BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
For over a century, no matter what evidence is presented to the Turkish government about their guilt as perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide, they always claim it is fake and deny the facts.
Similarly, despite all evidence presented to Azeri leaders about their misuse of billions of dollars for bribery and corrupt practices, they always deny the facts and blame Armenians, other countries and certain individuals who are supposed to be against them!
Last week was no exception. The Guardian and dozens of newspapers around the world reported that the Azeri government had paid around $3 billion in bribery to many individuals and institutions throughout Europe from 2012-2014. The Guardian reported that there were more than 16,000 such transactions. In this major scandal, not only the Azeri government is guilty of corruption, but also all those European officials who took the bribe to carry out illegal favors for the Aliyev regime!
What the Guardian describes as ‘the Azeri Laundromat,’ involves “a scheme to curry influence, pay lobbyists, apologists and European politicians to launder cash [which] comes from companies linked to Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, state ministries and the International Bank of Azerbaijan, the country’s largest bank, which recently filed for bankruptcy protection. The cash was transferred from four offshore-managed UK companies. From there it was spent in various countries, including Germany, the UK, France, Turkey, Iran and Kazakhstan.” The Guardian forgot to add Belgium and Italy!
The illegal Azeri money was funneled to four UK companies through a small branch in Estonia of Danske, Denmark’s largest bank. Two of these shadowy offshore companies were Scottish limited partnerships, Hilux Services and Polux Management, overseen by agents in the British Virgin Islands.
Who are some of the beneficiaries of these illegally transferred funds? According to the Guardian, “one of them is Luca Volonte, the Italian former chair of the Center-Right European People’s party group in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). Volonte was among PACE delegates who controversially voted against a 2013 report criticizing Azerbaijan’s human rights record. The leaked data shows he received more than $2 million. He has been indicted in Italy for money laundering and corruption amid an investigation of what has been dubbed ‘caviar diplomacy.’ He denies any wrongdoing.”
Another high-profile beneficiary, according to the Guardian, is “Eduard Lintner, a former German MP [Member of Parliament] with the Christian Social Union…. Between 2012 and 2014, when he was no longer an MP, his foundation received 819,000 euros. The cash included 61,000 euro payment made two weeks after Lintner visited Azerbaijan as an election observer. He praised the poll as up to ‘German standards.’ He says the payments were for legitimate work, and that he did not personally benefit from the money or know about the original source of the funds.”
According to the Guardian, “Cash was also sent to Bulgarian and Swiss bank accounts belonging to Kalin Mitrev, who was then a private consultant, but now works for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in London. Mitrev says the money was private income from legitimate consultancy work and that he was not aware of the original source of the funds. He denies doing any wrongdoing.”
There are also several high-ranking Azeri officials who benefited from these funds. One Azeri firm — Baktelekom MMC — paid more than $1.4 billion into offshore bank accounts.
Interestingly, it was also revealed by a Hungarian newspaper that at the time Hungary extradited Ramil Safarov, the Azeri ax-murderer of an Armenian soldier during NATO exercises in Budapest in 2004, Azerbaijan made several bank transfers totaling $7 million to the Hungarian bank MKB. This is yet another example of Azerbaijan’s corrupt use of secret slush funds to gain favors in Europe and elsewhere.
The Azeris, of course, would not admit their wrongdoing and blamed everyone from Armenians to billionaire George Soros, and the international media. “Azerbaijan’s presidential aide, Ali Hasanov, said the stories by the Guardian and other media partners were a smear…. Hasanov said the regime was the victim of a ‘scandalous’ campaign organized by British intelligence, the Armenian diaspora and the U.S,” according to the Guardian. Hasanov blamed certain anti-Azerbaijan circles who are “controlled by the funds of the Armenian diaspora in the West, in particular the U.S.” Furthermore, the Azeri government blocked access to the website of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) which had published the details of the ‘Azerbaijani Laundromat,’ following a leak of data to the Danish newspaper Berlingske.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced last week that the National Crime Agency will investigate the corrupt practices of the four UK companies linked to Azerbaijan. Also, several members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe intend to expand the existing investigation of Azerbaijan’s persistent corruption schemes.