Blair and Nazarbayev
Tony Blair (right) pictured here in 2006 with the Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev for whom he acted as a consultantReuters

Former British prime minister Tony Blair helped attract investment to a region of Kazakhstan which had been the scene of a brutal police crackdown. After Blair's consultancy firm Tony Blair Associates (TBA) had been a consultant for the country's president Nursultan Nazarbayev, he became an adviser in 2014 to the oil-rich area of Mangystau.

The Times reported how TBA was the intermediary for energy deals and help to usher in foreign investment and improve governance in the region, where at least 14 people were shot in 2011 when police fired on striking oil workers.

The present governor of the region, Alik Aidarbayev, was the chief executive of KazMunaiGaz (KMP) the oil company whose mistreatment of workers was said to have cause the massacre. After the killings, Blair was heavily criticised in the media when he advised the Kazakh president to say in a speech to the University of Cambridge in 2014 that although the deaths were "tragic...they should not obscure the enormous progress".

The group Human Rights Watch has accused the country of cracking down on the media, civil society and the opposition and expressed concern at the possibility of Blair "whitewashing the image of the government".

A spokesman for Blair said that the company's work in Mangystau involved no communications element and his role involved helping "to build capacity to attract investment and improve accountability" to help the region deliver better services for its citizens, The Times reported.

In March 2016, opposition activist Yermek Narymbayev, who had been jailed for a Facebook posting, told IBTimes UK before his release that he expected a continued crackdown on human rights in the Central Asian country.

Meanwhile, Tony Blair faces questions over claims that he managed his wealth via a secret trust which followed contact with the UK's top tax official. Senior politicians have demanded an inquiry following the claims there was an approach made by a consultant hired by Blair's lawyers to the head of Revenue and Customs Dave Hartnett.