Four former British ministers have been found to be involved in a secret plan to place the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and its police chief as the head of Interpol, in documents that were leaked yesterday.
Last year, the UAE's police chief Major General Ahmed Naser Al-Raisi was nominated as a candidate to lead the international policing organisation, sparking criticism due to allegations of his torturing of detainees and his poor human rights record.
The UK-based news outlet the Daily Mail, however, reported that it has seen leaked documents of the British lobbying firm Project Associates' (PA) planning of a secret campaign to get al-Raisi appointed.
The documents further reveal that four British political figures had a part in that campaign, consisting of the former defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon, former foreign office minister Alistair Burt, former MP Sir Richard Ottoway and former Labour Cabinet minister Baroness Catherine Ashton.
According to a spokesman for the lobbying firm PA who spoke to the paper, the leaked documents were "a proposal which sets out a number of potential activities, many of which had not taken place due to changed circumstances." Those circumstances, it was reported, included the travel restrictions caused by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The spokesman explained that the former ministers were not actively involved in the campaign for al-Raisi's appointment but were simply "within PA's network" and available "reach out to in such a campaign if appropriate."
Although the post of Interpol president will be decided within the next few weeks, this is not the first time that the UAE has been seen to intentionally increase its influence within Interpol. Back in 2017, Abu Dhabi was accused of attempting to "buy" influence in the organisation through a direct contribution of 50 million euros.
The leak of the documents and the implication of al-Raisi's campaign comes a week after Syria – a regional ally of the UAE, coincidentally – had its ban from Interpol lifted by the organisation, and was also given direct access to its international policing network.
If al-Raisi wins the presidency, then it would mean a strong presence of both Abu Dhabi and Damascus within the organisation, which human rights activists insist would be detrimental to the safety of dissidents and critics around the world.
Those fears are especially heightened amid the UK High Court's recent findings that the ruler of Dubai had used Israeli spyware technology to hack into the phones of his estranged wife, her lawyers, and journalists throughout the world.
The British government has not yet made it known which candidate it will support for Interpol's presidency, but the revelation of the four ex-ministers' indirect involvement potentially further reveals the links between British political figures, foreign actors and lobbying groups worldwide.
That is especially the case with figures from the ruling Conservative party. While Ashton was part of the Labour party, the other three are former Tory ministers.