OCCRP’s Khadija Ismayilova Awarded 2017 Allard Prize for International Integrity

Published: 29 September 2017

By Vanja Lakic

Only two days after she received the “Alternative Nobel Prize,” Azerbaijani investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova was on Thursday presented the prestigious 2017 Allard Prize for International Integrity.

Ismayilova writes about high-level corruption and the misuse of power in Azerbaijan for the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and for Radio Free Europe’s Azerbaijani service.

She received the C$ 100,000 (US$ 80,193) award from the University of British Columbia in Canada for her courage in exposing corruption and promoting human rights in her media-repressed country.

The new prize came after the audacious reporter received on Tuesday the Right Livelihood Award - also referred to as the “Alternative Nobel Prize” - which honors daring endeavors in human rights, public health and good governance.

“Writing and exposing corruption is not enough – we need to engage local and international legal mechanisms to make our exposures more meaningful. The Allard Prize will help me to continue this kind of work,” Ismayilova said.

In 2010 Ismayilova helped expose a wide scope of hidden offshore assets held by Azerbaijan’s President, Illham Aliyev, and his family. This included millions of dollars in real estate holdings by his son, billions worth of gold and silver at Azerbaijan’s Chovdar mine, and other corrupt business interests across a slew of industries.

She was arrested in 2014 and sentenced to 7.5 years in prison on charges widely viewed as retaliatory for her work.

Ismayilova was released in 2016 on probation and banned from international travel for five years without official permission.

“Demonstrating exemplary leadership and courage, she has made considerable personal sacrifices – and accepted risks to her own safety and that of her family and friends – to uphold transparency, accountability and the Rule of Law,” Peter Allard, a lawyer and businessman who established and funded the award said.

Ismayilova is currently working on the Azerbaijani Laundromat, a joint investigation between media centers across Europe including OCCRP that has delved into a complex money-laundering operation and slush fund used by the regime to pay off EU decision-makers who spoke favorably about the country’s dismal human rights record.

“We have worked with Khadija for over a decade,” said Drew Sullivan, the chief editor at OCCRP.

“She has committed her life and her freedom to do what is right for the people of Azerbaijan. I can think of no worthier recipient,” he added.