London: Former British Premier Tony Blair met Indian-born steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal in Kazakhstan and secured a deal, worth nearly eight million pounds, to clean up the image of the corruption-hit central Asian nation, a media report in Britain said.
The newspaper has also published a photo of Blair sitting next to Mittal, Britain's richest man with a fortune of over 20 billion pounds and the biggest employer in Kazakhstan, at a meeting of powerful international businessmen in the Kazakh capital Astana in May.
Mittal employs 50,000 people in Kazakhstan and is said to be close to the country's President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
A senior adviser to the Kazakh President said that Blair had opened an office in the capital. "A large working group is here and, to my knowledge, it has already opened Tony Blair's permanent office in Astanam," Presidential adviser Yermukhamet Yertysbayev was quoted as saying.
In leaked US diplomatic cables, Kazakhstan was accused of being undemocratic; using torture and other abuse; arbitrary arrest and detention; restriction on free speech; corruption in law enforcement and the judicial system; discrimination and violence against women and people trafficking.
Despite this, Blair and close colleagues have made a number of visits there, the newspaper said.
However, a spokesperson for Blair said: "Tony Blair has helped put together a team of international advisers and consultants to set up an advisory group for the Kazakhs, with a team of people working on the ground. The work they're doing is excellent, sensible and supports the reforms.
"The Kazakhs also engage with a number of other former European leaders. Blair is not personally making a profit directly or indirectly through Tony Blair Associates or any company on this. He is not doing business in Kazakhstan."
A spokesman for Mittal has declined to comment, the newspaper said.
First Published: Sunday, October 30, 2011, 17:38