Business leaders back Duke of York’s trade role
The Duke of York has received support from leading UK businesses after facing a torrid few weeks of allegations surrounding his friendship with a convicted paedophile and his contacts with controversial leaders.
By Kamal Ahmed, and Richard Orange in Kazakhstan 13 Mar 2011
BG Group, the gas exploration giant with interests around the world, and Shell both said that the Duke, who is Britain’s special representative on trade and industry, was an important conduit for international relations and often enabled deals to be signed.
“BG Group is a major British company with interests and investments around the world and has worked with HRH Duke of York in his capacity as the UK’s special representative,” the company said in a statement. “We have appreciated his contributions.
“HRH Duke of York has previously provided helpful and relevant support to discussions, for example with the Republic of Kazakhstan government regarding the Karachaganak field in Kazakhstan.
“Discussions between the Kazakh government and the Karachaganak partners are ongoing, are commercially confidential and therefore we are not able to comment further.” BG Group is the biggest UK investor in Kazakhstan. Oil, gas and petrochemicals giant Shell also said that the Duke had provided help.
“British trade and investment benefits greatly from the strong support that the Duke of York provides in his role as the UK’s special representative,” a Shell spokesman said.
“His experience, commitment and global reach are a real asset to UK companies operating around the world, in a wide range of businesses.”
Tony Fernandez, the Malaysian chief executive of the low-cost airline AirAsia, said that, without the Duke, Rolls Royce and Airbus could have missed out on more than $2bn of deals with the airline.
The Duke has faced heavy criticism over his conduct after he met billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, a man convicted of soliciting sex with minors. According to royal sources, the Duke now regrets that meeting.
The Duke has also faced criticism that he has met leaders from countries with questionable human rights records, particularly Tunisia and Libya.
He has also helped companies in Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.
“If you have a vice-something or deputy-anything, it doesn’t cut anything here,” said Peter Howes, a managing director at Kazakhstan’s Sovereign Wealth Fund and one of the most senior British businessmen in the oil-rich former Soviet country.
“The King of Norway comes over, [Silvio] Berlusconi’s been here, [Nicolas] Sarkozy’s been here.
“David Cameron hasn’t come here, [Gordon] Brown didn’t come here and neither did [Tony] Blair. The highest-level representative we’ve ever had here is the Prince.
“Royalty always has an attraction to people. The Kazakhs at least feel some respect is being shown. It’s not corruption, it’s relationships.”