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Located at 700 meters elevation in the foothills of the Caucasus mountains, Shamakhi has some of the most attractive land in Azerbaijan.
Arif Alishanov, who was just relieved of his job as the chairman of state-controlled Azerbaijan Television and Radio Broadcasting (AzTV), and his family have accumulated numerous properties in the villages around Shamakhi. The fight for land grew so intense that employees of a real estate agent sit in prison accused of conspiring to murder Alishanov.
Villagers moving into Nagharakhana and Gizmeydan were among the first to receive private land grants in 1988 as the Soviet Union began to break up. Orthodox Christian believers called Molokans were leaving the area and moving into Russia.
Now many of those villagers have sold their land to Alishanov and others. Land was registered in the names of Alishanov himself, his wife, two daughters, his brother, and Alishanov’s driver.
Much of this land sits unused. A May 2018 decree by the State Property Issues Committee states that unused agricultural lands should be seized. Villagers says it’s unlikely a “big guy” like Alishanov will lose any land.
Alishanov, 58, lost his job when President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree on January 15. Alishanov had worked at AzTV and an earlier Soviet TV company since 1977 and became chairman in 2006. AzTV has received over 2 billion manat (about $US1.17 billion) in government grants since 2010. He served in Parliament from 2010-15.
(Note: All Azerbaijan currency in this story is converted to dollars at current rates)
One older Gizmeydan villager who asks not to be named sold 26 hectares of land to Alishanov over several years for a total of 27,400 manat (about $US16,000).
“Shamakhi is a very beautiful place; that’s why a lot of big officials buy land here,” the villager said. “If you go to any villager here and ask, they will sell their land. There are a lot of people who need money, maybe to pay for family health problems or a wedding. And there are others who can’t even afford to buy sugar, butter or tea.
“It happened 10 years ago; it became trendy to sell land here. One of my sons was getting married (in 2009) and we needed to build a two-room house for him. Then my wife needed surgery (in 2013), and I sold more land.
“Now we regret it. I have four sons. One of them is sick and lives at home, one is in Moscow, and the other two work as laborers. We could be farming our lands, but instead every month we’re waiting for our monthly pension.” Barley and wheat are the most common crops in the region. The average pension is now 233-247 manat, about $US137-145.
According to records, Alishanov and his family hold about 101 hectares of agricultural use land in Gizmeydan village and 198 hectares in Nagharakhana. He paid about 1,000-1,500 manat ($US590-880 at today’s rates) per hectare in Gizmeydan. Selling prices today are listed at 4,800 manat ($US2,800) per hectare. He paid 4,000-5000 manat ($US2,350-2,940) in Nagharakhana. Selling prices today are 110,000 manat ($US64,700).
At today’s prices, Alishanov’s land is worth over 21 million manat. ($US12.4 million). Alishanov’s monthly salary at AzTV is reported to be 1,800 manat ($US1,060).
Alishnov has confirmed that he bought properties using the name of his driver Haji Babayev:
— 28.3 hectares in Karrar village in Kurdamir region.
— a 2.124 hectare farm in Chukhuryurd village with an estimated value of 1.3 million manat ($US765,000).
Family ownership includes:
— wife Mehriban Alishanova received 30.28 hectares in Gizmeydan village in 2013.
— daughter Nigar Alishanova has 21 hectares in Ahmedli and Gizmeydan villages.
— daughter Aynur Alishanova has 10.12 hectares in Ahmedli and Nagharakhana, of which 9.2 hectares were purchased in 2017.
— Aynur’s ex-husband Farid Ashurbayov owns 27 hectares in Gizmeydan, purchased in 2009, and 11 hectares in Nagharakhana (2015).
— Brother Habil Alishanov received 3.37 hectares in Nagharakhana in 2016. He is deputy head of the State Fire Control Service in the Ministry of Emergency Situations.
Much of this land was purchased from local real estate agent Shujayat Akbarov. Arif Alishanov went to court in February of 2018 and claimed that he had given Akbarov over 1.5 million manat ($US880,000) since 2012 for land that Akbarov never purchased for him.
In February of 2018, Alishanov accused Akbarov of plotting to kill him and his family. On July 20, 2018, the Baku Court of Grave Crimes handed Akbarov an 18-year prison sentence. Three of his employees received sentences ranging from 17 years to 16 months. Charges included premeditated attempted murder, illegal possession of weapons, and fraud.
According to a Meydan TV report, investigators told the court Akbarov worked for three years on assassination plans, and shared them with co-workers Musabi Namazov and Qochali Jabiyev. Jabiyev allegedly recruited Zohrab Shirinov.
According to court documents, Namazov was supposed to murder Alishanov, his daughter and driver as they traveled by car, but Namazov refused to do it.
Then Jabiyev allegedly recruited Zohrab Shirinov and promised him 100,000 manat ($US58,220) to force their car off the road. Jabiyev knew a license plate number, but unexpectedly Alishanov used a different car.
According to the documents, a third plan to kill Alishanov in a car accident and a fourth plan to shoot him also failed.
Akbarov told the court Alishanov used influence with the National Security Ministry to have him arrested: “They just want to get rid of me. Who is looking at the land documents? How many years could I have tricked him?
“I have never used weapons, even in my military service. I had no thought of killing Arif Alishanov. What would I get from his death? He was buying the land, and I was earning money from these deals. He helped me when I needed surgery. Why should I kill him?”
Akbarov’s daughter, Jamila Taghiyeva, said her father bought land “with every penny Alishanov paid.
“Alishanov owes my father money,” she claims. “How is it possible he gave my father money for years and didn’t get land in return? Why would he keep paying my father?”
She said the court denied 40 motions from her father’s lawyers. “Otherwise it would be clear my father is not guilty. But the court didn’t want to look at those papers. He was sentenced to 18 years for crimes he hasn’t committed,” she said.
“Nobody dares ask Alishanov where we got all that money on his monthly salary.” (Alishanov didn’t appear at the trial. but did submit written explanations.)
She also says Alishanov took everything he could from their family. She said her mother was told her children would be arrested if she didn’t sign papers transferring family assets.
Yashar Eyyubov, director of the Shamakhi notary office, told the court that after Akbarov’s arrest, he was called to the Shamakhi police station and told to give a power of attorney to Akbarov’s wife, Salima Sadiqova. She later transferred that power of attorney to Jamal Nabiyev, an AzTV employee with no legal background.
Nabiyev transferred Akbarov family property to Alishanov’s nephew Dayanat Jafarov and niece Nilufar Jafarova.
Nilufar Jafarova now owns 12.14 hectares of Akbarov’s lands in Chukhuryurd, his 194.4 square meter house in Nagharakhana, 2.58 hectares and a 200 square meter house in Samukh, and a 271 square meter house in Madrasa.
Vali Akbarov, a neighbor of the Akbarov family in Nagharakhana but not a relative, says they never needed anything: “He always had a good job. He had a business in Russia. He always had enough money. It’s not possible that he would commit fraud. It’s vice versa; everything that he had was unfairly taken from him.”
iFact.ge was told this case is not linked to AzTV: “We only can answer questions that are about AzTV,” said a women who took a phone call but did not give her name or company position. “Yes, Arif Alishanov is the chairman of this company, but the issue that you mentioned is not about the company. That’s why we have no right to comment on this case.”
Now Alishanov is no longer chairman.