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Azerbaijan - Global Laundromat

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#41 gamavor

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Posted 26 April 2018 - 03:39 AM

Eh, Pedro, Pedro...I told you not to mess with Armenians:)

https://politica.elp...erno_rsoc=FB_CM
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#42 Yervant1

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Posted 26 April 2018 - 09:19 AM

Thanks Gams, I'll post the translated article just in case they remove it after a while!

 

The Council of Europe accuses the senator of the PP Pedro Agramunt of corruption
The former president of the assembly of this institution received alleged payments from Azerbaijan to soften the criticism of that country

 

LUCIA ABELLÁN

1507309271_630771_1507309665_noticia_norPedro Agramunt, during a meeting with a Turkish minister, in June 2016. ADEM ALTAN AFP

The visit to the Syrian president, Bachar el Asad, in March of 2017 was the last straw in a sea of ​​corruption orchestrated by the Spanish Pedro Agramunt. This senator of the Popular Party, former president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, participated for years in a corrupt strategy that conditioned decisions of this European body and reached its zenith with the meeting held in Damascus with the Syrian leader, behind the back of the Council of Europe. The independent investigation commissioned by this body, guardian of democracy and human rights in 47 European countries, has credited on Monday a "strong suspicion" that Agramunt was part of that scheme and that he used it to rise to the presidency .

Strange donations that boosted his candidacy for the presidency of this assembly, watches and liquors offered by political offices in Eastern countries and even suspicions of prostitution populate the report of the independent body of investigation disclosed by the Council of Europe. In almost 200 pages distributed with the organization's letterhead, the text includes the alleged corrupt practices carried out by several members of the assembly, including Agramunt, with the main objective of silencing the Council's criticisms of Azerbaijan. This politician of the Valencian PP, who had to leave the presidency of the Assembly of the Council of Europe after an unusual process of loss of confidence on the part of the institution,He maneuvered to get hold of that dossier and soften European criticisms of a country characterized by the lack of democratic mechanisms and the repression of opponents. He managed to stay ahead of the institution between January 2016 and October 2017.

 

 

Based on different studies - including the European Stability Initiative ideas laboratory, which uncovered the so-called caviar diplomacy exercised by the Azeri regime - the document highlights the "links between the success of Agramunt's career and his friendship with Azerbaijan." The authorities of this country provided 200,000 euros to boost his candidacy for the presidency of this body, according to the Freedom Files investigation. Other parliamentarians also received money "for them to run for different positions [in the Parliamentary Assembly] that would allow them to control the resolutions or influence them," he adds. This neighboring country of Russia spent 30 million euros on these pressure activities.

15,000 EUROS AT THE HOTEL

Beyond the suspicions of others, Agramunt himself offered some clue to his usual handling of large amounts of cash before the outbreak of the scandal of the visit to Syria. To distance the focus of that trip, for which Agramunt did not ask for authorization, the senator said that his hotel room in Strasbourg had been raided in the days after the meeting with El Asad. As a sign that what the alleged perpetrators were looking for was data, not money, he alleged that in his room there was "an envelope with 15,000 euros in cash that had not been touched," a witness told investigators. Far from exculpating him, Agramunt's words reinforced suspicions of bribes.

This work considers proven that Agramunt "played a key role in the adoption of several decisions of the Assembly perceived, directly or indirectly, as favorable to Azerbaijan". Even violated the rules of the institution to reveal to the Azeri authorities a confidential report on that country. Next, he "received instructions" about what he should include in those reports for which he was responsible. "There is evidence that Agramunt intervened in draft reports to soften criticism of the Azerbaijani authorities," the researchers point out.

From the beginning, the senator showed interest in getting this dossier. Agramunt himself intervened so that another member of the PP, the Swedish Marietta de Pourbaix-Lundin, desisted from aspiring to be responsible for the supervision reports of Azerbaijan, a member of the Council of Europe since 2001. Finally, he obtained the position. The result was that "the tone and attitude towards the Azerbaijani authorities softened", from the constant criticism leveled in 2005 to the much friendlier attitude of 2010.

Gerald Knaus, president of the European Stability Initiative, welcomes the conclusions, although he suggests that they only reveal part of the corruption. "Only the tip of the iceberg is shown. But given the limitations, it is important and full of details, "says Knaus, who has revealed many of these irregularities.

