May 14, 2015 / 11:36 AM / in 2 years

BP names former UK MI6 spy chief as director

Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) chief, John Sawers, arrives for a meeting of the UK's National Security Council, at 10 Downing Street in London August 28, 2013.Suzanne Plunkett

LONDON (Reuters) - BP (BP.L) has appointed former MI6 spy chief and veteran diplomat John Sawers as a non-executive board member in a development highlighting long running links between the British establishment and the oil major.

The appointment comes only weeks after the cabinet issued a warning saying it would oppose any potential takeover of BP as it wants the company to remain a national champion.

Britain's foreign office said it had accepted the application from Sawers to join BP on condition that "he should not draw on privileged information available to him from his time in the secret service".

It also added that "Sawers should not become personally involved in lobbying the UK Government on behalf of his new employers, their parent companies or their clients" for two years from his last day of service, which was Nov 1, 2014.

The standard cooling off period is designed to address the "revolving-door" policy concerns when former spies embark on top roles at companies which can then exploit their knowledge.

Sawers was the head of the MI6 secret intelligence service from 2009 to 2014. He had previously served as Britain's ambassador to the United Nations and has held a number of senior government roles in the Middle East, including in Egypt and Iraq, where BP has large and growing operations.

MI6, cast by novelists as the employer of some of the most memorable fictional spies from John le Carre's George Smiley to Ian Fleming's James Bond, operates overseas and is tasked with defending Britain and its interests.

Sawers strongly resisted attempts by some politicians and journalists to lift some of the secrecy surrounding MI6, whose existence Britain only publicly admitted in 1994.

Sawers is not the first top spy to move to BP -- Mark Allen, who was director of counter-terrorism at MI6, joined the major soon after retiring in 2004.

Other examples of top spies moving to the energy industry include Sawers' predecessor John Scarlett who was appointed as a strategic adviser to Norwegian energy company Statoil (STL.OL) in May 2011.

In the United States, former top spies have often been hired by the oil services industry including CIA chiefs John Deutch who was a director with oil services giant Schlumberger (SLB.N) and Robert Gates with Parker Drilling.

Russia's state oil giant Rosneft (ROSN.MM), in which BP holds around 20 percent, is run by Igor Sechin, a former spy and a close ally of President Vladimir Putin.

Reporting by Ron Bousso and Dmitry Zhdannikov; editing by Jason Neely and Keith Weir

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