BAKU—According to an investigation by RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service using documents obtained by the State Committee on Financial Securities, the bank’s owners include two women with close ties to the country’s leadership. One is Zarifa Hamzayeva, the wife of the president of Azerbaijan’s AZAL state airline company. And the other is Arzu Aliyeva, the 21-year-old daughter of the country’s president, Ilham Aliyev. (The remaining owner and current majority stakeholder is Silkway Airlines LLC, which is registered abroad.)
The rise of SW Holding, which has seamlessly absorbed many of AZAL’s former businesses, has raised questions about dubious privatization practices in Aliyev’s Azerbaijan. It also serves to underscore how the political elite continues to use close friends and family members to preserve its hold on the country’s most valuable assets — despite Azerbaijani laws that list nepotism by state officials as an offense punishable by up to 12 years in jail.