In his reports on the country, Agramunt avoided condemning one of the most aired aspects of the institution in Strasbourg with respect to the Azeri authorities: the imprisonment of political dissidents. And although he visited them during his stays in Baku, "I never had anything to say to them, something that only happened in Azerbaijan." As an example of good relations with power, the report cites the presence of Agramunt in Baku two days before the official delegation of the parliamentary assembly arrived.

Dating with prostitutes

The document refers to testimonies from the secretariat of the Parliamentary Assembly that say Agramunt "could be bribed with prostitutes" while participating in an electoral mission of the Council of Europe sent to Azerbaijan in 2015. One of those witnesses claims to have seen him one day return to your hotel with three young women. There are two other reported cases, with two women and one respectively. The authors of the work believe that the allegations are "not corroborated" and that, even if they met with prostitutes, "there is no evidence that it was part of a corrupt scheme."

A testimony from the same secretariat ensures that on one occasion he saw Agramunt with "a significant amount of cash" in his possession, an indication of having accepted bribes. The text also includes irregularities of the deputy of the PdeCAT Jordi Xuclà and of the exdiputado of the PP Agustín Conde.

With all these details, the research concludes that there is "a strong suspicion that Pedro Agramunt was part of an activity of a corrupt nature." Experts clarify that the Spanish politician has refused to offer his testimony before the investigation committee. The Council of Europe will now decide possible sanctions against the deputies who still make up the assembly.



#43 Yervant1

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Posted 27 April 2018 - 11:17 AM

MEDIA RELEASE

Australian MP Peter Khalil slams Craig Kelly on Sky News: You had your trip paid by the Azerbaijani government

sky-stoush.png

CANBERRA: Members of the Federal Parliament, Peter Khalil and Craig Kelly have clashed live on Sky News Australia, with the Member for Wills slamming the Member for Hughes for "talking down Australia's democracy in comparison to Azerbaijan's" after he labelled the recent presidential elections in the petro-dictatorship as "democratic" following a state-sponsored trip.

The elections Kelly observed, leading a delegation of Federal MPs in his role as Chair of the Australia - Azerbaijan Friendship Group, saw dictator Ilham Aliyev re-elected for a record 7-year term in office after recent changed to the Constitution supporting an extension to his rule. Incidentally, Kelly also observed the referendum changing these laws, before returning to Australia to say "we have a lot to learn from Azerbaijan's democracy".

Khalil laid into Kelly live on Sky News after highlighting that Azerbaijan's electoral commission released the result of the previous presidential elections in that country "a day before the actual election".

"You've got a despot who specialises in nepotism who hired his wife as Vice-President, and you're telling us that we've got something to learn from them," Khalil said. "That's just utterly ridiculous."

He continued: "You had your trip paid by the Azerbaijani government, I get it. But do not talk down Australia's democracy. We have an independent Australian Electoral Commission, we have one of the most thorough and rigid processes in one of the best, democratic systems in the world."

Kelly did concede, as he had in a Sydney Morning Herald article exposing his comments, that Azerbaijan has "had the same family ruling there as President - father and son - since the Soviet occupation ended", but he still referred to the country as "a fledgling democracy".

Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC-AU) Executive Director, Haig Kayserian commented: "We thank Mr. Khalil for once again bringing Mr. Kelly's questionable loyalty to a regime that gives any dictatorship a run for its money when it comes to press and individual freedoms, has been declared as 'not free' by Freedom House, and regularly breaks an internationally-brokered ceasefire to fire across the Line of Contact, murdering Armenians on the border of the Republic of Artsakh."

In response to Kelly's consistent assertions that voter identification laws in Azerbaijan supercede the transparecy of Australia's electoral commission, Kayserian said: "Even in cases of voter fraud, Australia's due processes have revealed parties at fault and brought them to justice. In Azerbaijan, European observers have cited the lack of opposition and any comparable checks and balances."

Kayserian added: "We welcome Mr. Kelly has at least now admitted that Aliyev's Azerbaijan has had one surname leading it for as long as it has been independent, but to still refer to it as a democracy is as basketcase as the 'democracy' he is referring to."

ANC-AU, which has been at the forefront of bringing this saga to public attention, has requested to meet with Craig Kelly.



#44 Yervant1

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Posted 24 May 2018 - 10:00 AM

OCCRP.org
May 23 2018
 
 
Baku’s Man in America
 
by Jonny Wrate
23 May 2018
 
 
The Azerbaijani Laundromat — a set of intertwined bank accounts used as a slush fund by the country’s elite to buy luxury goods, pay off European politicians, and launder money — also included payments to an individual working to influence American policy in the interest of Azerbaijan, an analysis of the data shows.
 
