According to an investigative report published by Bulgarian newspaper Trud, over the last last three years Azerbaijani state-run company Silk Way Airlines has transported weapons across the world to several war zones such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Congo.
The investigation was conducted by Bulgarian journalist Dilyana Gaytandzhieva based on several leaked documents that were forwarded to her from an anonymous Twitter account, Anonymous Bulgaria.
According to the investigation, several arms manufacturers and private companies transported weapons across the world on diplomatic flights, and were therefore exempted from inspection.
According to the leaked documentation, the Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan requested diplomatic clearance for Silk Way Airlines to Azerbaijani Embassies around Europe, including Bulgaria, which, in turn, forwarded the clearance requests to the Foreign Ministries of the countries in question.
“The requests for diplomatic clearance included information about the type and quantity of the dangerous goods – heavy weapons and ammunition. However, the responsible authorities of many countries (Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Turkey, Germany, UK, Greece, etc.) have turned a blind eye and allowed diplomatic flights for the transport of tons of weapons, carried out by civil aircrafts for military needs. Under IATA regulations, the transport of military cargo by civil aircrafts is not allowed. To get around this legality, Silk Way Airlines applied for diplomatic exemption through local agencies”, the investigation reads.
Weapons were transported to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq and as well as to African countries like Congo and Burkina Faso. Baku seems to have played a significant role in the scheme.
“Baku plays the role of an international hub for weapons. Many of the flights make technical landings with stops of a few hours at Baku airport or other intermediary airports en-route to their final destinations”, the report reads.