Mandelson met Gaddafi’s son before Lockerbie release announcement
August 21, 2009; NewsRescue
Business secretary and Saif al-Islam Gaddafi discussed Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi at Rothschild villa in Corfu
Guardian.co.uk– Lord Mandelson met Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s son at a Corfu villa only a week before the announcement that the perpetrator of the Lockerbie bombing could be released from prison, it was revealed today.
It also emerged that the business secretary met a leading Hollywood critic of illegal filesharing at the same location just days before launching a crackdown on internet piracy.
Mandelson came under fire following his stay at the Greek property of the Rothschild family in Corfu, where he was invited as part of a wider annual gathering of influential people, according to the Financial Times.
Mandelson’s spokesman told the FT that the business secretary and Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, widely seen as the Libyan leader’s most likely successor, spoke briefly a fortnight ago during their stay at the Greek property of the Rothschild family and confirmed that they did discuss Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.
News emerged a week after their meeting that Megrahi could get an early release on compassionate grounds because he is suffering from terminal cancer.
Mandelson said through his spokesman that he had had no involvement in the decision and only learned of it through the BBC.
“There was a fleeting conversation about the prisoner,” the spokesman told the FT. “Peter was completely unsighted on the subject.”
A separate report in today’s Daily Mail reveals that Mandelson also met David Geffen, a leading Hollywood critic of illegal filesharing, at a dinner held at the Rothschilds’ Corfu villa, just days before laying out plans to criminalise the estimated 7 million people – one in 12 of the population – who illicitly download music and films over the internet.
Those flouting new laws could see their internet accounts suspended and face fines of up to £50,000.
Mandelson ordered officials to draw up the regulations days after dinner with Geffen, according to the Mail.
Tory backbencher David Davies said: “It does seem a remarkable coincidence. Peter Mandelson should be forced to reveal the full extent of his meetings with wealthy friends on holiday and, in the name of openness, disclose exactly what they discussed.”
A spokesman for Mandelson said filesharing was not discussed at the dinner.
“Work has been ongoing on these issues for a matter of weeks,” he said. “Lord Mandelson does not believe Digital Britain is even on David Geffen’s radar.”
But a source at the Department for Business reportedly told the Mail: “Until the past week, Mandelson had shown little personal interest in the Digital Britain agenda. Suddenly Peter returned from holiday and effectively issued this edict that the regulation needs to be tougher.”
The reports came after Mandelson finished his stint deputising for Gordon Brown while he is on holiday and handed over the reins to Alistair Darling, the chancellor.
Mandelson, who declared himself a “kindly pussycat” in a Guardian interview last Monday before launching a series of attacks on shadow chancellor George Osborne and the Tories, managed to command a high profile during his week in charge.
This no doubt helped fuel the results of a Sunday Mirror poll published yesterday, which showed that Mandelson is emerging as a favourite to succeed Brown as Labour leader. Party members place him second behind David Miliband as their choice.
Darling is expected to court less publicity than Mandelson during his week at the helm, though No 10 has been at pains to stress that Brown remains in charge of the country during his holiday, and he has broken off from his vacation to deal with major issues – including the UK death toll in Afghanistan passing 200.
Aides said Darling plans to split his time between his Edinburgh constituency and London, rather than staying put in Downing Street.
The Times reported today how Darling warned Brown before the reshuffle in June that he would quit the government if he was moved out of his role as chancellor.
With Brown already having lost a number of ministers who walked out in the run-up to the June European and local election poll, the prime minister was powerless to move Darling following his insistence that he was not prepared to take another ministerial role.
Brown had been widely rumoured prior to the reshuffle to want Ed Balls, the schools secretary, to take over at the Treasury. source