Overall, some €2.5 billion (US$ 2.9 billion) flowed through the Laundromat between 2012 and 2014. The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and partners first revealed the scheme last September. A portion of the money was used to advance the Azerbaijani government’s political agenda, with some ending up in bank accounts belonging to European politicians who spoke highly of President Ilham Aliyev’s authoritarian regime even as it arrested journalists and opposition activists.
 
As it turns out, another recipient of Laundromat money — to the tune of a quarter million dollars — was an influential American oil and gas consultant of Azerbaijani origin who worked to influence US policy in his native country’s favor.
 
Adil Baguirov, a business owner based in Dayton, Ohio and a vocal member of the Azerbaijani diaspora, received the $253,150 transfer just months after a non-profit organization he runs, the Houston-based US Azeris Network, helped host a conference in Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital, that was attended by 10 members of Congress. The junket was widely criticized, and investigated by the House Ethics Committee, for being secretly funded by Azerbaijan’s state oil company.
 
AZERBAIJANI RENAISSANCE
 
A separate series of payments from the Azerbaijani Laundromat went to Renaissance Associates, an organization based in Baku that contacted a Virgina-based lobbying firm to lobby the US government on its behalf. (See: US Lobbying Firm Launders Azerbaijan’s Reputation.)
 
The precise origins of the money Baguirov received are unknown, hidden behind secretive shell companies. But there is ample evidence that the authoritarian country’s ruling elite is behind it.
 
Baguirov’s Washington lobbying in the interests of Azerbaijan goes far beyond the 2013 conference. He has also helped organize other US-Azeri conferences in Washington, repeatedly testified before the House in favor of US military aid to Azerbaijan, served as the coordinator of the Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus, and worked prominently in a Houston-based company that claims to have organized a trip by the country’s president, Ilham Aliyev, to the White House.
 
Baguirov and his family run in elite circles back home. They are known to have close ties to President Aliyev – who awarded Baguirov a medal for his efforts in the US – and he and his father serve in numerous advisory roles to the Azerbaijani and Russian governments respectively. Baguirov did all this while holding American, Azerbaijani, and, it also appears, Russian citizenship until at least 2005.
 
His lobbying raises the question of whether he should have registered as a foreign agent, as the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) requires people representing the interests of foreign countries to do. Although the statute is loosely defined and contains a number of exemptions and loopholes, Josh Rosenstein, a lawyer at Sandler Reiff, says “this case raises red flags and raises questions that the Justice Department may be interested in having answered.”
 
When contacted by OCCRP reporters for comment, Baguirov said the payment he received was none of their business.
 
 
An American Success Story
 
Adil Baguirov’s campaign website touts him as “An American Success Story”— a striving immigrant who came to the United States at the age of 16 to “study hard and pursue his dreams” of a better life.
 
He graduated from the University of Southern California in international relations and business administration, and also received a PhD in political science in Moscow. Today, however, he’s a local business owner and educational leader in Dayton, an Ohio city with a population of around 140,000.
 
In a 2016 feature on Dayton, Politico described Baguirov as “handsome and well-spoken enough that it was easy to imagine him going far [in politics] … just the sort of new American who Republican Party leaders said the party could bring to its side, if only it tried.”
 
In fact, he recently mulled the possibility of running for Ohio’s state senate as a Republican, though he ultimately decided to sit the 2018 election cycle out in order to, as he told Dayton Magazine, “take a little time off.”
 
According to the magazine, the businessman has “spent his entire life committed to the idea of education, both for himself and others.” Indeed, his first foray into local politics began five years ago, when he was elected to Dayton’s school board, a position he held until 2017, when he resigned more than a month before the end of his term after local activist David Esrati discovered that he appeared to have lied about his residential address.
 
But, as it turns out, Baguirov’s eligibility for the school board is not the only controversy surrounding the businessman.
 
Just one week after he was elected to the position, a consulting company he runs called Turbillion LLC received a payment of US$ 253,150 from Hilux Services, a shell firm that is part of the Azerbaijani Laundromat. The reason for the payment is listed, cryptically, as “to the contract.”
 
While Baguirov lives in Ohio, Turbillion is registered in Wyoming, a state popular with those looking to create secretive companies due to its tax-free incentives and provision of anonymity.
 
