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Nice work if you can get it

SOLOMON HUGHES reveals how the Tory MP for Shrewsbury is moonlighting for the Electrum Group – a mining firm owned by a man who is suing an entire country

SHREWSBURY Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski is now moonlighting with a controversial New York-based mining investment firm. 

Kawczynski will get £72,000 a year to work for The Electrum Group — almost as much as the £76,000 a year he gets to represent the people of Shrewsbury.

Kawczynski says in the register of MPs’ interests that in February he became a “consultant providing general advice” to Electrum Group, based on Madison Avenue, New York. 

He says Electrum will pay him £6,000 for 30 hours work each month, or about £200 an hour. 

Electrum is a mining investment group owned by billionaire investor Thomas Kaplan. 

Kawczynski moonlighted from his MP’s job as an adviser to another Kaplan mining firm, Tigris, on a more modest £36,000 salary back in 2012. 

New Yorker Kaplan, a keen investor in precious metals, has faced a number of controversies, and is also quite keen on hiring British politicians.

Back in 2009 Kaplan hired Tony Blair’s former aide Jonathan Powell to try to get a Romanian gold mine he had invested in working again. Environmental protests halted his proposed gold mine in Rosia Montana in Transylvania, Romania. 

Protesters were angry at the proposed use of cyanide in the mine. Gold can be extracted from low-grade ore by “cyanidation” where ground ore is mixed with water, cyanide and other chemicals to wash out the ore. 

This creates big pits of polluted material and the danger of cyanide leaks. In 2000 there was a cyanide leak at another Romanian mine which led to the poisoning of rivers in Romania and Hungary, including the Danube. 

Romania’s parliament backed the mine’s opponents and the Kaplan-backed mining company is currently trying to sue Romania for around £4 billion in compensation. 

So Kawczynski’s boss is currently involved in suing a whole country. 
Kaplan has politically sensitive interests worldwide, so having an MP on board looks useful. Kawczynski previously appeared at a conference in north Africa for one of Kaplan’s firms.

Kaplan also seems to be showing some interest in Russia: he is currently exhibiting his extensive collection of Rembrandts in Moscow, which he said was an artistic attempt to “build bridges” to Russia. 

Kawczynski has also been keen on “bridge-building” with Russia. In December 2016 he said in the register of MPs’ interests that he had a £760 dinner — that’s quite an expensive meal — courtesy of Eastern Seasons Agency, a subsidiary of the firm that runs Russia’s National Tourist Office. 

The meal turned out to be a luxury affair with grand food and “performances by the international ballet star Sergei Polunin, and British pop diva Sophie Ellis-Bextor.” 

It was the culmination of “Eastern Seasons Week,” a festival that “celebrates relationships between people and strives to reinforce the links between countries of eastern and western Europe” — where east principally means Russia.

Kaplan also attracted controversy in 2016 with the revelation that Jho Low, the central figure in Malaysia’s 1MDB scandal, had invested $150 million in his Electrum fund.  

Jho Low, an associate of the Malaysian prime minister, stands accused by US investigators of helping spirit away billions of dollars from 1MDB, a Malaysian government investment fund. 

Jho Low reportedly sat on the Electrum board, and also sat on the board of the Panthera Global Alliance, a big cat charity founded by Kaplan, who is obsessed by lions and tigers. 

Low no longer sits on these boards, and his investment in Electrum was not listed by US investigators searching for missing 1MDB money. 

Kawczynski’s job for Kaplan shows, once again, that British MPs are “moonlighting” for a host of exotic and controversial international investors. 

Kawczynski told his local paper, the Shropshire Star, that his job for a New York gold mining investor would not cause any problems because “this work will be carried out in the evenings, at weekends and when Parliament is not sitting and it will in no way compromise my parliamentary or constituency commitments.”

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