Inside the UAE’s Reach: Nadhim Zahawi and British Media Interests

Nadhim Zahawi is an Iraqi-born UK politician who served in various ministerial positions from 2018 to 2023. He most recently acted as Chairman of the Conservative Party. A member of the Conservative Party, he became a Member of Parliament in 2010. Nadhim Zahawi was a guest of the UAE at COP28. The former chancellor was reportedly working as an “intermediary” between the UAE and the Barclay family as it seeks to retrieve control of the Telegraph Media Group. However, a role Zahawi failed to declare to the Office of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments. 

The UK government has referred the Telegraph deal to regulators and has encountered concerns over potential foreign interference in the newspaper. There have also been apprehensions that Zahawi has yet to declare his role in the deal with the relevant political authorities. Parliamentary rules need former ministers to seek the direction of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA), a Whitehall watchdog, before taking on paid or unpaid roles.

Conservative Nadhim Zahawi attended the COP28 climate summit as a guest of the UAE. It raises prompting questions about his role as the mediator in the host country’s future takeover of a major British newspaper.

An investment fund endowed by the UAE has arranged to buy The Telegraph and its sister publication, the Spectator, and obliterate the £1.16 billion debt of the Barclay brothers, their current proprietors.  A list of COP28 parties released by the UN showed that Zahawi is the only Conservative MP to have been given admission to the conference by the UAE.

Zahawi, whose badge permits access to the summit’s official ‘Blue Zone,’ was also spotted at a royal reception in Dubai featuring Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE.

The access introduces further questions about the closeness between Zahawi and the UAE, a fossil fuel state, how his position may facilitate the sale of the newspaper, and whether he will be affected in the running of the paper if the purchase is completed.

Moreover, The UAE-backed fund is a collaborative venture between U.S.-based RedBird Capital and International Media Investments (IMI) of Abu Dhabi. RedBird Capital has vast fossil fuel investments, holding a stake in at least six fossil fuel firms. 

Reports suggested that the deal was backed by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the deputy prime minister of the UAE and the head of its state-owned investment company.

Later, Zahawi admitted that he presented IMI to the Barclay brothers, and it has been suggested that the former chancellor of the exchequer could be seated as the chairman of the Telegraph Media Group if the deal goes through.

Surprisingly, Zahawi has a long history of performing for oil and gas companies. The MP has earned £1.3 million from a Kurdish oil company while acting as an MP and has advised fossil fuel firms operating in Nigeria and Canada.

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