BAKU (Reuters)–Azerbaijan’s parliament on Tuesday gave the go-ahead for criminal proceedings against the body’s former speaker–Rasul Guliyev.
The former Soviet republic’s chief prosecutor Eldar Hasanov told parliament Guliyev–who has since fled the country–embezzled and misappropriated $23 million while at the helm of an Azeri state oil company in 1992-93.
"Guliyev was in control of export and processing of oil and stole state property on a large scale in 1992-93," Hasanov said.
He said that of the $23 million missing–Guliyev had embezzled $12 million for his own use.
Hasanov said that 90 other people were already being held in connection with the embezzlement scandal.
Guliyev–47–resigned as a speaker of the Melli Mejlis (parliament) in September 1996–complaining of poor health. He left Azerbaijan the next day and is widely believed to be in the United States.
He said two months ago that he would challenge President Haydar Aliyev in presidential elections scheduled for this autumn but parliament’s decision now makes that unlikely.
After he fled the country–Guliyev was stripped of his parliament seat for failing to attend sessions of the body.
In January he was also accused by the government of plotting a violent coup against Aliyev but he has strenuously denied the charges.
Guliyev "had been conducting secret meetings with criminals…to discuss sending killers into Azerbaijan," said a statement by the security and interior ministries in January.
Guliyev recently published a book called "The Path to Democracy," which accused Aliyev’s government of corruption and being undemocratic.