UK's Kwasi Kwarteng held secret meetings with Saudi oil companies: report

UK's Kwasi Kwarteng held secret meetings with Saudi oil companies: report
Documents viewed by The Guardian alleged that the UK's then-energy minister Kwasi Kwarteng held secret meetings with Saudi Aramco, SABIC and Alfanar Group during an official visit to Saudi Arabia in January.
3 min read
12 October, 2022
Kwasi Kwarteng is currently the UK's Chancellor of the Exchequer [Getty]

UK Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng had secret meetings with Saudi oil firm executives during a trip to the Kingdom in January, documents accessed by The Guardian revealed. 

Kwarteng, who was then the UK’s business and energy minister, held undisclosed meetings with the head of Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil company, as well as the chair of the Alfanar Group and the chief executive of SABIC during his visit, according to the documents released during a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

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The meetings reportedly took place during a formal two-day trip to the Kingdom.

Transparency documents by the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy -  which was headed by Kwarteng - had not declared the meetings at the time, even though details of meetings with business executives are required to be disclosed. 

His visit to Sabic, however, was tweeted out by the company on 1 February. 

Kwarteng was also reportedly flown around Saudi Arabia by Aramco, raising questions about his compliance with the UK’s ministerial code which states that free travel offers should not be accepted, except if offered by a foreign government with no strings attached. 

“The omission of meetings with [the] companies arose due to an administrative oversight. The data is being updated to reflect those meetings. There was clearly no intention to withhold this information as hospitality received from companies was declared at the time," a UK government spokesperson told The New Arab. 

“Travel to and from Saudi Arabia was arranged by the British Government. These short, internal flights within Saudi Arabia were arranged by the Saudi government and have been properly and publicly declared, as is required," the spokesperson added.

The FOI request further revealed a briefing on information about Saudi Arabia prepared by civil servants before Kwarteng’s trip, which made no mention of the kingdom’s appalling human rights record against dissidents, journalists, and women.

Instead, a number of points reportedly praised Saudi Arabia, one of which said “women’s rights continue to improve dramatically” in the kingdom.

The New Arab has contacted Saudi Aramco and SABIC for comment. 

Kwarteng, who currently holds the second most powerful position in the UK government as Chancellor of the Exchequer, has been widely criticised for his recent decisions to lower taxes on the UK’s highest earners during an economic crisis affecting the cost of living and energy prices.