News 26th Apr 2018

PM meeting with Azerbaijan President: Trade deals must not benefit Azerbaijan’s corrupt elites

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26th April 2018, London – The PM must ensure strong anti-corruption measures are in place before any future trade deal with Azerbaijan to ensure the UK is not complicit to a regime widely accused of corruption, according to Transparency International.

The Prime Minister today hosts Ilham Aliyev, the President of Azerbaijan. His family are alleged to have amassed a vast business empire and property portfolio during his time in office, including prime London real estate. The details of these have been hidden behind opaque corporate structures, including companies based in the British Virgin Islands and the Crown Dependency of the Isle of Man. The value of the assets held by the President’s family appear to be far in excess of their known lawful income.

Journalists and campaigners seeking to expose corruption in Azerbaijan have also been targeted, including Afgan Mukhtarli, who has reported on alleged corruption at the country’s Defence Ministry. At the start of this year, he was sentenced to six years in prison.

Duncan Hames, Director of Policy at Transparency International UK, said:

“The UK Prime Minister in her meeting with Ilham Aliyev should give him both barrels over the countless accusations of corruption leveled against his regime. Azerbaijan is a state led by a family with large quantities of unexplained wealth, its government is the subject of serious and extensive allegations of corruption and is known to lock-up those who have sought to expose wrongdoing. This is a regime which should present all kinds of red flags as a potential trading partner.”

“Any future trade deals that these talks explore must have the strongest of anti-corruption measures otherwise we are at risk of both politically and financially aiding a regime with an awful record on corruption and human rights. Law-abiding British businesses would only struggle to thrive in a country that fails to address the need for anti-corruption reforms. The choices the UK Government makes in its dealings with Azerbaijan will be indicative of what kind of country the UK wants to be post Brexit – one that upholds the rule of law and does business with integrity, or one that makes unconditional deals with the world’s corrupt, and human rights abusers.”

“Ministers have been keen to reassure the public that the UK is becoming a ‘hostile’ environment for corrupt wealth that will apply the ‘full force of government’, yet a number of recent reports have identified the Aliyev family purchasing luxury London property with suspicious wealth. Any investigation by UK law enforcement into these assets must not be fettered by political expediency. The Government should also immediately bring forward legislation for the long-promised register of the real owners of overseas companies owning UK property, which would make it much harder for corrupt individuals to use London as a home for their dirty money.”