IlhamAliyev

In 2012, corruption watchdog Transparency International reported that two-thirds of the world’s countries may be considered “highly corrupt.” It would seem tough to choose someone for the dubious honor of corruption’s “person of the year.”
One investigative-journalism NGO has done just that.
The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), based in Sarajevo and Bucharest, has awarded the crown to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.
The group, which specializes in reporting on corruption in the region stretching from Eastern Europe to Central Asia gave the nod to Aliyev, citing extensive reports and “well-documented evidence” that “the Aliyev family has been systematically grabbing shares of the most profitable businesses” in Azerbaijan for many years.
The reports include secret ownership stakes in banks, construction firms, gold mines, and telecommunications firms. Many of the reports about Aliyev were investigated by OCCRP affiliate Khadija Ismayilova, a journalist with RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service.
“President Aliyev and his family, in fact, along with other persons in his inner circle are involved in so many secret businesses that we uncovered, actually together with Radio Free Europe this year,” says Paul Radu, OCCRP’s executive director. “We identified hidden companies that were owned by the first family of Azerbaijan in Panama, for instance, or in the Czech Republic. And we identified assets that they owned back in Azerbaijan via these companies.”
Radu is optimistic about the new tools that are making this kind of reporting more and more effective. One example he cites is that OCCRP has successfully partnered with a Scottish computer hacker.
“He works right now with us at the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and he is the one who scraped [eds: got into] the Panamanian registry of companies and that allowed us to perform name-based searches,” Radu says. “And this is how we found the companies that are owned by the daughters of Aliyev and by his wife in Panama.”
However, Radu adds that the impact of such reporting in the case of the Aliyev family has not been what one might hope.
The ownership structures of the family’s foreign assets have been changed; the Azerbaijani parliament in June passed a law making it more difficult to discover who actually owns commercial companies and shielding Aliyev and his family from prosecution.
Moreover, journalist Ismayilova was subjected to a terrifying campaign of threats and harassment that she alleges was orchestrated by Aliyev’s political allies.
According to Radu, the OCCRP is now combining numerous international databases and linking them to the organization’s ongoing files of “persons of interest” — future candidates to unseat Aliyev as “person of the year.”

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