IRFS Statement: Transnational Corruption Goes Hand in Hand with Impunity for Rights Abuses in Azerbaijan

September 9th, 2017

The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) is shocked by the scale of the corrupt actions of the Azerbaijani authorities described in the investigation dubbed “Azerbaijani Laundromat”. IRFS calls on the governments of the countries, in whose territory the criminal activities were carried out, to begin an immediate investigation to bring all participants of the transnational corruption network to justice.
According to the joint journalistic investigation of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, the ruling elite of Azerbaijan illegally laundered 2.9 billion dollars of dirty money in the Estonian branch of the Danish Danske Bank through companies registered in the UK from 2012 to 2014. The regime reportedly used some of these funds to bribe Western politicians and media managers in order to secure themselves a positive image and to hide the systematic violations of human rights and democracy in Azerbaijan from the international community.
Among the recipients of dirty money effectively stolen from the Azerbaijani people were high-ranking officials capable of exerting influence so as decisions were made in favour of the personal political interests of Ilham Aliyev. Among the most requested dirty services of European politicians were international support in ensuring that election results were recognized as legitimate by organizations such as the Council of Europe, the OSCE and the UN.
When, in reality, the elections have been accompanied by massive and systemic falsifications and blockage of serious discussions on the violations of fundamental human rights and democracy in Azerbaijan as the Council of Europe, the OSCE and the UN.
In particular, the husband of the UNESCO Director Irina Bokova, Kalin Mitrev, who currently represents Bulgaria on the Board of Directors of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, received a total of 425,000 EUR for his services. A German politician, a former member of the Bundestag and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, received 891,000 EUR for his efforts, and his colleague in PACE, Italian politician and former parliamentarian Luca Volonte received 2,300,000 EUR. In addition to the well-known European politicians, among the recipients of dirty money was also the former CNN producer Sager Eckart who received about 2,000,000 EUR for creating a positive image for the authoritarian government of Azerbaijan in the world media.
“All these outrageous facts of corruption show that not only the authoritarian regime of Azerbaijan are involved in the violation of human rights and democracy, but the unscrupulous representatives of the political and business community in Europe, which help our authorities, remain unpunished,” said IRFS CEO Emin Huseynov. “The mere fact that Britain, as the largest trading partner of Azerbaijan due to the leading participation of British Petroleum in the oil and gas projects of Azerbaijan over many years, has simultaneously created favorable conditions for the laundering of dirty money stolen from the Azerbaijani people should raise serious questions both in British and Azerbaijani society. Thinking about ensuring its energy security at the expense of Azerbaijan’s mineral resources, the countries of the West should not turn a blind eye to the lack of accountability of the Azerbaijani authorities or the mass arrests of critics. As for the international business community, it should be more aware of its responsibility to promote observance of human rights and start undertaking preventive deterrent steps,” Huseynov summed up.
IRFS calls on the leadership of the United Nations, the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the European Commission and also the governments of Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Estonia and the United States to conduct a comprehensive anti-corruption investigation and bring all those responsible to justice and to ensure that similar illegal acts do not occur in the future.
IRFS further calls upon the largest business partners of Azerbaijan, especially in the energy and banking sectors, to suspend the signing of all future contracts until the country has undergone radical and genuine economic and political reforms aimed at increasing the accountability of the authorities, as well as the free functioning of democratic and civil society institutions.
IRFS urges the Azerbaijani authorities to immediately release all its critics from prisons and commence an equitable dialogue within the community to genuinely address the problems in the field of combating corruption and observance of human rights.