Wednesday, 7 September 2011


The spy who quit MI6 for BP's oil cash... and set in train Labour's love-in with tyrant Gaddafi

By Steve Bird

He likes to proclaim in his Who’s Who entry that he enjoys the arts of Islamic calligraphy and falconry in his spare time.

But one boast the veteran Arabist Sir Mark Allen is unlikely be making to the pinstriped cronies he mixes with in London’s clubland is that he was the man who brought Colonel Gaddafi in from the cold.

Or that he forged close links with Gaddafi’s son, Saif, who has a PhD from the London School of Economics, which tarnished its name accepting vast sums from the Gaddafi clan.
Arabist: Sir Mark Allen is said to have forged close links with Gaddafi's son, Saif

As it happens, Sir Mark is on the advisory board of the LSE’s centre for the study of international affairs. He is also an adviser to the Monitor Group, the global consultancy firm and equity firm that Saif used to carry out the research for his doctorate.

As an MI6 spy, Sir Mark has for decades moved in a shadowy world that could have come from the pages of a John le Carré novel.


* Torture victim to sue Britain: Libyan rebel leader could be in line for £1million payout
* Britain handed rebel to Gaddafi torturers: Devastating secret files in Libya reveal UK 'crossed the line' to prop up tyrant
* Rebel troops poised to strike remaining Gaddafi strongholds after negotiations break down

The 61-year-old father of two is thought to be the author of a fawning 2004 letter to Gaddafi’s ruthless former intelligence chief, Musa Kusa, discovered in an abandoned Libyan government building.

The letter appears to show that MI6 provided intelligence which led to the rendition of a Libyan dissident who was tortured.
Ruthless: Gaddafi's former intelligence chief Musa Kusa is thought to have received a fawning letter from Sir Mark

Ruthless: Gaddafi's former intelligence chief Musa Kusa is thought to have received a fawning letter from Sir Mark

Quite what all those other Libyans who were also tortured at Mr Kusa’s behest – he is known in Libya as the ‘fingernail-puller-in-chief’ – will make of the letter’s solicitous enquiries after the Kusa family is open to question.

Few Britons can claim to have met Gaddafi as many times as Sir Mark.

It was he who paved the way for Tony Blair to visit the dictator in Tripoli in 2004 and strike a pact with the dictator who promised to renounce weapons of mass destruction.

The deal helped secure extensive drilling rights in Libya for the oil giants BP and Shell, and it came as little surprise that Sir Mark should soon move seamlessly at around this time from the diplomatic service to become a £200,000-a-year adviser to BP.

The key to Sir Mark’s extensive contacts in Libya lies in his obsession with the Middle East. From Catholic private school at Downside in Somerset he went up Oxford to study Classics but quickly changed to Arabic.

From university he went to Jordan, bought a camel and explored the country. It was there that he fell in love with falconry, a sport he had dabbled in since the age of 14 and one mastered to an art by the Bedouin tribes.

He went on to study at the Middle East Centre for Arabic Studies, a British ‘spy school’ in a village near Beirut.

At 23 he joined the Diplomatic Service and became known as one of the ‘camel-core Arabists’. To this day, Sir Mark can be seen occasionally wearing his black and white Palestinian keffiyeh, the traditional Arab headdress regularly worn by the late Yasser Arafat.
Acquaintance: Few Britons can claim to have met Gaddafi as many times as Sir Mark

Acquaintance: Few Britons can claim to have met Gaddafi as many times as Sir Mark

Working under diplomatic cover in Abu Dhabi and Cairo, he quickly developed contacts in the Arab world that were ‘second to none’. In 2003, he met Gaddafi and set in train Labour’s love-in with the tyrant. He was even said to have held a secret London meeting with Kusa, the Libyan spy chief, in the Travellers Club in Pall Mall. That summer, sanctions against the country were lifted.

But in 2004 Sir Mark quit the service early when he learned he would not be succeeding his boss Sir Richard Dearlove as head of MI6, and joined BP, although he never quite left his old diplomatic role behind.

In 2007, Sir Mark had made two telephone calls to Jack Straw, the then Justice Secretary, to discuss a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya, although BP insists it had not lobbied specifically for Megrahi’s inclusion in any deal.

It just so happened that negotiations over prisoners were blocking a £15billion oil drilling deal that Sir Mark was helping to broker between BP and the Libyan regime. Weeks after those telephone calls, Mr Straw allowed Megrahi to be part of the prison transfer agreement with Libya. It was a decision that put the White House on a collision course with the UK. And last year the American Senate Committee announced that it wanted to cross-examine the former spy over his role in the shameful affair.

In one of Sir Mark’s books, Arabs, he admits he has ‘avoided’ naming sources, adding: ‘Those who read it and see their influence in it will know how much I owe them.’ How much he owed Musa Kusa is clear from the tone of that 2004 letter.

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