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Azeri Bribery Scandal Widens

Former members of the Council of Europe’s assembly accused of taking money, gifts to further interests of Baku regime.

8 May 2018

Allegations of Azerbaijani attempts to buy support from members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) gained significant traction last month with the publication of a report commissioned by the assembly.

 

In the context of “corruptive activities in favor of Azerbaijan,” the report “established that there was a strong suspicion that certain current and former members of PACE had engaged in activity of a corruptive nature.”

 

Some PACE members “have been accused of accepting money, jewelry, prostitutes and paid hotel stays in oil-rich Azerbaijan,” The New York Times writes.

 

The 220-page PACE study draws on previous investigations by civil society groups and media, including a 2012 report by the European Stability Initiative think tank that documented Azerbaijani gifts and payments to Council of Europe representatives. That report was instrumental in forcing the resignation last year of the PACE president, Pedro Agramunt (pictured), who was considered a supporter of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev, U.S. historian Audrey L. Altstadt wrote.

 

Agramunt, currently a Spanish senator, and others named in the PACE report denied any wrongdoing. According to the Times, “Agramunt suggested he was the victim of a political crusade backed by the Open Society Foundations of the American financier George Soros and driven by countries like Ukraine and Armenia, which are opposed to any European rapprochement with Russia.”

 

Italian authorities have opened a criminal case against former PACE member and Italian parliamentarian Luca Volonte, also named in the report, whom they accuse of receiving more than 2 million euros from two former members of the Azerbaijani delegation at PACE, according to the Times.

 

The assembly opened its investigation last year into “charges that former and current members had voted to soften criticism of Baku's authoritarian government in exchange for gifts of cash, caviar, carpets, and stays in luxury hotels in Baku,” RFE/RL writes.

 

An international reporting project last year published details of an almost $3 billion secret fund created by Azeri interests to pay off PACE members, launder money, and buy luxury goods.

 

 

  • In addition to laying out evidence of corruption on the part of Agramunt, Volonte, and former Azerbaijani assembly members Elkhan Suleymanov and Muslum Mammadov, the PACE report names five former members who breached its ethics rules by lobbying on behalf of Azerbaijan.

 

  • In a letter to PACE President Michele Nicoletti on Friday, Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen described the report’s findings as “deeply worrying” and called for the assembly to act promptly and strongly.

 

  • The head of the Azerbaijani delegation to PACE, Samad Seyidov, rejected the report and denounced a "campaign of hatred against Azerbaijan" aimed at creating a "cleavage" between Baku and the Council of Europe.

Compiled by Melissa Castano

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