Pallone Calls for US Probe Into Azeri Corruption

* Raises "potential serious violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act"

WASHINGTON–Against the backdrop of increasing US interest in the Caspian region and expanding investmen’s by US companies in Azerbaijan–New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone has called upon his House colleagues to sound the alarm about "credible reports of endemic corruption in the Republic of Azerbaijan," reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

In a letter sent to House members earlier this week–Rep. Pallone asked his colleagues to co-sign a letter to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Attorney General Janet Reno calling for an investigation of "potential serious violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act [FPCA] in Azerbaijan." Adopted in 1977–the FPCA prohibits American individuals and corporations from bribing foreign government officials and stipulates tax penalties–fines–and even prison terms for executives of American companies that pay illegal bribes.

"We join with Representative Pallone in calling for an official investigation into potential abuses of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in Azerbaijan," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.

"This inquiry should be part of a broader review of US policy toward Azerbaijan – one which examines the regional implications of Azerbaijani’s rampant corruption–its official indifference to the poverty of its own citizens–its thoroughly undemocratic government–and its increasingly inflexible posture on the Karabakh peace talks," he added.

Congressman Pallone–who serves as Co-Chairman of the Congressional Armenian Caucus–maintained in his letter that "corruption–benefiting a few government and business officials in the face of lingering–widespread poverty throughout the country–does not bode well for Azerbaijan’s long-term economic and political development or US strategic interests."

He stressed that Azerbaijan’s environment of corruption also makes Azerbaijan a "less than promising place for US subsidies in the form of OPIC and TDA funding."

If anything–argued Rep. Pallone–the growing corruption in Azerbaijan is yet another argument for retaining Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act–which restricts US aid to the government of Azerbaijan until that country lifts its blockades of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.

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