A millionaire Conservative politician is about to pocket a neat £1.5 million (US$1.87 million) from the sale of a Kurdistani oil company he was hired to advise on while serving as the MP for Stratford-upon-Avon.
Nadhim Zahawi is set to hit the jackpot if Gulf Keystone, the group he has acted as strategy officer for since June 2015, is bought by the Chinese oil giant Sinopec. As a 2-percent stakeholder in the business, Zahawi is entitled to “performance units” worth over £1.4 million.
This is not the first time Zahawi has made a profit from Gold Keystone. His monthly salary as a strategy advisor is estimated at £20,125 – over £240,000 a year. Regular bonuses of up to £26,000 are also known to be given to the Iraq-born Tory.
The news follows the announcement that MPs might soon be told to drop high-income “second jobs” if they clash with their parliamentary duties. The Parliamentary Standards watchdog is looking into the matter, after 73 MPs were paid £3.4 million in the last year for “external advisory roles.”
Zahawi is a former member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and has traveled in that capacity to the region of Kurdistan often. In January, the MP took then-London Mayor Boris Johnson to Kurdistan on a private jet. Johnson, now foreign secretary, later argued for closer links between Britain and the region.
“We sense that, for the politicians and perhaps also the people of the Kurdistan region, management of the oil and gas fields also fulfils an important psychological and symbolic need: to demonstrate, after decades, if not centuries, of political marginalization and neglect, that Kurds in Iraq can finally be masters of their own destiny,” Zahawi told the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.
Kurdistan, which is split between the territory of four nations – Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran – has long demanded independence. Johnson’s visit was seen as a public relations victory for the autonomous Kurdistani government, as the old Etonian was pictured with a Kalashnikov visiting Kurdish Peshmerga troops training for combat. Kurdish troops have gained international acclaim for their frontline fight against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) forces.
Gulf Keystone, which produces around 40,000 barrels of oil a day and is valued at £350 million, has recently got into financial difficulties due to payment delays from the Kurdish Regional Government.
Zahawi previously hit the headlines during the 2012/13 expenses scandal, when it was found he had filed for a whopping £170,234 in parliamentary expenses. It was found that £5,822 had been claimed for electricity for his horse riding school stables and a yard manager’s mobile home.
Both Zahawi and Gulf Keystone declined to comment.