State Contracts Spin Gold for Azerbaijan’s First Family

Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev.

As the parliament of Azerbaijan debated opening its territory to foreign gold mining companies several years ago, one mysterious consortium had a lock on the rights to prospect for gold in that small nation in the southern Caucasus.

The consortium, AIMROC (Azerbaijan International Mineral Resources Operating Co. Ltd.) was created solely to bid on the contract, and its parties had no experience mining gold. But it had something else, according to a new report by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project: the two daughters of Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev had important financial stakes in the companies.

The OCCRP report traces the consortium members to shell companies registered in Panama, which list the president’s daughters Leyla and Arzu Aliyeva as managers.

This is the second report showing how the Azerbaijan’s president is using family members to create a secret business empire, thanks to his hold on government coffers.  The Aliyeva sisters are also listed as managers in a Panamanian front company for Azerfon, which has a monopoly on high-speed Internet connections in Azerbaijan, the OCCRP has reported.

Sweep to Azerbaijan president awarded family stake in gold fields

A South Texas district attorney running for a seat in the U.S. Congress was arrested with his former law partner Monday, accused of taking more than $100,000 in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for fixing court cases.

The arrests were part of a growing federal investigation into the criminal justice system of Brownsville, where key figures appear to have turned the public trust into personal business empires. So far, a judge, a bailiff, lawyers and a former state legislator have faced charges in the years-long investigation.

The 12-count indictment issued Monday accuses Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos of extorting bribes from attorneys in exchange for “favorable acts of prosecutorial discretion, including but not limited to minimizing charging decisions, pretrial diversion agreements, agreements on probationary matters and case dismissals.”

Villalobos and his former partner, Eduardo “Eddie” Lucio, were also charged with two counts of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, the Houston Chronicle reports.

In one case, Villalobos is accused of giving the confessed killer of a schoolteacher 60 days to get his affairs in order before reporting for prison. The killer fled, forfeiting his $500,000 bond, which was then divvied up to pay for a civil judgment–with Villalobos pocketing $80,000 on the deal.

Villalobos and Lucio both said they are innocent and vowed to fight the charges.

Sweep to South Texas DA indiced in bribery, kickback scheme

A recent post on Chris Morgan Jones’ blog   pondered whether, from a purely financial point of view, Wal-Mart came out ahead in Mexico, where it allegedly bribed a raft of local officials to fast-track the discount giant’s expansion starting in 2003. After all, the company’s Mexico operation made about $12 billion in profits over that time, and its likely liability through prosecution will run $4 billion to $10 billion, if the past is any guide, Jones wrote.

But that calculation might change in the minds of Wal-Mart’s directors and executives, thanks to a new lawsuit by a pension fund heavyweight, the California State Teachers Retirement System, which owns 5.3 million shares of Wal-Mart.

The suit names 27 current and former Wal-Mart executives and directors, whose failure to put an end to the alleged bribery have exposed Wal-Mart, the suit says, to heightened scrutiny from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice, and to “hundreds of millions of dollars in liability” under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The suit asks for the court-ordered removal of Wal-Mart’s board of directors, and that any damages recovered in the action be plowed back into the company.

Last week, Jack Ehnes, CEO of the California pension system, called the scandal, “The Fortune 100 version of Watergate.”

Discount giant, meet shareholder giant.

Sweep to California pension fund sues Wal-mart following bribery allegations

Diana Jean Schemo

Diana Jean Schemo

Diana Jean Schemo is president and executive editor of 100Reporters, and the founder and co-director of the Double Exposure Film Festival and Symposium, the United States' only investigative film festival.