Turbillion has no website and no publicly known activity, and it’s just one of a number of similar companies controlled by Baguirov. For example, it shares the Dayton mailing address of Nobel Brothers Pictures LLC, another Wyoming-based company which is allegedly producing a Hollywood movie about the history of the Azerbaijani oil industry.
 
Scarves, Tea Sets, and Rugs
 
Baguirov’s Houston-based non-profit, the US Azeris Network (USAN), describes itself as a “genuine grassroots advocacy and voter education network” for Azerbaijani-Americans and other Turkic Americans, “created by the grassroots, for the grassroots.” Much of its activity, however, appears to advance the interests of Azerbaijan.
 
Six months before Baguirov received the Laundromat payment, the organization helped organize a two-day conference in Baku called “US-Azerbaijan Relations: Vision for Future.” It was the second of three annual conferences meant to celebrate and strengthen the countries’ relationship, with a focus on energy security, stability, and regional cooperation in the South Caucasus and the Caspian Basin.
 
The conferences came at a sensitive time for US-Azerbaijani relations. At the time, a consortium of major oil companies — including Azerbaijan’s state-owned SOCAR, BP, Russia’s Lukoil, and the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) — was seeking exemptions from US sanctions against Iran, which affected its work in the vast Shah Deniz gas field in the Caspian Sea and its plans for the so-called Southern Gas Corridor to pipe the gas to Europe.
 
So it was noteworthy that the Baku meeting in 2013 was attended by 11 members of Congress, 10 of whom were paid for, and over 30 of their staff — and that, according to a confidential report by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) obtained by the Washington Post, they were lavished with silk scarves, crystal tea sets and Azerbaijani rugs valued at $2,500 to $10,000.
 
Upon their return to the US, many of these lawmakers spoke favorably about Azerbaijan and promoted the Southern Gas Corridor project. Five days after the conference, President Obama signed an executive order further tightening US sanctions on Iran. But it included an exception for “certain activities relating to the pipeline project to supply natural gas from the Shah Deniz gas field in Azerbaijan to Europe and Turkey,” according to a statement by the White House press secretary.
 
In invitations sent out by representatives of SOCAR, Azerbaijan’s state-owned oil firm, Baguirov’s USAN was initially named as one of the conference’s organizers, alongside another Houston-based non-profit, the Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians. But without explanation, Baguirov’s organization vanished from the list — a fact that an OCE investigator found worth raising questions about. Instead, a third Houston-based non-profit, the Assembly of the Friends of Azerbaijan, had taken its place.
 
According to the OCE, this organization had secretly funneled $750,000 to pay for travel, accommodation and venue rental from the state-owned SOCAR.
 
The estimated proposed budget for the conference was $1.5 million. But it appears that its organizers had trouble securing the necessary funds. Two managers from ConocoPhillips told OCE investigators that Kemal Oksuz, the president of both hosting organizations, asked the corporation for a $250,000 sponsorship. But it eventually agreed to provide just $10,000, as did two other sponsors, McDermott and BP.
 
Reporters found no evidence that either Baguirov or his non-profit helped cover the shortfall. But his consulting company received the $253,150 Azerbaijani Laundromat payment six months later.
 
Adil Baguirov speaks during a demonstration outside the Armenian Embassy in Washington DC in remembrance of the Khojaly Massacre, committed by Armenian forces during the Nagorno-Karabakh War.Credit: US Azeris Network’s Facebook page
 
The Caucus Coordinator
 
The 2013 conference in Baku was just one example of Baguirov’s years-long efforts to lobby for his home country in the United States. The two other conferences in the series, which both took place in Washington, were openly organized by USAN.
 
In 2009, he and USAN sent out invitations to another planned conference on US-Azerbaijan relations in Washington with the Baku-based Center for Strategic Studies (SAM). Established in 2007 by presidential decree, SAM is an Azerbaijani governmental think tank.
 
Baguirov has also been active in the halls of Congress. Around 2003, he began working for Congressman Curt Weldon (R-PA) as Special Advisor on Russia and the former Soviet Union. Weldon, who maintains close ties with both Baguirov and his father, was defeated in 2006 not long after the Justice Department investigated him for allegedly steering to his daughter’s lobbying firm almost $1 million in consulting contracts from two Russian companies and a Serbian foundation.
 
Weldon founded the Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus in 2004, together with fellow Congressman Solomon Ortiz (D-TX). Congressional caucuses allow a group of members to strategize on how to garner publicity for and impact policy on a shared interest.
 
