Omina Strategy, the law firm founded by former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s wife, earned more than £2,000 (US$2,850) a day working for Yameen in various capacities, including managing his administration’s PR.
The firm claims it was hired to help “improve transparency and accountability” in the country, where Yameen imprisoned more than 1,700 opposition activists during a state of emergency last November.
But secret documents obtained by the Daily Mail indicate the firm was hired to advise on “strategic diplomacy, media training, [and] international media relations” and to handle PR during the government’s legal battle with former president Mohamed Nasheed, who claims he was ousted from office by force in 2012.
— RT UK (@RTUKnews) June 26, 2015
Nasheed, who was represented in court by Amal Clooney, was later jailed for 13 years after a trial described by Amnesty International as a “sham.”
According to the investigation, Cherie Blair’s company was paid more £420,000 for six months’ work, £210,000 of which was paid by Mohamed Allam Latheef – a man now wanted by Interpol on charges of arms trafficking and terrorism.
Omina Strategy was also involved in financial transactions with Adbullah Ziyath, the former head of state-run Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), who is now suspected of colluding with Latheef and is on trial for allegedly masterminding the embezzlement of more than £50 million from the government.
The Daily Mail quoted lawyers representing victims of the regime who have called for Blair’s relationship with the Maldivian leader to be investigated.
— RT UK (@RTUKnews) September 10, 2015
“Like all law firms … Omnia is subject to strict money-laundering laws which require it to carry out due diligence on the people who are paying it,” one told the newspaper.
The Daily Mail also reports that one payment to Blair’s law firm was made by Abdullah Raifiu, a Maldivian businessman who claims he was duped into paying Blair by Latheef.
Eva Abdullah, an MP with the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, said Omina Strategy should have been suspicious when a private company paid an invoice for the government.
“The invoice shows Cherie Blair is working for the most corrupt agency of a very corrupt government.
“When Omnia sent an invoice to the government and ended up getting paid by a private company, that should have raised all sorts of red flags.”
— RT UK (@RTUKnews) June 12, 2015
In a statement, Omina Strategy said the firm suspended its work with the Maldives following the political unrest in the country last year.
“Following the unpredictable domestic events that occurred in the Maldives in October and November 2015, Omnia Strategy moved swiftly to suspend the provision of services to MMPRC and subsequently terminated its engagement … before the completion of the contract.
“Regarding the allegations surrounding payment of our invoice, we are taking this matter very seriously and are reviewing the suggestion our client was not in control of the referenced bank account.”
The firm said its role involved advising the government on legislative and institutional reform, adding “this was a separate contract … it has also concluded.”