Fidesz MEPs and the majority of European People’s Party MEPs tried to prevent the European Parliament (EP) from mentioning the recently uncovered Azeri slush fund that was reportedly used to bribe European politicians and opinion leaders in a report on corruption and human rights on Wednesday, reports Magyar Nemzet.
A group of MEPs, including Hungarian Socialist (MSZP) Tibor Szanyi and István Ujhelyi submitted a modifier to the report Corruption and human rights in third countries in which they suggested that the EP should decidedly condemn “the attempt of Azerbaijan and other third country autocratic regimes to influence European decision makers by unlawful means” and initiate a comprehensive parliamentary investigation to verify the allegations of the international investigative journalism NGO Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).
The modifier was voted down by the majority of Liberal, European Conservatives and Reformists and European People’s Party MEPs. Jobbik MEPs who do not have a European Parliamentary Group abstained from the vote. The modifier was eventually passed by the majority of MEPs. The vote “equals to pleading guilty” since Fidesz and Jobbik MEPs “made it clear that they do not stand on the side of transparency and honesty but on the side of darkness and corruption in particular coalition.”, Ujhegyi commented the vote on his Facebook page.
In its series titled The Azerbaijani Laundromat, the OCCRP reported that over a two-year period, more than USD 2.9 billion had passed through certain core companies – Polux Management LP, Hilux Services LP, Metastar Invest LLP, and LCM Alliance LLP – that “are part of a larger constellation of companies set up by unscrupulous agents to launder and steal large amounts of money” on behalf of Azerbaijan’s ruling elite.
The reluctance of Fidesz MEPs is understandable as the Azeri scandal has a Hungarian aspect. It was the Budapest-based bank account of one of the companies in this constellation, Velasco International Inc., that received transfers from Metastar Invest LLP totaling more USD 7 million around the time of the controversial extradition of Azerbaijani army officer Ramil Safarov who had murdered an Armenian army lieutenant Gurgen Margaryan in Budapest. Although Safarov was sentenced to life imprisonment, the Orbán government allowed Safarov to be extradited to Azerbaijan in 2012, causing outcry both in and outside of Hungary.