Baguirov served as the Caucus’ coordinator and allegedly travelled with Congressional delegations to the former Soviet Union in 2003 and 2004. Both Ortiz and a former advisor who also helped to build up the Caucus would later lobby on behalf of another recipient of Azerbaijani Laundromat funds (See: US Lobbying Firm Launders Azerbaijan’s Reputation). Of the 10 members of Congress whose trips to the 2013 Baku conference were paid for, seven were members of the Azerbaijan Caucus.
 
Between 2008 and 2016, Baguirov was also invited almost annually to recommend foreign economic and military aid budgets for Azerbaijan and Armenia to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Matters. In some years, other representatives of USAN and the Karabakh Foundation — another of Baguirov’s non-profit organizations — also testified.
 
The transcripts of his testimonies show Baguirov acting as a counter to Armenian interests in Washington (the two countries are fierce rivals over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region). When he first testified in 2008, he recommended greater equity between aid given to the two countries, but by 2012, he was calling for aid to Armenia to be reduced to zero, while requesting $26 million from USAID and $3.9 million in military aid for Azerbaijan.
 
Protesting the State Department’s proposed budget for the financial year 2014, he claimed that “someone” had “twisted and changed the spirit” of the United States’ “neutral” position. USAN publicly accused Armenia that year of providing the Committee with “false or exaggerated information, whilst asking for tens of millions of dollars in taxpayers’ money” through its “paid representative of the Armenian lobby.” Throughout his testimonies, Baguirov has remained silent on the Azerbaijan government’s notoriously poor human rights record.
 
 
Worldwide Strategic Influencers
 
While lobbying in Washington, DC, Adil Baguirov was also the Executive Vice President of International Affairs for Worldwide Strategic Energy, Inc. (WSE), a Houston-based company that offers its “strong business and political ties” to help prospective clients capitalize on hydrocarbon development opportunities in “politically complicated countries,” including Azerbaijan. It also claims to have “strategic alliances in place to do direct work with” a number of state oil companies, including Azerbaijan’s SOCAR.
 
An internal draft memo from 2007, leaked to investigative journalist Lindsay Beyerstein, claims that a subsidiary of WSE, Caspian Alliance, had been providing “strategic advice to the government of Azerbaijan.” It further notes that “the team is already beginning to capitalize on this relationship by working on several business projects and is currently negotiating acquisition of specific hydrocarbon leases.” The memo includes a photograph of Baguirov — who is described earlier in the document as the company’s “most senior expert on Russia and the former CIS” — with President Aliyev.
 
Adil Baguirov with President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev.Credit: Screenshot of leaked WSE policy memo
 
WSE’s president and CEO at the time was Stephen P. Payne, a lobbyist forced to resign from an advisory committee to the Department for Homeland Security after the Times secretly recorded him offering access to top US officials for up to $750,000.
 
Baguirov’s father Togrul is also listed as a WSE advisory board member, and is described as someone with “opportunities to interface with any Russian energy company.”
 
The elder Baguirov is an influential figure in Russian oil and gas, serving as special advisor to the country’s Prime Minister, the Minister of Energy, and the energy companies Gazprom and Lukoil.
 
The company’s involvement with Azerbaijan has not been limited to oil and gas. World Strategic Partners, the predecessor company of WSE, for which Baguirov also served as a vice president for international affairs, claimed to have arranged a visit by Aliyev to the White House and to have “implemented an aggressive media campaign to discredit the Azeri opposition candidates, allowing the government for freedom in enforcing election curfews and laws.”
 
Foreign Agency?
 
The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) is a statute by the US Department of Justice that requires agents representing the interests of foreign powers to disclose their relationship with the foreign government.
 
Baguirov has made no such disclosures despite his activities and his family’s extensive relationships with Azerbaijan’s government and ruling family.
 
In the 2000s, he served as an advisor on the Committee for Defense and Security of the country’s parliament. In July 2011, President Aliyev awarded him a medal for strengthening the friendship among peoples and developing the Azerbaijani diaspora.
 
THE BAGUIROVS AND THE ALIYEVS
 
Adil is not the first Baguirov to have ties with the presidential family.
 
In the 1990s, his grandfather – a former KGB agent – reportedly worked as the director of the residence of the late former President Heydar Aliyev; his father Togrul also told local media that he knew Heydar Aliyev personally.
 
Togrul has also said that the private NGO he chairs, the Baku Nobel Heritage Fund, which awards “Emanuel Nobel Memorial Medals” — including one for former Congressman Curt Weldon — was created under the patronage and initiative of Heydar’s son and current president, Ilham Aliyev.
 
