Pandora Papers: How ex-Tory minister received £166,000 for flattering book on Kazakh President

The Pandora Papers is the biggest trove of leaked offshore data, comprising 11.9 million files “exposing” the alleged secret wealth and dealings of the world’s richest and most powerful. The documents were released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

Sunday’s published dossier of leaked documents from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and a plethora of UK media outlets – the Pandora papers – has offered new insight into the dealings of former Conservative MP and Church of England parish priest, Jonathan Aitken, who was convicted of perjury in 1999.

Jonathan Aitken

Former UK Conservative MP and Church of England parish priest Jonathan Aitken was paid £166,000 for his biography about Kazakhstan’s President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, according to the Pandora Papers leak, cited by The Guardian.

It’s claimed that the ex-MP, convicted in 1999 for perjury, was secretly approached by a PR firm employed by the Kazakh government and commissioned to write a flattering book focusing on the activities of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev during the first 20 years of that nation’s independence following the fall of the Soviet Union.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev

The remuneration was subsequently routed via Hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands to reach Oxford, where Aitken Consultancy & Research Services Limited is located, stated the cited documents.

WorldPR, a public relations agency founded in London, also reportedly picked up the tab for Aitken’s overseas book tour, which included a stay at the Capital Hilton near the White House.

The leak is said to have contained Aitken’s receipt to a tune of $1,527 (£1,117), listing three nights’ accommodation and a plethora of services.Furthermore, the Library of Congress, which was the venue for the April 2010 event where he touted his book “Nazarbayev and the Making of Kazakhstan: From Communism to Capitalism,” was purportedly paid $6,996 by the PR company.

The Kazakh Embassy is said to have bankrolled another speaking engagement pertaining to the book at New York’s Harvard Club.

The revelations laid bare by the Pandora Papers appear to defy the ex-MP’s former statements regarding his literary effort.

In April 2010, when Aitken flew to Washington to launch his latest book, he told the audience at the Library of Congress:“Biographers are artists on oath… They like painting on a broad canvas,” adding:“I have never had a more dramatic and turbulent canvas than the life story of Nazarbayev.”

The former MP for Thanet in Kent saw his political career come to a sudden end when he was convicted of perjury in 1999 and received an 18-month prison sentence, of which he served seven months.

Aitken admitted perjury and perverting the course of justice during a failed attempt to sue The Guardian for libel after the outlet reported that he had worked as a “glorified fixer” for the Saudi royal family since the 1970s. The story, suggesting an arms deal scam involving Aitken’s business partner, Lebanese businessman Mohammed Said Ayas, a close associate of Prince Mohammed of Saudi Arabia, was the result of a lengthy investigation carried out by journalists from the newspaper and from Granada Television’s “World in Action” programme.

Aitken had vehemently denounced the claims and threatened a libel case.

However, The Guardian and Granada later produced evidence countering his claim that his wife, Lolicia Aitken, paid for the hotel stay at the Ritz Hotel in Paris of Said Ayas.Aitken, who wrote his memoir “Pride and Perjury” upon his release, professed to have rediscovered his Christian faith behind bars.He has since been ordained at St Paul’s Cathedral and has been working as an unpaid prison chaplain, attached to a parish in Westminster.