The Inconvenient Truth About Corruption

To speak of corruption in Azerbaijan is an almost Sisyphean task.

To speak of corruption in Azerbaijan is an almost Sisyphean task.

It’s enough that this is accompanied by great danger, with all the resultant consequences for those who dare to speak their minds.

But the hardest thing is that such efforts receive almost no public response from society. On hearing the latest resounding facts of corruption at the highest levels of power, many shrug their shoulders and say, “We didn’t know about that!”

But the most interesting thing here is that the government also talks about corruption regularly, for 24 years now, without change.

On January 15, 2011, President Ilham Aliyev surprised his own officials at a government session with a call to fight against corruption.

Later, on January 27, 2011, the head of the presidential administration, Ramiz Mehdiyev, also spoke of this at a session of the Commission for Combatting Corruption under the State Council for Administration of Government Service.

Just recently the president repeated this same musical accompaniment in his speech at a conference on the results of the third year of implementing the State Program for Socioeconomic Development of the Regions in 2014-2018:

“Civil servants live for the people, and not the other way around. A civil servants is a servant of the people, he should serve, help the citizens, not allow himself conceit. Not bring forward this or that unlawful demand. He should act modestly. He himself and the members of his family should be an example. He shouldn’t engage in bribery and theft. A civil servant should be exactly what I have said. In appointing this or that government official or head of an executive body to their position, I instruct them: we should serve the people, the state, work in good faith. But, unfortunately, some don’t get it. They are being punished and will be punished”.

Ильхам Алиев
Ilham Aliyev at 3rd summary conference for State Program for Socioeconomic Development of the Regions in 2014-2018

This year, Azerbaijan received fairly high marks in the area of corruption. In the Corruption Perceptions Index, a


published in 2016 by the organization Transparency International, Azerbaijan took 123


place out of 176 countries, taking this most honorable place after Ecuador and the Republic of Malawi, with such countries as Djibouti, Honduras, Laos, Mexico, Moldova, Paraguay, and Sierra-Leon.

The country has earnestly worked towards this high hurdle for more than one year. Already back in 2012, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP)


Ilham Alilyev the first ever, Organized Crime and Corruption Person of the Year.

An investigation

by the journalist Khadija Ismayilova showed that the family of President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev manages assets in the amount of more than three billion USD in the largest Azerbaijani banks, and this is only part of the financial iceberg of the Aliyev clan.

In a September 10, 2015 resolution, the European Parliament called on the EU government to undertake a thorough investigation of the accusations of corruption against Ilham Aliyev and members of his family.

Also, one of the figures named in the so-called ‘Panama Papers’ is the president of Azerbaijan and his spouse, Mehriban Aliyeva, who constructed an entire ‘offshore empire’.

This all is taking place on the background of the government being rocked by corruption scandals at its own highest levels. The greatest of them in recent years have without a doubt been the case of the ex-chairman of the International Bank of Azerbaijan, Jahangir Hajiyev, and the corruption scandal in the Ministry of Communications and High Technologies of Azerbaijan.

The head of the International Bank of Azerbaijan, Jahangir Hajiyev, was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

The court’s charges stated that, “

During the period of his work in the leadership of International Bank of Azerbaijan JSC, from March 27, 2001 to April 2, 2015, Jahangir Hajiyev created an organized group, abused his rank, misappropriated others’ property, entrusted to him, on a large scale, committing official forgery in doing so, and, having exceeded the powers of his office, inflicted appreciable damage to the rights and legal interests of International Bank of Azerabijan, JSC, and also to the legally-protected interests of the state, which had serious consequences”.

According to economist

Natiq Jafarli

, in between October 1, 2015 to October 1, 2016, the public prosecutor of Azerbaijan reviewed and transferred to judicial authorities a total of 171 criminal cases based on corruption laws, which were launched on the basis of calls to the hotline for the Main Office for the Fight against Corruption under the General Prosecutor’s Office.

“And that’s despite the current level of corruption in Azerbaijan”

, concluded the economist.

One more major case in recent times, the corruption scandal in the Ministry of Communications and High Technologies of Azerabijan, concluded with Ilham Aliyev firing the Minister Ali Abbasov, who had held this post since 2004. The smaller fish couldn’t escape the punishing hands of justice so easily.

The general prosecutor’s statement says that

“an inquiry established that ministry officials created a network of corruption within which roles were allocated for the systematic appropriation of state property. They implemented numerous corruption schemes for embezzling budgetary funds”.

Materials from the criminal cases of a number of former officials from the Ministry of Communications and High Technologies of Azerbaijan, who were arrested on charges of appropriating and misusing official powers, have been sent to the Baku felonies court and the trial for them is still ongoing.

Among the accused are head of the ministry apparatus Vidadi Zeynalov, General Director of Aztelecom LLC, Mahomed Mamedov, General Director of Baku Telephone Communications PA, Beytulla Huseynov, Head Accountant of the PA, Anar Mustafaev, General Director of AzInTelecom LLC, Jalil Jafarov, General Director of Azerpost LLC, Hambar Beybalayev, Head Accountant of Optical Communications, Construction and Installation LLC, Sakhrab Gumbatov, the director of two LLCs (3 nömrəli Rabitə Təmir Tikinti and Rabitə Mülki Tikinti), Emin Mamedov, and others.

And so, despite the numerous anti-corruption restrictions established by law for officials, the main slogan of the government of Azerbaijan’s ‘fight’ with corruption remains the classic one, from Gogol’s

The Government Inspector,

“Don’t take bribes that exceed your rank!”.

”Не по чину берешь!”
‘Don’t take bribes that exceed your rank!’, Nikolai Gogol, the Government Inspector

But aside from the highest ranks and the elite, there is also corruption at the lower levels: this is more a ‘buffer’ or ‘lubricant and glue’ than corruption. That is, this isn’t corruption in the sense it is understood by Western politicians and political scientists, this is just some sort of ‘glue’ that ties together our economy (if it can be called such) – a standard for kickback.

These ‘kickback’ standards, as they say, is a sort of analogue for bank interest rates in Azerbaijan. For this reason, our government cannot put an end to corruption in these circumstances, since this corruption is a part of the state mechanism. And that is the inconvenient truth about corruption. Because of this, the government speaks about it only sometimes, and it is only those who violated the standards of the ‘kickback’ system that are repressed and disciplined.

The reasons for such a situation of affairs must be sought out in the authoritarian and estate-based


 of modern Azerbaijani society.

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