On Monday 4 September the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and its partners published the first in a series of stories showing how Azerbaijan used a $2.9 billion slush fund to buy influence across Europe.
Since then, Transparency International has been following up on the allegations and, along with OCCRP, calling for action to hold to account the politicians, businesses and intermediaries who were named in this complex money-for-influence scandal.
THE GLOBAL ANTI-CORRUPTION CONSORTIUM
Investigative journalists from the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and Transparency International are working together to ensure that the corruption uncovered in investigations are followed up, the corrupt are held to account and loop-holes in regulations that enable corruption are closed.
The Council of Europe: President resigns
When the Azerbaijan Laundromat story broke, Transparency International immediately launched a campaign asking people to write to their country’s representatives at Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), and call for full investigations into those receiving “dirty money”. Close to 800 letters were sent within the first week of the campaign. Transparency International also sent a representative to Strasbourg to hand over further evidence and push for swift and decisive action.
On 6 October, the President of PACE, Pedro Agramunt, resigned before a motion to remove him could be debated.
In the past few weeks:
- Alain Destexhe, a Belgian Senator and PACE Rapporteur on Azerbaijan, resigned from his PACE mandate on 16 September over allegations that his foundation received money from Azerbaijan. His report on human rights in Azerbaijan had ended with sympathetic statements about the government and criticism of civil society there.
- The Secretary General of the Council of Europe announced that Azerbaijan’s membership in the Council of Europe would be reconsidered.
- PACE added a report and resolution about the laundromat scheme to its agenda (see box), and will hear another report on the functioning of democratic institutions in Azerbaijan.
Elsewhere in Europe:
- In Brussels, The European Parliament adopted a resolution on “Corruption and human rights in third countries” calling for an investigation into the behaviour of the Azerbaijani state.
- Bulgaria’s Chief Prosecutor announced an investigation into OCCRP’s findings that Kalin Mitrev, the Bulgarian representative to the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), made $468,000 through the laundromat scheme. Bulgarian Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov said that the government will address the case.
- In the United Kingdom, the National Chapter of Transparency International prompted parliamentary questions about the scandal and how the government of Azerbaijan laundered its reputation in the UK.
- Transparency International Germany has entered into dialogue with German parliamentarians who are members of PACE, asking for a full and transparent investigation into the role of its representatives Eduard Lintner and Karin Strenz in the Laundromat.
- In an initiative launched in The Czech Republic, Transparency International called on regulators and the banking industry to strengthen anti-money laundering mechanisms.
As The Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO), the Council of Europe’s own anti-corruption body, has pointed out in their thorough and highly critical report, PACE is not living up to its mandate to uphold the highest standards of good governance and human rights across Europe.
On 11 October, PACE will discuss its own integrity procedures.
We will be demanding changes.
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