July 11, 2010; Source: Daily Mail | It’s surely an odd choice but so far Tony Blair is not talking about why he named an investment banker linked to the toxic subprime mortgage mess to run his charity that aims to foster economic development in Africa. The Mail Online reports that Paolo Pellegrini was tapped last year to head the U.S. arm of the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative.

Although he’s not accused of any wrongdoing, the 53-year-old Pellegrini was a key adviser to hedge fund manager John Paulson who made billions betting that the market for subprime mortgages would collapse. In fact, the Mail says that Pellegrini’s own personal fortune came from the work he did for Paulson. According to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Pellegrini’s bonus alone in 2007 was $176 million.

One Wall Street specialist in investments in the developing world who asked not to be identified, told the Mail, “Paolo Pellegrini isn’t the kind of guy you’d expect to have a big interest in Third World poverty. He’s basically a hedge fund tycoon and I thought his global interests were to do with commodity prices.” A spokesman for Pellegrini said the investment banker “had no comment at this time,” and former UK Prime Minister Blair did not respond to the paper’s request for comments.—Bruce Trachtenberg