There is a strong likelihood that several current and former members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe were bribed by Azerbaijan in a wide-ranging lobbying scandal, Poland’s niezalezna.pl website reported on Tuesday, citing German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.
The Polish website referred to a report that it said had been presented by investigators in Strasbourg and which found that the Council of Europe, a human rights organisation that brings together almost all European countries and several non-European nations, had been hit by corruption.
The report levels accusations of corruption against Eduard Lintner, a former lawmaker for Germany’s Christian Social Union (CSU) party and a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe from 1999 to 2010, niezalezna.pl said.
According to the Polish website, Lintner was a key lobbyist for Azerbaijan and is suspected of accepting almost EUR 820,000 in bribes between 2012 and 2014.
Lintner allegedly received the money through shell companies based in Britain, niezalezna.pl reported.
Meanwhile, niezalezna. pl said that according to investigators, German MP Karin Strenz, from Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), also accepted money from Azerbaijan.
The politician has been accused of hiding a conflict of interests before taking part in missions aimed at observing elections in Azerbaijan, niezalezna.pl said, citing the dw.com website.
Strenz worked for a Baku-based consulting firm ran by Lintner called Line M-Trade, which lobbied for Azerbaijan, according to niezalezna.pl.
During her time in Strasbourg, the German politician, who has since left the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, repeatedly drew attention to herself as a lobbyist for Azerbaijan, niezalezna.pl quoted the dw.com website as saying.
Despite being approached, Lintner and Strenz have not commented on the accusations against them, according to niezalezna.pl.
Another key figure in the lobbying scandal is Italian Christian Democratic politician Luca Volonte, whom prosecutors have accused of accepting EUR 2.4 million in bribes from Azerbaijan, according to niezalezna.pl.
Investigators believe that Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic, has created a network of supporters around Europe, niezalezna.pl said.
It cited the report's authors as alleging that, thanks to caviar and invitations to luxury hotels, the country has managed to prevent the publication of critical reports on elections and its human rights record.
The 200-page report has been drawn up by three independent experts: two former European Court of Human Rights judges, Nicolas Bratza and Elisabet Fura; and Jean-Louis Bruguière, a leading French investigating magistrate, according to niezalezna.pl.
Source: niezalezna.pl, dw.com