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Clean up Spain – Justice for Azerbaijan’s reputation laundering in Europe

A little over a year ago, an investigation by the Organized Corruption and Crime Reporting Project (OCCRP) revealed that the ruling elite of Azerbaijan operated a 2.5 billion slush fund and international money-laundering scheme, known as the Azerbaijani Laundromat.

Three Spanish politicians – Pedro Agramunt, Agustín Conde Bajén and Jordi Xuclá – are among the delegates to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) suspected of benefiting from the Laundromat. In return, they allegedly watered down the human rights body’s criticism of events in Azerbaijan under the country’s repressive authoritarian regime, including vote-rigging in the country’s 2015 election.

After the Laundromat revelations broke, an independent investigation confirmed suspicions that Azerbaijan played a role in the appointment of Pedro Agramunt as political party leader and later president of PACE.

Further, they found evidence that in a number of instances Agramunt played a key role in rigging various votes at PACE in favour of Azerbaijan. He intervened in draft reports to soften criticism of the Azerbaijani authorities; and as a rapporteur he edited a draft report on Azerbaijan human rights, seemingly according to an Azerbaijani instructions. He was also a key figure in rallying pro-Azerbaijani support.

Investigators found that Conde, who had replaced Agramunt as a co-rapporteur on Azerbaijan after his election as PACE president, acted suspiciously and seemingly in the interest of the Azerbaijani ruling elite. According to the evidence, together with his co-rapporteur, he signed and took ownership of a statement concerning the events of the contentious 2015 elections that was prepared for them by a third party – a person believed to be a lobbyist of Azerbaijan.

Xuclá was very enthusiastic to lead the 2015 election observation mission, despite fears that the Azerbaijani government was making it impossible for independent observers to carry out "effective and credible" election observation. Investigators found that he wrote the draft preliminary statement of the monitoring mission in suspicious circumstances, strengthening doubts about outside influencing.

Both Conde and Xuclá refused to meet with key critical voices in Azerbaijan.

During the investigation, Agramunt and Conde stonewalled, avoiding appearing before the investigators despite numerous requests.

In 2018, the Council of Europe punished Agramunt with a ten-year ban from holding any senior post in the human rights body. Conde was banned for life from the premises of the Council. Xuclà, for his part, was punished with a two-year ban for his serious breach of the Council’s ethics rules.

But this is just a slap on the wrist.

This year, in its follow up resolution to the corruption investigation, the Council of Europe admitted that not enough has been done. They called upon national authorities to follow up on the evidence and launch criminal investigations into all those implicated.

None of these three Spanish politicians have faced any criminal consequences in Spain. As of today, there is no sign that the Spanish authorities have opened an investigation into whether the documented ethical breaches were made in exchange for a bribe. Spain’s People’s Party concluded earlier this year that the Council of Europe inquiry had “no legal consequences”.

Agramunt, for one, continues to serve as a Member of Spanish Senate. According to El País, he has the support of a large majority in the People’s Party.

Until June 2018, Conde was the country’s Secretary of State of Defence, meeting counterparts in the United States and across Europe on a regular basis.

To date, Xuclá remains an elected member for Girona in the Congress of Deputies, the lower house of the Spanish legislature.

Spanish authorities need to open criminal investigations into the suspected wrongdoing by Agramunt, Conde and Xuclá.

Transparency International is asking our supporters to add their voice to the call for justice. Click below to send a letter to Spanish prosecutors, urging them to break the impunity from scrutiny currently enjoyed by these Spanish politicians for their serious ethical infractions.

As Spain struggles to recover from one of its biggest ever political corruption scandals, it is important that law enforcement and anti-corruption prosecutors remain vigilant against all cases. In the aftermath of the Gürtel scandal, the focus on domestic corruption should not stop allegations of bribery and reputation laundering by a foreign government from setting alarm bells ringing.

The Global Anti-Corruption Consortium

The Azerbaijani Laundromat is a large-scale journalistic investigation and an ongoing campaign produced by the Global Anti-Corruption Consortium, a groundbreaking partnership between investigative journalists and civil society. As part of the Consortium, Transparency International works with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) to ensure that the corruption uncovered in investigations are followed up, the corrupt are held to account and loopholes in regulations that enable corruption are closed.

Learn more about this partnership

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