A court hearing has been initiated in Italy on the case of money laundering, which will begin in the coming days. How is this event connected with Azerbaijan? The most direct relation. The main figure in this process is the former deputy of the Christian Democratic Party, former head of the European People’s Party faction in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Luka Volontė, accused of receiving 2.39 million euros from the Azerbaijani authorities.
The fact of the unexpected receipt of wealth by the politician drew the attention of the Milan Prosecutor’s Office. The investigation began last year. During the investigation, a complex scheme of dubious banking operations was revealed, as a result of which the accounts of the parliamentarian were regularly replenished with large sums, although Volontė was not engaged in serious business. The prosecutor’s office presented allegations of corruption and money laundering to Italian politicians.
According to the investigation materials, the hero of the scandal received bribes through British and offshore companies. Most of the financing came from the British company Hilux Services LLP and an account in an Estonian bank in the name of the Azerbaijani joint-stock company Baktelekom MMC. This company, registered in Azerbaijan, belongs to a businessman closely connected with the first family of the country.
Volontė was elected four times a member of the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian Parliament, most recently in 2008. He was the head of the faction of the European People’s Party in PACE from January 2010 to June 2013. During the same period, he became a frequent visitor to Azerbaijan, he closely communicated with representatives of the political establishment. The documents of the prosecutor’s office state that “during meetings and meetings in Baku and Strasbourg Volontė promised to lobby the interests of the political elite of Azerbaijan, to support the position of the foreign state for money” and carried out “short-term and long-term political initiatives”.
As a result of his active efforts in January 2013, the Council of Europe voted against the resolution on Azerbaijan, which described the situation of 85 people in prison on political charges. “For” the resolution on political prisoners was submitted only 79 votes, while “against” – 128, and she was rejected with the phrase “The charges are not true.”
So to say, Volontė “honestly worked” the fees received. Italian investigators believe that this decision was paid from the funds of Baktelekom MMS. In addition, the materials of the investigation include the names of members of the Azerbaijani delegation to PACE Elkhan Suleymanov and Muslum Mammadov who, in addition to the Volunte, were bribed by a number of other members of the European People’s Party in the European Parliament. By the way, Mr. Suleymanov recently refused to give any comments to the Italian news agency Politico.eu about the trial in the Volonté case.
The defense side of Volontė categorically refutes these allegations, calling them absolutely groundless.
Meanwhile, the PACE itself calls for carrying out its own investigation of the corruption activities of Azerbaijan in this organization. “The caviar diplomacy” with generous gifts to high-ranking European officials cast a shadow on the reputation of the PACE.
According to the chairman of the European Stability Initiative Gerald Knaus, the “caviar coalition” of Azerbaijan in PACE still exists, but there are hopes that the complaints of parliamentarians will prevail. And the head of the PACE, Pedro Agramunt, until the recent refusal to initiate an investigation due to unwillingness to discredit the members of the organization, at lease agreed to this step.