Azerbaijani firms linked to political elites missing from tax registry, investigation reveals

By bne IntelliNews March 27, 2017

A Radio Free Europe/ Radio Europe (RFE/RL) investigation revealed on March 24 that some 29 companies with ties to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, his family and the families of other government officials do not appear in the tax ministry's public registry.

Corruption is an obstinate hurdle in Azerbaijan where whole economic sectors are controlled by monopolies or oligopolies connected to political elites. Transparency International ranked the country 123rd out of 176 nations in its 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index. Azerbaijani law prohibits government officials from owning private businesses; therefore it is customary for politicians to name their family members at the helm of the companies that they control.

Ten of the 29 companies that RFE/RL investigated belong to Pasha Holding, a business conglomerate registered under the name of President Ilham Aliyev's daughters - Arzu and Leyla - and of his father-in-law, Arif Pashayev. One of the 10 companies - Pasha Development - appeared in the tax registry as recently as August 2016, but has since been removed.

Azerbaijan used to require that companies disclose their ownership publicly. However, following a chain of investigations into the wealth of public officials orchestrated by RFE/RL in 2012, the law was scrapped.

Gilan Holding, a company that is registered under the names of Emergency Situations Minister Kemaladdin Heydarov's sons through shell companies, and some of its subsidiaries, is also missing from the tax registry, the investigation found.

Azenco Group, a company that won state contracts to build an arena for the Eurovision 2012 song contest that took place in Baku, is also missing from the registry. An RFE/RL investigation in 2012 found it to be registered under the names of First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva (nee Pashayeva) and daughters Arzu and Leyla, through offshore companies. 

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