Politics 14:41 23/11/2016 Region

Italian TV channel on Azerbaijan’s “Caviar diplomacy”: president Aliyev gets rich on account of state funds

Paolo Mondani – journalist of the Italian TV channel Rai 3 – prepared a TV program dedicated to Azerbaijan’s so-called “Caviar diplomacy.”

The journalist met Armenian MP Samvel Farmanyan. In the interview, the MP notes that when he started his activity in the Council of Europe, he realized that he had to face lobbyists working for Azerbaijan. Among them, Farmanyan names Italian politician Luca Volontè – former head of the European People's Party faction in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), and Pedro Agramunt – the current chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, who defended Azerbaijan’s interests in exchange for money.

German deputy of the council of Europe, Christoph Strässer, notes that oil-rich Azerbaijan generally spends its finances on corrupt projects. The country buys influence with the help of money. And the 2 million spent on the lobbyists is a good investment.

However, it should be noted that those investments do not enthuse the country’s population. On September 17 of the current year, the opposition discontent with the president Ilham Aliyev’s government held meetings. The protesters had posters with the photos of political prisoners. It was stated during the meeting that the government should use the country’s resources in the population’s favor instead of investing in foreign countries.

“The Aliyevs have been ruling the country for already 23 years. At first, former president Heydar Aliyev falsified the voting results during elections, then the power was handed to his son Ilham Aliyev in 2003,” Ali Kerimli – leader of the Azerbaijani Popular Front Party – said. According to him, Aliyev has power over the parliament and judicial system of the country. All the other banks, holdings, and large corporations of the country are in the president’s hands.

The TV program also draws the viewer’s attention to the fact that the Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev’s name appeared in the documents of Panama's Mossack Fonseca, one of the biggest offshore service providers. Reportedly, in April 2016, Aliyev and his family members’ names were on the front pages of Panama papers.

Names of the president’s daughters are also included in Panama offshores. Leyla and Arzu Aliyevas use Panama investments in the USA under the guise of “philanthropy” in order to control a mobile communication company, the Azerbaijani Atabank and 6 goldfields.

However, before the publication of Panama papers, Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova had already disclosed the information about the Aliyevs’ offshore property. The journalist started her investigation in 2011. According to her, the president Aliyev’s family gets rich on account of state funds.

In January 2013, during voting in PACE, the report on 85 political prisoners in Azerbaijan was vetoed. German deputy of the council of Europe, Christoph Strässer, introduced the report for discussion. However, Italian politician Luca Volontè’s activity contributed to the rejection of the report. He received bribe from the Azerbaijani government in an amount equal to 2 million and 390 thousand euros for conducting activities in the interests of the Azerbaijani authorities.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) reported that using a network of secretive companies in offshore tax havens, Aliyev's clan, advisers and allies set about acquiring expensive overseas homes and positions in the country’s valuable industries and natural resources, including the family’s majority control of a major gold mine that has been unknown until now.

It was reported that in the middle of 2003, a few months before the October presidential elections, Azerbaijan’s Tax Minister Fazil Mammadov started to create AtaHolding - one of today’s biggest conglomerates in the country. Mammadov invited president Aliyev’s family to join him and create a potentially powerful and profitable business-political partnership.

According to ICIJ reports, AtaHolding is a corporation with an impressive share in Azerbaijan’s banking, telecommunication, construction, mining, and oil sectors. As of 2014, its action assets exceeded $490 million.

The leaked documents show that two years later, in 2005, president Aliyev's wife, MP Mehriban Aliyeva, was named one of two managers of the UF Universe Foundation, along with Fazil Mammadov. In attachments to a “High Importance” email sent to Mossack Fonseca in February 2005 by a lawyer representing the Aliyevs' clan, documents proposed that then six-year-old Heydar Aliyev, the president’s son who is known in the files as “A1,” be made the beneficiary of 20 percent of the foundation’s proceeds. The plan also proposed that the president’s two daughters, Leyla, then 19, and Arzu, then 17, would hold 15 percent each. Mammadov’s son held 30 percent while Ashraf Kamilov, a former tax ministry official, and other former tax officials held smaller stakes. So, too, did AtaHolding’s chairman, Ahmet Erentok.



Source Panorama.am
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