BUDAPEST, Hungary—An investigation by a Hungarian news agency reveals that Azerbaijan has used a $3 billion slush fund to facilitate the release and extradition Azerbaijani ax murder Ramil Safarov, who brutally murdered an Armenian soldier, Gurgen Markarian, with an ax during NATO exercises in Hungary in 2004.
An investigation by the Hungarian news site Átlátszó.hu revealed that several bank transfers – totaling more than $7 million – were made to an MKB bank account in Budapest right around the time the Hungarian government handed over Safarov to the Azerbaijan.
According to Átlátszó.hu, the Budapest bank account belonged to an offshore company owned by the son of an influential Azeri politician and got an infusion of more $7 million in 2012 around the time of the Safarov release and extradition.
The existence of the almost $3 billion slush fund used by high-level Azerbaijani officials to launder money and bribe politicians in European countries was revealed on Monday by the British The Guardian newspaper, which is a news outlet partnering with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project that published an extensive investigation, entitled “The Azerbaijani Laundromat.” The OCCRP report detailed that over a two-year period, more than $2.9 billion had passed through certain UK-0based shell companies – Polux Management LP, Hilux Services LP, Metastar Invest LLP, and LCM Alliance LLP – that “are part of a larger constellation of companies set up by unscrupulous agents to launder and steal large amounts of money” on behalf of Azerbaijan’s ruling elite.
The MKB Bank account belonged to a Velasco International Inc., which received the $7 million infusion of cash from Metastar Invest LLP, one of the shell companies used to hide the slush fund identified by the OCCRP report.
Velasco International was incorporated in the Virgin Islands and is owned by Azerbaijani deputy prime minister Yacub Eyubov’s son, Orhan Eyubov, whose name is continuously referenced in “The Azerbaijani Laundromat.”
In June 2012, when Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban visited Azerbaijan, he was greeted by the elder Eyubov before meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev . “The Azerbaijani Laundromat” report said that “there is ample evidence of its [the slush fund’s] connection to the family of President Ilham Aliyev.”
Meanwhile, Metastar Invest LLP is the company that reportedly paid Luca Volonte, a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe, known as PACE, who is facing prosecution in Italy for allegedly accepting 2.4 million euros to defend Azerbaijani interests in Italy and within PACE. In 2013, Volonte vocally defended the Hungary’s new constitution, which curtailed people’s individual rights, and accused those who criticized official Budapest of carrying out a “witch hunt.”
On Wednesday, Hungary’s Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó categorically rejected the allegations by Átlátszó.hu, the Hungarian investigative journalism organization.
“In the firmest possible way, I reject any inference or insinuation which make a connection between the Hungarian foreign policy decisions and the aforementioned international criminal actions,” Szijjártó said. “I really hope we uncover the truth of what happened very soon.”
On Tuesday, after “The Azerbaijani Laundromat” was published, Aliyev’s press secretary accused the “Armenian lobby” of working with American billionaire George Soros, to wage ”a smear campaign against the president of Azerbaijan and members of his family.”