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MfD: Czechs implicated in Azeri money laundering

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Prague, Sept 15 (CTK) – The Czech Republic was one of the destinations of the money from a corruption fund with which Azerbaijan bribed EU politicians into lobbying for it, daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) wrote on Friday, publishing a graft story of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).

In all, the Azeri dictatorship sent an equivalent of 66 billion crowns to politicians abroad who promote the country’s good name in Europe, the OCCRP writes in the story dubbed Azerbaijani Laundromat.

At least 130 million crowns ended up in the Czech Republic. The money was flowing to the Azeri people and companies here. It was also used for the purchase of gems and luxury watches for the people whose identity is undisclosed, MfD writes.

Many Czech politicians stand firmly behind the Azeri authoritarian regime, it adds.

The Czech Transparency International (TI) branch has compiled a list of Czech politicians who were lobbying for it in the past years, MfD writes, adding that it gained exclusive access to it.

The TI named Social Democrat (CSSD) chairman of the Chamber of Deputies Jan Hamacek who founded the Czech-Azeri Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group and is widely considered the biggest advocate of Azerbaijan, MfD writes.

He even received a decoration from Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, it adds.

“I have no benefit from this. This is nothing but extra work. I consider the relations with Azerbaijan vital. This is a strategic partner of the Czech Republic as about 40 percent of our petrol come from the country,” Hamacek told the paper.

“It is also a major partner for our companies,” he added.

“Czech politicians should clearly declare their independence and refute the doubts about a conflict of interests in relation to Azerbaijan,” Czech TI branch head David Ondracka said.

However, TI has not proven any direct link between Czech politicians and the Azeri flow of money, MfD writes.

Prominent Azeri personalities have property worth billions of crowns in the Czech Republic. Aliyev’s father-in-law Arif Pashayev owns the luxury hotel Retro Riverside near Karlovy Vary, a west Bohemian spa town, it adds.

Hamacek was once accommodated in the hotel, MfD writes.

“This occurred at the invitation of the honorary consul and it was only for one night,” Hamacek is quoted as saying.

Czech deputies in the Council of Europe regularly frustrate the effort to investigate human rights abuses in Azerbaijan, MfD writes.

These are often the members of “Hamacek’s” inter-parliamentary group. Rom Kostrica (TOP 09), Ondrej Benesik (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL) and Sona Markova (Communists, KSCM) have torpedoed a declaration on the establishment of a special investigation, it adds.

“I am afraid that human rights are violated in all countries. I do not think this is the right argument of why not to cooperate,” Markova is quoted as saying.

She denied the allegation that she received any money, luxury watches, jewels or other precious gifts which Azeri influential officials send to foreign politicians.

Markova said there was nothing of this kind but trifles such as scarves, ties and pens.

Benesik said he had only received a Christmas wish.

Czech Council of Europe members also worked as observers of Azeri elections.

Stanislav Berkovec (ANO), Vaclav Zemek (CSSD) and Vaclav Snopek (KSCM) watched those held in 2015 and declared the vote was democratic, MfD writes.

However, a number of prestigious international organisations voiced the opposite view.

“Such a strict checking of election does not exist even in the Czech Republic,” Berkovec said.

MfD writes that the checks by Czech observes were only conducted in the places announced beforehand.

Pashayev owns several hotels near Karlovy Vary, including a golf course, while the average salary in Azerbaijan is smaller than the equivalent of 10,000 crowns a month, MfD writes.

“Observers in Baku often note that today’s Azerbaijan is run in a manner similar to the feudalism found in Europe during the Middle Ages,” MfD quotes from a U.S. embassy cable sent in 2010, primarily dealing with Pashayev’s activities.

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