Azerbaijan bank boss given 15 years for alleged fraud

BAKU, Azerbaijan – The former head of Azerbaijan’s largest bank has been sentenced to 15 years imprisonment over an alleged scheme to remove billions of dollars from the bank.

Jahangir Haijyev stepped down as head of the majority state-owned International Bank of Azerbaijan last year, around the time an investigation was launched into the bank’s management.

Authorities said some loans were made out to businesses associated with the bank management, with some funds sent to offshore companies, and in breach of bank rules on risk management. Other loans were allegedly made in the names of low-ranking staff such as cleaners, security guards and drivers, some of whom said the transactions were carried out without their knowledge.

The Finance Ministry said last month that as much as 5 billion manat ($3 billion) may have been misappropriated in total, though prosecutors disputed the figure. Hajiyev, who faced charges including fraud and abuse of power, denied appropriating the money and his lawyer Agil Lahijev said the court case had failed to prove his guilt.

“The preliminary and forensic investigations were not objective,” Lahijev said, and vowed to file an appeal.

In addition to the prison term, Hajiyev was fined 63.08 million manat ($39.2 million). His wife Zamina is wanted by Azerbaijani authorities in connection with the case.

Seven other associates were also found guilty, with factory director Azad Javadov sentenced to 10 years and 11 months, while Ibrahim Huseynov, whose security company was allegedly used in the loan scheme, received 6 years 5 months. Bank official Yusif Alekberov received 7 years 6 months, while four other bank staff were given suspended sentences.