WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) sent a letter to the House Oversight and Government Reform and House Select Committees on Intelligence expressing concern regarding the undue influence of Azerbaijan’s caviar diplomacy, especially given a recent report revealing the “Azerbaijani Laundromat.”
In their letter to House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) alongside House Intelligence Chairman David Nunes (R-CA) and Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-CA), Assembly Co-Chairs Anthony Barsamian and Van Krikorian stated: “We are writing to bring to your attention our serious concerns regarding Azerbaijan’s attempts to undermine western democratic values and institutions, and the most recent revelations that it ‘operated [a] secret $3bn slush fund,’ in Europe,” as reported in a September 5, 2017 BBC article.
The scheme has been labeled the “Azerbaijani Laundromat” because of the vast sums that passed through it were funds laundered by a series of shell companies. According to an investigation of the Azerbaijani Laundromat published by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), “from 2012 to 2014, even as the Azerbaijani government arrested activists and journalists wholesale, members of the country’s ruling elite were using a secret slush fund to pay off European politicians, buy luxury goods, launder money, and otherwise benefit themselves.”
“We should not turn a blind eye to Azerbaijan’s out of bounds and corrupt influence on American democracy. Congress is familiar with the reasons why the Aliyev autocracy is trying to whitewash its human rights record, resolve the Nagorno Karabkah conflict by wiping out the Christian Armenian population, and ally itself against United States values. Azerbaijan’s unprecedented April 2016 attacks against Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia, where its ISIS-style mutilations and beheadings of Armenians have gone without consequence, speak for themselves. The recent revelations only confirm the vast amounts being spent to corrupt officials from doing what their electorates expect,” Assembly Co-Chairs Barsamian and Krikorian said.
The Assembly Co-Chairs concluded: “On Wednesday, the European Parliament – voting 578 to 19 with 68 abstentions – condemned Azerbaijan’s attempts to influence decision makers through illicit means and authorized a deeper investigation of its behavior. We urge your respective committees to do no less in factoring these new revelations in your ongoing investigations.”
In prior letters written to the House and Senate this year, the Assembly emphasized that: “we must ensure that Azerbaijan’s rampant corrupt practices do not compromise U.S. policies and objectives.”
Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.