Lord Browne, president of UK fracker Cuadrilla Resources, paid an illegal $30m “sweetener” to an Azerbaijani oil company in the early 1990s, according to the Guardian’s investigative journalist Greg Palast.
In his book, Vulture’s Picnic, Palast documents how an associate of Lord Browne accompanied ex-prime minister Margaret Thatcher on a “business trip” to Azerbaijan (see p18 of pdf in above link). The associate carried a bag which contained a cheque for $30m – given to him by Lord Browne.
The cheque was intended to facilitate a deal with the then Azerbaijani president Heydar Aliyev. At the time Browne was head of BP, which was looking to exploit Azerbaijani oilfields. The cheque was intended to “sweeten” the deal.
Palast documents how Browne crony Leslie Abrahams paid off officials and solicited call girls to win the heats of Azerbaijani bureaucrats – and their oil leases. Abrahams was a BP executive in Baku in the 1990s.
Thatcher’s bag-carrying was not the only BP mission to take cash into Azerbaijan. Palast reveals: “We met with Abrahams in London who told us he was joined in his payoff runs by BP’s CEO and Chairman Lord Browne who insisted on handing over a “sweetener” himself.”
Lord Browne currently works inside the cabinet office as a lead non-executive. He was hired to this position by MP Francis Maude. Maude represents Balcombe, which is due to be fracked by Browne’s company Cuadrilla later this month.
The Cuadrilla president is not above getting his hands dirty. Residents of Lancashire have been surprised to receive calls from the fracking Czar, questioning their objections to his company’s presence. Browne is also active in lobbying government departments, holding four meeting with DECC ministers between late 2011 and July 2012 (see this Freedom of Information request recently received by MP Caroline Lucas)
Browne joins a motley crew of UK fracking executives with murky histories. In Scotland the Chief executive of Dart Energy shareholder Vitol pleaded guilty to first degree grand larceny after paying $13 million in ‘secret kickbacks’ to the Iraqi government. Another Vitol executive paid a Serbian hitman to silence a rival