The European Parliament called for tighter anti-corruption measures on Wednesday and for an investigation into reports that Azerbaijan paid off EU decision-makers who spoke favorably about the country’s dismal human rights record.
In a resolution that was overwhelmingly approved, the parliamentarians, among other, condemned “attempts by Azerbaijan and other autocratic regimes in third countries to influence European decision-makers through illicit means.” The claims stem from leaked documents received by Berlingske, a Danish newspaper and shared with OCCRP and other partners.
The “Azerbaijani Laundromat” investigation uncovered that Azerbaijan’s elite was buying silence and praise from influential European figures while simultaneously throwing some 90 activists, journalists and opposition politicians into prison on politically motivated charges.
Among the recipients were former members of the Council of Europe, a 47-nation international organization dedicated to upholding human rights, democracy and the rule of law in member countries.
Azerbaijan joined the Council of Europe in 2001 but demonstrated a poor human rights record according to independent observers.
Following the publishing of the “Azerbaijani Laundromat,” a group of members of the European Parliament (MEPs) proposed an amendment to the Parliament’s report on corruption and human rights in third countries that addressed the “Azerbaijani Laundromat” revelations.
The resolution, along with the amendment, was approved by 578 to 19, with 68 abstentions.
“The European Parliament should investigate and adopt robust measures to prevent such corruption occurring,” the MEPs decided according to the press release.
The resolution also called for the EU to enforce the existing anti-corruption conventions but also to add an anti-corruption clause in deals with non-EU countries, monitor EU-funded projects and use sanctions or the suspension of deals where systemic corruption leads to serious human rights breaches.
Parliament member and rapporteur, Petras Austrevicius, said that after the Lux Leaks, Panama Papers and the Russia and Azerbaijan Laundromats, the Parliament has realized that corruption stretches far across state borders and that it has dramatic repercussions on policy decisions.
“We call for the highest possible ethical and transparency standards to be upheld in international and national bodies and for the EU to set up a legal framework to deter any type of corruption and fraud,” he said.
Additionally, the adopted resolution called for the protection of independent media, civil society organizations and whistle-blowers.
“EU politicians are paid to make laws for EU citizens. They shouldn’t be taking money from Azerbaijan to reflect that country’s corrupt values,” said Drew Sullivan, the chief editor at OCCRP.
“We will continue to be a watchdog who scrutinizes the finances of any politician who is overly friendly to Azerbaijan’s needs,” he added.
A law firm Nicos Anastasiades founded — and left just before assuming the presidency — moved millions of dollars among shell companies that were deeply entwined with the secretive global money transfer system.
Busisiwe Mkhwebane, who heads the country’s top anti-corruption body, was flagged by global banking giant HSBC as having financial links to the infamous Gupta family.