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MfD: Authorities enquire into huge Azeri investments in ČR

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Prague, Oct 18 (CTK) – Czech security and financial inspection bodies intensively enquire into the huge investments flowing to the country from the Caucasus, such as the purchase of vast real estate by Azeri Ali Asgarov’s AA Investment Group, daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) wrote on Wednesday.

Asgarov, a 57-year-old entrepreneur, has bought real estate worth 137 million crowns in south Bohemia within a short time.

He newly owns a lucrative restaurant in the historical centre of Cesky Krumlov, a UNESCO-listed popular tourist destination in south Bohemia, making it specialised in Caucasian cuisine.

Besides, he has bought a hotel and several plots at the nearby Lipno water reservoir and he is negotiating about the purchase of further buildings in Cesky Krumlov, including the luxurious Hotel Dvorak worth hundreds of millions of crowns, the daily writes.

In all cases, Asgarov sent the money to the sellers from a notarial deposit, and the money’s origin is thus unknown, the paper writes.

A number of Azeris, mostly people linked to the ruling family of President Ilham Aliyev, have invested huge sums in Czech real estate so far, it writes.

On visit to Azerbaijan two years ago, Czech President Milos Zeman told Aliyev that there is a lot of beautiful sites including spa resorts and hotels and that their possible purchase by the Azeris would be a safe investment.

Zeman’s words contributed to the Czech Republic becoming a sought-after location of Caucasian nouveau riches, the daily writes.

In the summer of 2015, Asgarov acquired the AA Investment Group company, which he controls together with his compatriot Sahla Asker, and which he used to buy most of his real estate in the Czech Republic, MfD writes.

According to the world database of firms, Asgarov co-owns a Kiev-seated construction company, Aska Konstrakshen TOV, together with a Turkish partner. However, no data are available about Aska Konstraktshen, the daily writes.

The name of Ali Asgarov has appeared in the Azeri media once, in connection with a scandal of former Azeri minister Vali Asgarov who was sentenced to 14 years in prison for embezzlement and other offences. The detectives also focused on his brother, Ali Asgarov, who was detained on suspicion of tax evasion, according to report from 2015, MfD writes.

It writes it is impossible to verify whether this person is the same Ali Asgarov who invests in real estate in the Czech Republic.

The Caucasian money flowing to the Czech Republic has been in focus on the Czech security bodies and the Financial Analytical Office whose task is to fight money laundering, the paper continues.

However, a source from security bodies told MfD off-record that the enquiring into the origin of this money has met with almost insurmountable obstacles on the Azeri side.

“The Azeris leave our questions concerning certain persons and transactions unanswered,” the source said.

Azeri investments, nevertheless, have been hailed not only by Zeman but also other Czech politicians.

Transparency International (TI) has completed a list of Czech politicians who lobbied in support of the Azeri authoritarian regime in the past yeas. The names on it include Czech Chamber of Deputies chairman Jan Hamacek (government Social Democrats, CSSD), who established a Czech-Azeri inter-parliamentary group of friendship in the lower house.

Other Czech lawmakers on the list, Stanislav Berkovec (government ANO), Vaclav Zemek (CSSD) and Vaclav Snopek (opposition KSCM), also stayed in Azerbaijan as election observers, MfD writes.

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