Any person who is directly or indirectly supervised, directed, funded or subsidized in whole or major part by a foreign principal must register as a foreign agent on FARA. However, Gabriel Gillett, a lawyer at Jenner & Block, says “the statute is quite broad and it’s subject to interpretation, so it may well come down to what exactly the relationship is between a foreign government and the person in the US, and their actions.”
 
Reporters also discovered that, while lobbying the US government in the interests of Azerbaijan, Baguirov likely had three citizenships. An application to the UN Economic and Social Council for consultative status which was submitted by USAN shows that Baguirov held both US and Azerbaijani citizenship in 2013. Company records for Petrogaz, a Russian oil company in which he owned shares, reveal that, in the mid-2000s, he also had Russian citizenship.
 
“His connections and multiple citizenships alone would not be enough necessarily to trigger [FARA] registration requirements,” says Josh Rosenstein, the lawyer at Sandler Reiff. “However, there would likely be enough for an investigator to want to ask detailed questions about the interplay and relationships … to see whether there was in fact an ‘agency’ at capacity here.”
 
Baguirov did not respond to questions about his lobbying work.
 
Additional reporting and research by Chris Benevento, Paul Radu, and Lejla Sarcevic.
 


#45 Yervant1

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Posted 31 May 2018 - 10:25 AM

The Herald (Glasgow), Scotland
May 29, 2018 Tuesday
 
 
Scots firm launders cash used to pay US lobbyists
 
by David Leask
 
 7431148.jpg?type=article-full
 
ONE of Europe's most corrupt and authoritarian regimes used a Scottish firm to secretly buy influence in America, investigators say.
 
Figures close to the government of Azerbaijan have long been suspected of using laundered money to pay for a slush fund for sympathetic politicians in the West.
 
Last year the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) revealed that some £2 billion had been smuggled out of the oil-rich former Soviet nation through a complex web of shell firms, some of them Scottish.
 
Now the investigative journalism group says that some of that money was recycled back into Azerbaijan and then on to the United States to pay a lobbying firm.
 
Their research centres on two anonymously owned shell firms, one an English limited liability partnership and the other a Scottish Limited Partnership (SLP).
 
The SLP, Glasgow-registered Hilux Services, was one of the core entities in what the OCCRP called the Azerbaijani Laundromat, a scheme to recycle cash of an unknown origin believed to be partly linked to the state.
 
OCCRP said some $1.6 million was paid by Hilux and a Birmingham firm to what it called a mysterious organisation called Renaissance Associates in Azerbaijan's capital Baku.
 
Renaissance, OCCRP reported, then paid a US lobbying firm "to orchestrate praise for Azerbaijan and had its representatives make thousands of dollars in campaign donations, including to Senators and Representatives who sat on committees which determine foreign aid budgets".
 
OCCRP named a parliamentarian charged with cleaning up the image of Azerbaijan and its leader, Ilham Aliyev as being behind the lobbying.
 
Renaissance has no website and no contact information. OCCRP said Renaissance's only reported activity had been a 14-year-old relationship with Bob Lawrence & Associates (BL&A), a lobbying firm in Alexandria, Virginia. BL&A under US law had to reveal it was paid $1,533,000 by Renaissance, about the same amount the Azerbaijani firm got from Hilux and the English business associated with the Laundromat.
 
BL&A, among other things, has lobbied America on Azerbaijan's interest in Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory disputed by the country and its neighbour, Armenia.
 
The firm, however, denies working for the Azerbaijan government. The mysterious Renaissance is not a government agency.
 
Hilux Services, meanwhile, was dissolved in 2016.
 
It is not the first SLP to be named in an lobbying row.
 
Earlier this year The Herald revealed Biniatta Trade paid a Washington lobbyist to help Balkan conservatives access Donald Trump's White House.
 
Biniatta Trade emerged as an unlikely funder of a campaign to promote Albania's right-wing opposition in America.
 
The firm claims to trade in grain and cloth from its prestigious address at a virtual office in Edinburgh's New Town.
 
Such firms are routinely marketed in as secrecy vehicles in the former Soviet Union. Biniatta shares founding partners with entities linked with Russia and Ukraine, sparking news stories in the US suggesting it was a Russian front.
 
However, shared formal partners may only indicate the shell firm was manufactured by the same agency as those used by Russians. A Northern Ireland partnership, meanwhile, was used to lobby for Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.
 


