Afghan president Hamid Karzai tells ministers to cut costs while staying at Claridge"s with 40 officials

Afghan president tells his ministers to cut costs while staying at Claridge's (suite 7,000 a night) with entourage of 40, and you pick up the bill
Hamid Karzai issued decree telling officials to cut back on expensive tripsSame day he checks into exclusive London hotel costing up to 7k a nightAfghan premier was in UK for peace talks with Pakistan president Zardari

By
Jason Groves

PUBLISHED:

10:21 GMT, 8 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

02:04 GMT, 9 February 2013

His war-torn country is one of the poorest in the world.

But Afghan President Hamid Karzai showed he has a taste for the finer things in life this week – by asking the British taxpayer to put him and his 40-strong entourage up at Claridge’s during a stay in London.

Claridge’s, in Mayfair, has been a byword for luxury for 200 years and is one of the world’s most expensive hotels. Basic rooms start at 300, but the suites favoured by rock stars, celebrities and world leaders can cost almost 7,000 per night.

Do as I say, not as I do: Afghan President Hamid Karzai was in London for talks with the Pakistan president, Asif Ali Zardari

Do as I say, not as I do: Afghan President Hamid Karzai was in London for talks with the Pakistan president

The Foreign Office agreed to pick up the bill for President Karzai and ten of his entourage, while the Afghan government – bankrolled to the tune of 175million a year by the British taxpayer via the soaring foreign aid budget – paid the rest of the cost.

The Afghan leader was in the UK for two days of talks at Chequers with David Cameron and Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari.

President Zardari and his entourage were also put up in the lap of luxury by the British taxpayer. The Pakistani leader favoured the Berkeley Hotel in Knightsbridge, conveniently located just around the corner from Harrods. Single rooms start at 240 a night, with suites running well into four figures.

The epitome of luxury: Claridge's' longstanding links with royalty have led to it being called an 'annexe to Buckingham Palace'

The epitome of luxury: Claridge's' long-standing links with royalty have led to it being called an 'annexe to Buckingham Palace'

Art Deco classic: The hotel's foyer is a favourite place for a traditional British afternoon tea, but there is often a long waiting list

Art Deco classic: The hotel's foyer is a favourite place for a traditional British afternoon tea, but there is often a long waiting list

Liveried staff: The recent television series Inside Claridge's offered a fascinating peek into the luxury London hotel

Liveried staff: The recent television series Inside Claridge's offered a fascinating peek into the luxury London hotel

The Foreign Office declined to comment on how much the two-day visit had cost taxpayers. But it is unlikely to have been cheap.

Claridge’s top-of-the-range Brook penthouse, favoured by the global elite, costs 6,900 a night. For that money guests get a vast suite the size of a large terraced house, with commanding views over central London.

The suite is described as an ‘elegant art deco-style apartment decorated in gentle lilac with light oak floors’.

More modest suites in the luxury hotel start at around 1,000 a night. Afternoon tea is 40 per head.

British Prime Minister David Cameron with Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari, left, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, right, at Chequers this week

British Prime Minister David Cameron with Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari, left, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, right, at Chequers this week

Trilateral talks: The three leaders held talks earlier this week in a bid to ensure peace for Afghanistan when international troops withdraw

Trilateral talks: The three leaders held talks earlier this week in a bid to ensure peace for Afghanistan when international troops withdraw

A Foreign Office spokesman said it was standard practice to offer ‘suitable’ accommodation to visiting heads of state, but details of the extravagant visit are likely to raise fresh questions about British aid spending in Afghanistan.

The country has been lavished with hundreds of millions of pounds of British aid money in the past decade, despite being ranked as the second most corrupt nation in the world after Somalia.

A UN report this week found that Afghan officials pocket 2.5billion a year in bribes – twice what the government collects in taxes. Pakistan, which also suffers serious corruption problems, is to receive 1.4billion in British aid money over four years.

Working together: Mr Cameron hosted the peace talks at Chequers, his country residence in Buckinghamshire

Working together: Mr Cameron hosted the peace talks at Chequers, his country residence in Buckinghamshire