Azerbaijan’s Top Negotiator for COP29 Faces Family Business Corruption Allegations

Yalchin Rafiyev, a graduate of the Anti-Corruption School and the chief negotiator for COP 29 of Azerbaijan, is accused of having links to companies illegally implementing multi-million dollar projects and razing trees in the process.


June 10, 2024

Another top Azerbaijani government official is facing serious corruption allegations, just weeks after Presidential Assistant Hikmat Hajiyev was hit with claims of nepotism and mismanagement.

Yalchin Rafiyev, Deputy Foreign Minister and Azerbaijan’s chief negotiator for COP29 which the country is hosting this year, is allegedly linked to lucrative construction companies owned by his family members, according to an investigation by independent Azerbaijani media outlet Abzas Media.

The investigation revealed that construction firms implementing major reconstruction projects worth millions in the recently regained Azerbaijani territories of Shusha and Aghdam in the Karabakh region are owned by Rafiyev’s brother Muzadil. These companies were allegedly awarded the contracts without having to go through required tender processes.

In a bizarre admission to Abzad Media, Muzadil Rafiyev openly stated: “When we get projects to implement, it does not mean they are achieved through a tender process where several competitors participate.”

The investigation also found that Deputy Minister Rafiyev, a graduate of the Austrian Anti-Corruption Academy, is registered at the same Baku address as the family construction businesses – a potential conflict of interest violation.

When questioned about his brother’s involvement, Muzadil Rafiyev claimed Yalchin only used that address because his current residence lacks proper registration documents, appearing to flout local laws requiring people to register their actual residence.

Adding to the controversy, the companies linked to Rafiyev were fined by authorities for razing a considerable number of trees while engaged in construction and demolition activities in Shusha. This came despite Rafiyev himself making a ridiculously small donation of just 5 AZN (roughly $3 USD) to an Azerbaijani ecological fund, while the family businesses rake in millions.

Apparently, the fines did little to deter the Rafiyev-linked firms, as they continued their huge projects and even landed more lucrative construction jobs afterwards.

Yalchin Rafiyev was also previously mocked online for making multiple grammar mistakes in a social media post that he failed to correct despite public criticism.

Both Rafiyev and Presidential Assistant Hajiyev, who is facing his own corruption claims, represent Azerbaijan at the recent COP29 climate summit which Baku is hosting. Critics have accused them of using the high-profile event for self-promotion while showing little regard for environmental issues.

When asked about the allegations against Hajiyev by the Azeri Herald, the U.S. State Department said it raised human rights and media freedom concerns in meetings with Hajiyev but did not comment directly on the specific claims, citing privacy around the discussions.

The corruption allegations have raised new questions about integrity issues within Azerbaijan’s government and foreign policy establishment.

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