive and legislative power and opposition is banned, but the conference faced criticism that it was allegedly backed by Qatar’s regional rivals and is seeking “regime change” in the country.

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