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German Lawmakers and Journalist Part Of Azerbaijani Influence Operation

April 8th, 2021 12:05

US media is report­ing on an Azer­bai­jani influ­ence cam­paign cen­tered on con­ser­v­a­tive Ger­man politi­cians. Accord­ing to a VICE inves­ti­ga­tion. Azer­bai­jan has spent large sums of mon­ey attempt­ing to buy itself a bet­ter image in Ger­many through spon­sor­ing sport­ing events, the use of a small Ger­man tele­vi­sion sta­tion, as well the bribery of elect­ed officials:

March 29, 2021 A VICE inves­ti­ga­tion reveals how a lit­tle-known TV sta­tion and large sums of mon­ey were part of a lob­by­ing strat­e­gy to pol­ish Azer­bai­jan’s image in Ger­many. […] Scratch the sur­face and you’ll find that Azer­bai­jani influ­ence on Berlin involves a wide net­work of politi­cians and lob­by­ists. Endorse­ments by Ger­man politi­cians, most­ly from the CDU/CSU, are cel­e­brat­ed in Azer­bai­jan’s state media. […] Mean­while, Azer­bai­jani media often broad­casts inter­views from a Ger­man tele­vi­sion sta­tion, TV Berlin. Not a big name in Ger­many, but well-known and well-con­nect­ed in the cap­i­tal, TV Berlin nar­row­ly escaped insol­ven­cy in 2013. […] An insid­er famil­iar with TV Berlin’s pro­duc­tion process­es told VICE that many pro­grams were com­mis­sioned and indi­rect­ly paid for by the Azer­bai­jani gov­ern­ment. Oth­er sources close to TV Berlin con­firmed this. […] The com­mis­sions and finance came via lob­by­ing organ­i­sa­tion “The Euro­pean Azer­bai­jan Soci­ety” (TEAS), since dis­solved. Doc­u­ments seen by VICE con­firm the busi­ness rela­tion­ship. Head­quar­tered in Baku, TEAS lob­bied in Lon­don, Paris, Istan­bul, Berlin and Brus­sels between 2008 and 2018.

Read the full report here.

The CDU (Christlich Demokratis­che Union) and the CSU (Christlich-Soziale Union) are the two major con­ser­v­a­tive polit­i­cal par­ties in Germany.

The VICE inves­ti­ga­tion iden­ti­fies the fol­low­ing indi­vid­u­als as alleged prop­a­ga­tors of Azer­bai­jani influence:

  • Karin Strenz (Ger­man MP, CDU) (deceased)
  • Axel Fis­ch­er (Ger­man MP, CDU)
  • Thomas Bareiß (Ger­man law­mak­er, CDU)
  • Olav Gut­ting (Ger­man MP, CDU)
  • Peter Brinkmann (Jour­nal­ist, Berlin TV)
  • Nijat and Tale Hey­darov (Founders, The Euro­pean Azer­bai­jan Soci­ety (TEAS))
  • Shahin Namati (Ger­man head, The Euro­pean Azer­bai­jan Soci­ety (TEAS))

The Euro­pean Azer­bai­jan Soci­ety (TEAS) was a pan-Euro­pean Azer­bai­jani lob­by group set up in 2008 by Nijat and Tale Hey­darov, the sons of Kamal­addin Hey­darov, who is cur­rent­ly Azer­bai­jan’s Min­is­ter of Emer­gency Sit­u­a­tions. Accord­ing to an archived ver­sion of its web­site, the TEAS had offices in the UK, Bel­gium, France, Ger­many, and Turkey, as well as in Azerbaijan.

In Sep­tem­ber 2017, UK media report­ed that Azerbaijan’s rul­ing elite oper­at­ed a secret $3 bil­lion scheme to pay promi­nent Euro­pean politi­cians and jour­nal­ists, buy lux­u­ry goods and laun­der mon­ey through a net­work of opaque British companies.

In Novem­ber 2020, the Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report (GIOR) pub­lished an analy­sis of Azerbaijan’s influ­ence oper­a­tions in the US dur­ing the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war, not­ing that the coun­try had hired six US lob­by firms to con­vince Amer­i­cans that Arme­nia was the real aggres­sor and Turkey was not real­ly involved in the conflict.