Tony Blair is to be paid at least £200,000 by a City firm accused of profiteering from the financial crisis that brought Britain's banks to their knees.
The former Prime Minister has been hired by the hedge fund Lansdowne Partners to deliver four presentations to staff about the world political situation. Mr Blair, one of the world's most highly-paid speakers, reportedly commands between £50,000 and £170,000 for a single speech.
Details of his latest money-spinning appearance emerged days before he is due to appear before the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war.
He was accused last night of a “shameless” willingness to accept money from any source.
The deal caused further surprise as the company's chairman Paul Ruddock has donated more than £400,000 to the Conservative Party — most of it since David Cameron became its leader.
Lansdowne, which has held significant stakes in companies from Manchester United to J Sainsbury since it was set up in 1998, is Europe's fourth largest hedge fund.
It is believed to have made hundreds of millions of pounds during the 2008 banking crisis from “short-selling” shares.
A short-seller makes money from a declining share price. A trader borrows a stock from a longer-term investor for a fee and immediately sells it.
The trader waits for the stock to fall before buying it back and returning it, pocketing the difference.
Allies stress that Blair undertakes a variety of charitable and unpaid work, including his role as international envoy to the Middle East.
Lansdowne said that Mr Blair would not be acting as a consultant, but would simply be making a series of presentations to staff on “geopolitics”. Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, a Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman, said: “Tony Blair is utterly shameless. He seems to be happy to take money from anybody, whether they are donating hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Tory party or whether they are hedge funds that made huge profits from selling Britain's banks short.
“This man appears to have a total mental block where ethics are concerned — if they pay enough money he will not ask any questions.”