Do Azeri oligarchs launder money in DC through PR campaigns?


The idea of paying tens of millions of dollars to most respectful lobbying forces in DC: the elite band of former Congress members, veteran diplomats and power brokers who offer their help to the Middle Eastern nations to make their voices heard here, has long been pretty attractive for the Azeri leaders.

However, the things have significantly changed recently – after years of cooperation with DC lobbyists, Azeri leaders have grown more conscious of their reputation and “lobbyism money”: Instead of hiring professional lobbyists and making donations to strengthen their country’s image and position, the policymakers of oil-reach country found their own way of “lobbying” – sending the oligarchs’ children to the world capitals, including Washington DC, and trying to hire as much “family friends” as they can.

The Azerbaijan America Alliance, founded by Anar Mammadov, son of the country’s transportation minister, will host a gala dinner in Washington, DC today, November 14, with participations of more than 300 participants, mainly former and current officials, who are loyal to the Azeri government.

“A Night in Washington with Friends from Baku” is a “gala dinner celebrating the culture of Azerbaijan,” according to the Alliance’s press-release.

In the meantime, when asked, the Alliance representatives denied sharing the budget of the event that is free for the attendance.

The organizers of the night have also refused to RSPV to several independent DC analysts and bloggers to today’s event, TURAN’s Washington DC correspondent was informed by two people trying to join the night.

"It is bad enough when the actions of such “PR campaigners” conflict with Azerbaijani national interests and serves for one family”, a former DC lobbyist told TURAN.

Asked what might be the real reason behind Baku officials’ turning their backs on professional lobbyists in DC, the source said maybe because the DC lobbyists have mixed reputation – “but that’s mostly because they work on behalf of special clients and their interests are often against the public good”.

In the meantime, he added, Arab Spring also was a “black test” for the DC lobbyists, – the fact is that some consultants were tacking toward a more progressive stance in light of pro-democracy protests, while others were dropping their clients altogether because of the tumult.

For Elmar Chakhtakhtinski, chairman of AZAD, an Alexandria-based nonpartisan organization that advocates for democracy in Azerbaijan, there are “three reasons why Azeri oligarchs send their children here to waste their millions under the names of “cultural missions”, “lobbying”, etc”.

First, he explains, “it’s all about showing off in front of their dear leaders, as if they’re serving in the purpose of creating a good image for their dictators”.

Second, through these activities they’re just making sure that they have a safe future for themselves and their children, making friends all around the world, in places they can run to if the dictatorship gets overthrown.

Third, a domestic propaganda: they want to show that they spend money they steal from Azerbaijani people for 'promoting Azerbaijan', Karabakh etc... A kind of money-laundering through PR campaigns.

“But none of these in reality serve any good to Azerbaijan and its people,” Elmar told TURAN’s Washington DC correspondent.

If fact, he argues, “This money is being spent on advertizing for one family and its oligarchs, the rest is a myth”.

"Most they can buy for that money in DC is favorable articles from second-grade 'experts'. Any self-respecting politician and scholar should stay away from this their dirty money”, Elmar emphasized.


Alakbar Raufoglu

Washington, DC


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