#46 MosJan

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Posted 18 June 2018 - 12:04 PM

http://asekose.am/en...bying-firm.html

 

Azerbaijan’s Secret ‘Laundromat’ Scheme Pays $1.5 Million to US Lobbying Firm

2018-05-29 23:23:23
By Harut Sassounian

Publisher, The California Courier

www.TheCaliforniaCourier.com

The website of Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) revealed last week the possibly illegal lobbying in the United States funded by Azerbaijani sources.
Investigative journalist Jonny Wrate reported on May 23, 2018 that “some of the money that passed through the Azerbaijani Laundromat, a secret money laundering scheme and slush fund that saw $2.9 billion flow out of the country between 2012 and 2014, ended up in the hands of a purportedly private Azerbaijani organization that hired a Virginia firm to lobby the US government for more than a decade.”

OCCRP had reported earlier that “other monies from the fund were used to advance the Azerbaijani government’s political agenda, with some ending up in bank accounts belonging to European politicians who spoke highly of President Ilham Aliyev’s regime even as it arrested journalists and political activists. The precise origins of the funds are unknown, hidden behind secretive shell companies. But there is ample evidence that the authoritarian country’s ruling elite is behind them.”

Last week, OCCRP revealed that two shell companies established by Azerbaijan “funneled over a million and a half dollars to a mysterious Baku-based organization called Renaissance Associates” which in turn hired “a US lobbying firm to orchestrate praise for Azerbaijan and had its representatives make thousands of dollars in campaign donations, including to Senators and Representatives who sat on committees that determine foreign aid budgets.”



#47 Yervant1

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Posted 19 June 2018 - 11:51 AM

Another Anti-Armenian Writer Exposed

            For Making Baseless Allegations

            By Harut Sassounian

            Publisher, The California Courier

            www.TheCaliforniaCourier.com



It seems that not a week passes without coming across another
mysterious writer who undertakes to contribute a puff piece about
Azerbaijan and to undermine the reputation of Armenia and Armenians
around the world.

The latest such writer is Peter Tase who posted an article titled,
“Russia’s Foreign Agents in America: Trump Connection of Armenian
Lobbyists,” on June 11, 2018 on the Eurasia Review website.

This extremely biased article resorts to exaggerations and untrue
allegations in order to link Armenia and various Armenian individuals
to Russia, and even more surprisingly, to Pres. Donald Trump.

To begin with, Tase disparages Iranian-Armenian Gevork Vartanian’s
praiseworthy actions during World War II by calling him “one of the
most prolific Soviet Armenian spies.” In fact, Vartanian provided a
major service to the entire world by thwarting Hitler’s plans to
assassinate Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt while meeting as allies
at the Tehran Conference in 1943. Tase undermines his own credibility
by mentioning that CIA director Stansfield Turner and upper echelons
of the agency trusted Vartanian. Why would they trust Vartanian if he
were such a bad guy? Incredibly, Tase even states that he is
suspicious of Vartanian because he spoke Armenian.

Tase then picks on two Russian Armenian journalists—Margarita Simonyan
and Gayane Chichakyan—who work for RT (Russia Today) TV. Their only
guilt is that they are “good looking” women, and without any evidence
Tase accuses them of being “ethnically Armenian, as are many other
‘Russian’ agents of influence.”

Next is the turn of Artur Chilingarov, Vice Speaker of the Russian
Duma, whom Tase attacks for being an Armenian. Chilingarov’s fault is
that he was sitting at the next table over from Russian President
Vladimir Putin at a banquet in Moscow. Chilingarov was honored by the
Soviet Union and the Russian Federation for his exploits as a
prominent polar explorer—and not for being an Armenian, as Tase
claims.

