STRASBOURG (RFE/RL) — European lawmakers have called for a parliamentary investigation into an alleged secret fund operated by Azerbaijan’s ruling elite to pay off European politicians and make luxury purchases.
They made the call in a resolution approved on September 13 by 578 votes to 19, with 68 abstentions, according to a press release issued by the European Parliament.
According to an investigation carried out by a consortium of European newspapers, members of Azerbaijan’s ruling elite used a secret $2.9 billion slush fund — nicknamed the Azerbaijani Laundromat — to pay off European politicians, buy luxury goods, and launder money.
The report, published on September 4 by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), said “at least three European politicians, a journalist who wrote stories friendly to the regime, and businessmen who praised the government” were among the recipients of the money.
It said thousands of payments were allegedly channeled through four shell companies in Britain between 2012 and 2014 to buy “silence.”
Government opponents and rights groups have accused the government of the oil-producing Caspian Sea country of systematic corruption, vote-rigging, and the politically motivated persecution of opposition politicians, activists, and journalists.
The report alleged that there was evidence of a link between the fund and the family of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.
The Baku government rejected the findings of the report.
In their resolution, the European lawmakers denounced “attempts by Azerbaijan and other autocratic regimes in third countries to influence European decision-makers through illicit means.”
They also called for the adoption by parliament of “robust measures to prevent the occurrence of such corruption, which would undermine the credibility and legitimacy of parliament’s work, including on human rights.”
The resolution called on the EU to ensure that existing anticorruption conventions are enforced, add an anticorruption clause to its deals with non-EU countries, monitor EU-funded projects “closely and permanently,” and “use sanctions or suspend deals in cases of systemic corruption leading to serious human rights breaches.”