A new report focusing on Azerbaijan’s energy sector is exposing flaws in an initiative designed to promote transparency in extractive industries.
The report, distributed December 10 by the watchdog group Global Witness, is titled Azerbaijan Anonymous. It shows that while Azerbaijan technically adheres to transparency standards established by the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) lots of money may still be disappearing into a black hole of corruption.
“Privately owned companies are making millions handling oil that belongs to the Azerbaijani people, yet the identity of their owners is hidden, and it is not clear why they are involved,” the report states.
“The lack of transparency highlights gaps in the EITI, as it shows that countries can comply with its rules, while large deals are being struck with very little transparency,” the report continued. “It is important for Europe that Azerbaijan keeps the oil and gas flowing and maintains transparent and well-run energy industry. Yet this briefing shows that much of the oil business in Azerbaijan remains opaque.”
An entire chapter of Azerbaijan Anonymous is devoted to the dealings of a mysterious entrepreneur, Anar Aliyev. Global Witness investigators determined that Aliyev has made at least 48 deals over the past eight years with the state oil company Socar, covering “all facets of the supply chain of the oil industry.” Even though there is a lengthy record, little is known about Aliyev’s background. “Despite Anar Aliyev’s apparent significance in Azerbaijani oil, publically available information on him is thin,” the Global Witness report stated.
Researchers uncovered evidence suggesting that Anar Aliyev is a native of the Nakhchivan Region, the same exclave that President Ilham Aliyev’s family hails from. It is also the home region of Socar boss Rovnag Abdullayev, as well as a bevy of other top governmental officials and state-connected business executives. Anar Aliyev declined to answer a Global Witness query about whether he had any personal or familial ties to top government or Socar officials. Socar representatives likewise did not respond to a query about Anar Aliyev.
Aliyev, it should be noted, is a common surname in Azerbaijan.
In the report, Global Witness calls on EITI to close loopholes so that “countries that are not truly interested in transparency are not given a free pass.”