Dubai based GEMS Education run by Kerala born Sunny Varkey, paid Bill Clinton over half a million USD in 2015 according to details released by Hillary Clinton’s campaign last week. Right wing commentators have seized upon the disclosure to make a specious link between the Clintons and promotion of Islam.
One twentieth of the total earnings of the Clintons in 2015 came from GEMS. Mr Clinton was appointed honorary chairman of the Varkey GEMS Foundation in 2010, a non-profit run by Mr Varkey. The arrangement was discontinued in 2015.
According to Politifact.com that analysed tax filings of the couple, Mr. Clinton earned over $17 million during the same period for consulting with Laureate Education Inc., another company based in Baltimore. Though the Clintons’ links with the Varkey group has not been a secret, both have attended events organised by Mr Varkey and the payments have been disclosed in tax filings, GEMS Education is an international company with schools and education services in 14 countries. Most of the 70 schools are run in the Gulf but it has a presence in India and the US. Mr Varkey’s parents stated the first school in 1968 in Dubai. GEMS also contributed between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation.
Last week Mr Clinton’s office told the Associated Press that the former President was no longer linked to GEMS education. In 2010 Mr Clinton named GEMS Education a strategic partner of the Clintons’ Global Initiative. Mr Varkey responded saying they are honoured and privileged to have President Clinton as honorary chairman. The foundation aims to impact the lives of 10 million underprivileged children globally and with his support they have a good chance of reaching that objective.
The Varkey foundation also works with British PM Tony Blair through his Tony Blair Faith Foundation.