Aliyev Foreign Minister Sacked for Turkish Scandal

ISTANBUL (Reuters)–Azeri President Gaidar Aliyev said on Saturday he had removed Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov from his post for illegal involvement in a real estate deal.

"Illegal acts were uncovered. Azerbaijan Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov was punished and removed from his post," Aliyev told a news conference in Istanbul during a visit to Turkey.

Aliyev said that Azerbaijan had been affected by Turkey’s "Susurluk" scandal in which Turkish government members were linked with mafia figures–casino owners and drug barons.

"Whoever is guilty–whoever is at fault–we do not cover it up and we never will," Aliyev said.

The Turkish media said Hasanov was accused of corruption in the building of the Hotel Europa in the Azerbaijani capital Baku–financed by a loan by the Turkish government under supervision of the Azeri foreign ministry.

The building–intended to be an official foreign ministry residence–became a luxury hotel complete with a casino run by the Turkish "casino king" Omer Lutfu Topal.

The Susurluk scandal emerged at the end of 1996 when a car carrying a then government Parliament member–a senior policeman–a former beauty queen and a wanted mafia boss crashed near the town of Susurluk. Only the Parliament member survived the crash.

Topal was gunned down in the summer of 1996. The fingerprints of Abdullah Catli–the gangster who died in the crash–were found on one of the guns left at the scene. Three bodyguards of the MP are currently on trial for the killing.

The Turkish government published a report on the scandal last month–naming Aliyev’s son Ilham Aliyev as linked with the Europa Hotel deal.

Aliyev announced the closure of Azerbaijan’s casinos and an investigation into the hotel shortly after the Susurluk report became public.

Aliyev said on Saturday parts of the report concerning Azerbaijan were found to be false–and that by and large–Azerbaijan had been affected negatively by the scandal.

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