When Douglas Alexander travelled to New Delhi last September to announce Britain was presenting £10 million to the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), standing alongside him was an imposing, bearded figure.
Dr Rajendra Pachauri is not only TERI’s director-general but also chairman of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Best known for the moment when he stood with Al Gore to collect the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr Pachauri was the mastermind of the IPCC’s latest monumental report on the dangers of global warming in 2007, giving him huge prestige and influence as the world's "top climate official".
Since being elected to the IPCC chairmanship five years earlier, he has been appointed to more than 20 positions, including directorships and advisory roles to major banks and investment firms.
Dr Pachauri insists that the millions of dollars he receives for these posts are all paid to his Delhi-based institute and not to him personally. But during the same period he has also presided over a massive expansion of TERI’s empire.
Mystery surrounds the financial affairs of the group since its annual reports do not include its accounts.
There is, however, one branch of TERI for which we have been able to unearth a certain amount of information, because it is based in Britain and subject to British law, and our investigations pose some questions which Dr Pachauri may not find easy to answer.
TERI Europe is registered as a charity, based in a residential street in Merton, south London. The house’s joint owners are Dr Ritu Kumar, an "environmental economist", and her husband Nicholas Robins, a substantial donor to the Green Party, who has stood for the party in council elections.
The directors of TERI Europe are Dr Pachauri and Miss Kumar, who is also its company secretary. Her other jobs include acting as a senior adviser on environmental issues to Actis, a private equity firm with $7.6 billion of investments in India, China and the developing world.
She has also worked for the Commonwealth Secretariat.
In its early years, between 2001 and 2003, TERI Europe reported to Companies House an annual income of about £60,000. But in 2004, just as it was widening its activities, including two contracts for the Government, its declared income fell by more than a half. Since 2005, when new European Union rules were introduced to exempt small companies from the need to show detailed accounts, TERI Europe has shown no figures for expenditure and income.
Although this has been quite legal, two things made it odd. The first was that, as a charity, TERI Europe still had to file accounts with the Charity Commission. So long as its annual turnover was less than £10,000, these would only have to show basic figures for income and expenditure.
In 2006 it gave its income as exactly £7,000, against expenditure of £5,100. In 2007 the figures were £9,000 and £5,000. In 2008 they were £8,000 and £3,000. All these sums were below the £10,000 threshold.
What made the figures very much odder, however, was that at this very time TERI Europe was expanding its activities.
In addition to carrying out projects funded by the European Parliament and many other organisations, it has continued to receive substantial commissions from four Government departments, all of which seem curiously reluctant to disclose how much money was involved.
In 2007, however, TERI Europe published a report on sustainable development in India, "SI2", coauthored by Miss Kumar and acknowledging "generous support" from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office — and here we can at last arrive at some estimate of its cost because TERI Europe was subsequently commissioned to produce two similar reports by the International Finance Corporation, part of the World Bank. The total cost of these two World Bank reports, along with a third commissioned from a group in China, is shown as $331,000, which implies that the two reports by TERI Europe, along with its earlier report for the Foreign Office, must have generated a not dissimilar income.
Oddest of all, however, is the £30,417 still shown on the Defra website representing money paid to TERI Europe in 2007, via "Cambridge University" for work done by an unnamed "head of unit" towards preparation of a "synthesis report" summarising the contents of the IPCC’s fourth assessment report.
One of the two co-editors of the synthesis report was Dr Pachauri. We eventually learned that the "head of unit" paid was Dr Andy Reisinger, Dr Pachauri’s co-editor on the report, and an employee of TERI India.
It was disclosed that the £30,417 posted on the Defra website was reported by Defra in a statement to Parliament as having been only £5,800.
Why Dr Reisinger’s money was paid through TERI Europe, via an unnamed department of Cambridge University — and why the Government has been so secretive about details of this payment — remains as mysterious as much else about the financial affairs of TERI Europe.
But it became obvious that TERI Europe’s income and expenditure in recent years were both much greater than the figures it declared.
When we put this to Miss Kumar she admitted that our questions had brought to light "anomalies" in the charity’s accounts. Its accountants have now been called in to produce a revised version.
Ensuring that TERI Europe complies with the Charities Acts is also the responsibility of its board of trustees, which includes not only Dr Pachauri but two other notable climate change figures.
One is Sir John Houghton, a former head of the Met Office who has played a crucial role at the top of the IPCC.
The other is Sir Crispin Tickell, a former diplomat who was responsible for converting Baroness Thatcher to a belief in global warming.
Just what Dr Pachauri earns from TERI, of which he describes himself to The Sunday Telegraph as "a full-time salaried employee", is not publicly disclosed.
On Indian television recently he curiously claimed that "nobody in TERI gets any money for anything he or she does as part of his or her job".
But he certainly enjoys a lavish personal lifestyle; his Delhi home is in the Golf Links area, the most expensive stretch of residential real estate in India, and he is famous for his "$1,000 suits".
Ironically, one of Dr Pachauri’s favourite themes is the "unsustainability" of the affluent Western way of life in the face of global warming.