A hereditary peer was recruited to design a luxurious country garden for Syria’s Assad family, leaked emails have shown.
Randle Siddeley, the 4th Baron Kenilworth, charged thousands of pounds after he laid down a new garden at the ruling family’s country residence near the coastal city of Latakia on the Mediterranean Sea.
Lord Kenilworth, a noted landscape architect, flew to Damascus to brief Asma al-Assad, the Syrian first lady, in person about his design plans, according to emails obtained by the WikiLeaks website.
The collaboration between the Assads and Lord Kenilworth appears to have begun in 2010 and the early costs of the project were estimated at £176,500.
But as the uprising against Mr Assad’s rule began 16 months ago, the relationship appears to have soured. One email sent last September, reminding Mr Assad’s office that £24,000 pounds was still outstanding, suggests that Lord Kenilworth struggled to receive full payment.
The peer insisted that all work ended before the violence in Syria began.
“We stopped working there 18 months ago,” he told the Mail on Sunday. “I can’t comment any further.”
The correspondence is among 2.6 million documents and emails pertaining to Syria that WikLeaks has begun to publish.
The latest tranche to be released showed that Mr Assad provided money to a female aide, Lamis Omar, a doctorate student at the University of Durham.
Emails released earlier this year have demonstrated a surprisingly affectionate relationship between the Syrian president and a number of young women, and Miss Omar wrote effusively about Mr Assad in her emails.
“My life is no longer my own,” she declared in one. “I willingly dedicate it for all the meanings I find in you and in all those loved by you. Please allow me to further prove it.”
It is unclear whether or not Mr Assad directly paid Miss Omar’s university fees.
Brown Lloyd James, an Anglo-American public relations firm also faces embarrassment from the latest disclosures. In may last year, as the violence was worsening, it wrote to Mrs Assad’s office proposing that she and her husband burnish their image by embarking on a “listening tour” of Syria.
The firm, founded by former Beatles manager Peter Brown, has previously insisted that it had ended all work with the Syrian government in December, 2010.
A spokesman for the firm said the email was an “unsolicited last-ditch memo” to try to persuade the regime to implement reforms and that no money was received for the advice.