Perhaps the most sinister part of Tase’s article is falsely claiming
that Armenian-American reporter Emil Sanamyan is “a foreign agent.”
This is a completely untrue allegation. Mr. Sanamyan told me that he
is not now, nor has he ever been registered with the U.S. Justice
Department as “a foreign agent.” I hope Mr. Sanamyan will sue Peter
Tase and his website for damaging his reputation. To show the degree
of Tase’s blind hatred for anything Armenian, he accuses Sanamyan of
working for “Americans for Artsakh,” an organization “established to
bring legitimacy to the war crimes and illegal occupation by the
Russian-backed Armenian military that has been ruthlessly perpetrated
(long before Ukraine and Georgia, the Russian government has used
Armenian soldiers to occupy Azerbaijan’s sovereign territory, arrest
development and derail a Pro-Western course of Azerbaijan).” Not a
single word is true in that sentence. The Russian government did not
use Armenian soldiers. Armenians liberated themselves from
Azerbaijan’s oppressive regime which committed mass crimes against
Armenians of Artsakh for decades. In fact, Russian soldiers sided with
Azerbaijan and killed many innocent inhabitants of Artsakh.
Furthermore, “Americans for Artsakh” was a non-profit funded by
Armenian-Americans. Sanamyan told me that he worked there as an unpaid
employee. In addition, when Sanamyan worked at the Office of the
Nagorno Karabakh Republic in Washington, D.C., the organization was
not yet registered with the U.S. Justice Department as “a foreign
agent.” Also, Tase makes up a fake title by claiming that “Sanamyan
was in charge of information warfare and propaganda as Director of the
NKR Public Affairs Office.”

There are also several minor errors in Tase’s article which show his
lack of knowledge of Armenian issues. For example, Tase writes about
Armenia’s independence from “Soviet Russia,” instead of the Soviet
Union. The second nonsense is Tase’s comment on a photo of Pres. Serzh
Sargsyan with Pres. and Mrs. Trump at the United Nations in New York.
Tase attributes the photo to the lobbying effort of the
Armenian-American community. However, no lobbying was necessary. If
Tase did a little more research, he would have discovered another
photo of Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev with Pres. and Mrs. Trump
at the UN, along with photos of many other heads of state. Another
intentional misrepresentation by Tase is that Sanamyan’s wife, a
graduate of Cass Business School, City University London, was one of
the “Major Donors and Sponsors” of the University in 2012. Tase fails
to mention that Sanamyan’s wife was listed under the smallest amount
category—less than $1,000—which does not make her a major donor.

Tase’s next attack on Armenians is their alleged connection to Pres.
Trump. This is where Tase makes his most ignorant accusation. The
reality is that there are hardly any Armenians who know Pres. Trump;
so Tase invents imaginary connections. Tase even dares to misrepresent
my 2016 article headlined, “Armenians Should Reach Out to Trump
Through Republican Friends in Congress.” If Tase was an honest
reporter, he would have quoted from my article which stated:
“Armenian-American ties with the President-elect are practically
non-existent.”

Tase also misrepresents the statement posted by Aram Hamparian,
Executive Director of ANCA, offering to work with the newly-elected
President. There is no indication in that sentence of any link between
Armenian-Americans and Trump. Scraping the bottom of the barrel, Tase
comes up with a totally unknown name, Andy Surabian, as “another
Armenian political operative deep inside the Trump White House.”
Surabian is described as “Steve Bannon’s political advisor in the
Trump administration and a campaign veteran.” Unfortunately for Tase,
neither Bannon nor Surabian work at the White House anymore.

Tase then mentions the name of Keith Nahigian, as “perhaps the most
influential and high-ranking Armenian Diaspora member and registered
lobbyist associated with the Trump campaign…who was tapped to head
Trump’s transition team in 2017.” This is yet another red herring.
Nahigian has no connection with the Armenian community. I sent him an
email two years ago and I am still waiting for his answer. That’s how
close Nahigian is to the Armenian community.

Tase prematurely refers to congressional candidate Danny Tarkanian
(R-Nevada) as a member of “the Armenian lobby with access to President
Trump.” Should Tarkanian win his House seat in November, we shall be
able to determine how close is his connection to the White House.

Incredibly, Tase mentions Kim Kardashian as an Armenian
“home-porn-turned-Twitter lobbyist” who has met Trump on numerous
occasions—most recently in May 2018,” successfully securing a pardon
from Pres. Trump for a (non-Armenian) grandmother serving a
life-sentence in prison. Tase would have made a more convincing case
if Kardashian had made a request from Pres. Trump on an Armenian
issue. There has been no link between Kardashian as “an Armenian
lobbyist” and Pres. Trump.

Tase falsely concludes his baseless and shameful article by stating:
“These extensive and deep links to the incumbent inexperienced
president and his campaign create potential national security
implications and deserve scrutiny to ensure that Putin’s ongoing
meddling into the U. S. Homeland would crumble and miserably fail.”

I don’t think Pres. Trump needs Armenian-Americans to establish
communication with Pres. Putin. Contrary to Tase’s unfounded
allegations, Pres. Trump has had a direct link to the Kremlin for a
long time and does not need anyone else’s assistance.



#48 MosJan

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