Report: World Bank Alleges Bombardier Paid Off Azeri Officials

Published: 15 May 2019

Rabita Baku-AddressFlats at the address where TSR is registered. (OCCRP)

By Aisha Kehoe Down

A Canadian manufacturing giant allegedly paid millions of dollars of bribes to win a contract in Azerbaijan--and then obstructed a World Bank investigation into its wrongdoing, according to internal World Bank documents obtained by the Globe and Mail last week.

“The findings of the Azerbaijan audit depict a premeditated and well-orchestrated scheme to win the rail-signalling contract,” say the documents. 

Those documents, an internal audit conducted by the World Bank late last year, accuse Canada’s Bombardier of colluding with senior officials in Azerbaijan to get a US $339 million deal to install railway signalling equipment in 2013. 

The deal was 85 percent funded by the World Bank. 

The firm cultivated employees of Azerbaijan’s railway starting three years before the contract was announced, alleges the audit. It set up an intermediary firm called Trans-Signal-Rabita, or TSR to “funnel bribes” worth millions to Azerbaijani officials. 

Among these officials was Qurban Nazirov, the deputy head of Azerbaijan Railways. Nazirov instructed members of his staff to assist Bombardier, even seeing that the specifications for the tender were rewritten several times to meet what Bombardier could offer. 

He received some $8.4 million from the company, alleges the audit.

The audit also alleges Bombardier paid for hotel visits in Berlin for railway officials, worth tens of thousands of Euros, and that it paid $120 million to shell companies owned by Russian rail officials. These officials used their influence to ensure Bombardier got the contract.

Contacted by the Globe and Mail, Bombardier said that the audit’s findings had yet to be proven.

“Initial assumptions in any investigatory proceeding can reflect badly on the party under scrutiny until the allegations have been fully tested and addressed by a complete and fair response,” said Olivier Marcir, the company’s Vice President, to the Globe and Mail. 

Contacted by the OCCRP, the World Bank declined to comment on whether it would sanction Bombardier as a result of the findings of the audit.