In June 2021, all eyes in Europe were on Azerbaijan as it co-hosted EURO 2020. Some football matches were held in Baku, the capital of the oil and gas rich country. Behind the rich glitzy façade, Azerbaijan is ruled by autocratic president Ilham Aliyev and his family.
Aliyev’s regime has been accused of human rights violations for decades. Freedom of expression is suppressed; lawyers critical of the regime are persecuted. Yet several German politicians have been helping to polish Aliyev’s reputation. In the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, they voted against critical reports regarding political prisoners. In observation missions in Azerbaijan, they confirmed publicly that elections had apparently been held democratically. In the Berlin Bundestag, they represented the regime’s view of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
German law enforcement agencies are now investigating allegations that the Aliyev regime obtained these favors by bribing German politicians. Both a former Bavarian CSU member of the German Bundestag, Eduard Lintner, as well as the currently serving CDU parliamentarian Axel Fischer are suspected of corruption. Several million euros are alleged to have changed hands in return for lobby work.
Many questions remain unanswered: how did the Azerbaijan connection start? Who has been pulling the strings in the background? Why is it that almost all the politicians who aided the regime are members of the CDU or CSU? And which role do economic interests play regarding Azerbaijan’s rich oil and gas resources?
The reporters interview experts and witnesses and confront members of the German Bundestag and other beneficiaries. They trace the web of the Azerbaijan connection with exclusive documents. And they also speak to victims of the Aliyev regime, who are demanding compensation from Germany.