Azerbaijani oil company accused of bribing American congressmen
Ten American congressmen have been accused of going on a trip to Azerbaijan in 2013 that was paid for by the state oil company of Azerbaijan, SOCAR, and, while there, received expensive gifts.
The congressmen were invited to the Vision for the Future Convention which took place in May 2013. The Washington Post writes that before this, SOCAR and several other energy companies had looked at ways for bringing the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline out from under American sanctions.
The pipeline’s purpose was to transport Azerbaijani gas to Europe, but it had sanctions placed against it because of Iran’s involvement in its construction.
The Washington Post claims that SOCAR used the conference to try and convince the congressmen to help lift the sanctions. About $112,000 was spent on airfare for just the 10 congressmen and their 32 aides.
Moreover, they all received expensive gifts, ranging from silk items to carpets and crystals. The cost of these presents exceeded the allowed $350 value which American congressmen are allowed to accept without violating the ethical standards of the US Congress and other US federal laws.
This legislation serves to forbid foreign governments from influencing American politics.
Two years later, the congressmen are being asked for explanations. One of them, Danny Davis, said that he did not know that the conference was funded by SOCAR. He promised to donate the carpet he received in Azerbaijan as a gift to a museum or charity organisation.
SOCAR states that it never hid its involvement in organising the conference, but that this was not properly reflected in the accounts of the non-profit foundations that officially sponsored the event.
One other figure, Kemal Oksuz, who served as a sort of mediator between SOCAR and the congressmen through these non-profit foundations, was also involved. Oksuz recently went on the run and was apprehended by Interpol in Armenia.
His arrest was the last missing link in the investigation of the congress’ ethics committee and also the reason for the media to revisit the incident.
In total, the conference cost more than two million dollars of which Oksuz received $750,000 directly from SOCAR and the rest through front companies. In other words, he pretended to be the organiser of the event, thus covering for SOCAR.
Oksuz’ comment on the matter was rather succinct: “[This is] probably corruption. I don’t know.”