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

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

Translations: ES  

Updated on 4 February 2019: Agustín Conde Bajén served as Secretary of State of Defence, not Minister of Defence of Spain, as previously stated by the article.

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.

Justice for the silenced in Azerbaijan Join the campaign

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.

The Azerbaijani Laundromat one year on: has justice been served?

Read More

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.

Most European countries have yet to start investigations into the Azerbaijani Laundromat allegations.

Read More

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.

El expresidente de la Asamblea Parlamentaria del Consejo de Europa (APCE), @pagramunt, podría haber formado parte del entramado de #corrupción relacionado con lavado de imagen de Azerbaiyán. Por favor @fiscal_es, abra una investigación penal al respecto. Tweet This The former president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), @pagramunt, could have been part of the corruptive activity connected to the image laundering of Azerbaijan. Please @fiscal_es, open a criminal investigation. Tweet This

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.

Justice for the silenced in Azerbaijan Join the campaign

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

Photo: Shutterstock / Mehman Huseynov (2012). A protester is arrested by local police in Baku, Azerbaijan.

For any press enquiries please contact press@transparency.org

Latest

Support Transparency International

Support Us

New Report: Who is behind the wheel? Fixing the global standards on company ownership

To counter crime and corruption, law enforcement authorities around the world need to be able to swiftly uncover the identities of the real owners of companies. Transparency International argues that public registers of beneficial ownership should be the norm.

Transparency International Amalia Award

The TI Amalia Award recognises and celebrates professional excellence and impact by the anti-corruption fighters from the Transparency International movement.

هل سيشعل الفساد المستشري فتيل الخريف العربي؟

خلال الشهرين الماضيين، اجتاحت موجة من الاحتجاجات شوارع مصر والعراق ولبنان. وبلغ عدد المحتجين الذين نزلوا إلى الشوارع في لبنان أكثر من مليون شخص ينددون بالظلم، وكان ذلك غالبا في تحدّ للقمع العنيف الذي تمارسه السلطات. وعلى الرغم من اختلاف المطالب التي نادى بها المحتجون في البلدان الثلاثة، بل تختلف حتى فيما بين الحركات في نفس البلد، إلا أن هذا الغضب العارم قام على قاسم مشترك بينها: الفساد وسوء الإدارة المالية للحكومات.

Will rampant corruption spark an Arab Autumn?

A common factor has underpinned mass protests in Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon over the past two months: outrage over corruption and financial mismanagement by governments.

Better blending: how the World Bank can promote transparency in financing sustainable development

As the World Bank holds its annual meetings in Washington D.C this week, Transparency International is calling for greater transparency, accountability and participation in the World Bank’s contribution to financing the 2030 Agenda.

Fighting corruption in the age of “fake news”

"Fake news" has become a major threat to public trust in democracy and news media outlets over the past years. The fight against corruption is also affected.

Right to information: a tool for people power

Globally, approximately 120 countries have right to information laws. In some countries, these laws are top notch, but in others, the laws either don’t exist or need significant improvements. On International Right to Know Day, citizens are speaking out around the world to demand greater accountability from government. But are most people even aware of their right to request information in the first place?

Global Corruption Barometer - Latin America and the Caribbean 2019

The Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) – Latin America & Caribbean highlights the disproportionate effect that corruption has on women and a significant lack of political integrity among government leaders.

Social Media

Follow us on Social Media