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#1 Yervant1


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Posted 15 November 2014 - 12:06 PM


Prince Andrew secretly flies to Azerbaijan for meeting with the president
By Rebecca English for the Daily Mail
14 November 2014

Prince Andrew faces international censure after flying out yesterday
on a secret visit to meet the controversial president of Azerbaijan.

The Queen's son flew out of the UK on a private jet for talks with
billionaire despot Ilham Aliyev, who has been repeatedly accused of
appalling human rights abuses.

It is understood that the royal will stay in the capital, Baku, until
Sunday and his 'private' four-day trip includes at least one face to
face meeting with the leader. When visiting Azerbaijan Andrew is known
as 'the dear guest'.

His visit was not publicised in the list of official royal engagements
in advance and last night Buckingham Palace would only say: 'By long
standing convention we do not confirm or comment on private travel by
members of the Royal Family.'

However it is understood that taxpayers are not being forced to foot
the bill for the jolly, aside from the cost of security.

Details of the trip only emerged after a British Government source
tipped off the pressure group, Platform, which campaigns against
social and environmental abuses associated with the energy industry.

Its spokesman, Emma Hughes, accused the prince of having a 'cosy
relationship' with President Aliyev and demanded to know in what
capacity he was visiting Azerbaijan.

Andrew was forced to give up his globe-trotting royal role as a UK
trade envoy in 2011 after years of public criticism.

While his efforts were lauded by some respected names in the business
community, he was also repeatedly accused of wasting taxpayers' money
on chartering costly private jets and helicopters - including £387,000
in his last few months in the job.

Some of his business trips were also noted to coincide with golfing
trips or private holidays.

The prince also faced scrutiny over claims he was 'cashing in' on
connections he had developed through his role including the sale of
his Berkshire home for £15 million - £3million over the asking price -
to the son-in-law of the controversial Kazakhstan president, a
personal friend and goose hunting partner.

The final nail in the coffin was the furore over his close friendship
with Jeffrey Epstein, a billionaire US financier who was convicted and
jailed for soliciting prostitution from underage girls. The pair were
photographed together in New York after Epstein had been released from

During his decade as the UK's Special Representative for Trade and
Industry he also forged a close relationship with the President of
Azerbaijan, an oil and gas-rich former Soviet state.

Officially, he has now met with him on 12 occasions, although it is
believed that he has also enjoyed numerous private encounters too.

In June 2009 Andrew spent an estimated £60,000 of public money on
chartering a luxury private jet for a three-day visit.

And in November 2012 the Mail revealed how the prince had even made a
covert stop-off to visit the president en route to an official tour of
the Middle East.

On another earlier stay he was reported to have visited a luxury spa
owned by President Aliyev, which employs a blind Russian masseur
described as having the best hands in the world.

And in 2013 this newspaper also revealed that Andrew had been given a
valuable ornamental sword and a box of caviar by Aliyev when was guest
of honour at his dinner table.

The Prince is also friendly with the president's wife Mehriban, and
her two glamorous daughters, one of whom, Leyla, is married to the son
of a Russian oligarch and lives in a penthouse overlooking Hyde Park
in London.

The disclosures have added to the disquiet over the prince's
relationships with the leaders of dubious regimes, as Azerbaijan is
considered to be one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

The regularity of his visits have also led media in the former Soviet
state to speculate that the Queen's son may have business links to the
oil-rich state, including a golf resort on the Caspian Sea. Buckingham
Palace has vehemently denied this.

News of his latest trip has attracted condemnation from pressure
groups concerned by Azerbaijan's appalling human rights record.

Aliyev, who inherited the presidency from his father, has been accused
of torturing his political opponents, rigging elections and curtailing
media freedom.

Last October presidential elections were held in the country which saw
143 political campaigners jailed. Videos also emerged of ballot boxes
allegedly being stuffed by regime supporters.

Prince Andrew is not the only high profile British figure who has
close links with the Aliyev regime. This August it was announced that
Tony Blair is being paid to advise the Azerbaijani government and
several oil companies - including BP - on the PR challenges they face
in building the Euro-Caspian Mega Pipeline, a huge gas infrastructure
that will run from Azerbaijan to Italy.

Emma Hughes, Energy Campaigner at campaign group Platform said: 'It's
shameful that both Prince Andrew and Tony Blair are so chummy with the
Azerbaijani autocrat.

'There are hundreds of brave people in Azerbaijan fighting for
democracy, yet our representatives are more concerned with caviar and
gas deals.'

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