Imagine the Corleone family in charge of an entire country, and you have Azerbaijan. Playing the role of Vito is President Ilham Aliyev. The commanding heights of the economy are divided among his family members and in-laws. A recent investigation by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project reveals how Aliyev along with his wife, children, and various associates are linked to a byzantine array of offshore companies whose alleged purpose is to pilfer the assets of the state (see also here and here). These are assets that formally belong to the people of Azerbaijan but which the Aliyev clan evidently sees as their personal property to be dispensed with at their pleasure. Over the past 22 years, untold billions in state funds have disappeared from the oil-rich republic into offshore tax havens. The Aliyev family enjoys complete impunity by virtue of its control over a repressive dictatorship that routinely hounds anyone who seeks to expose malfeasance among the ruling clique. The most notable victim is crusading journalist Khadija Ismayilova. Her investigations into the Aliyev family’s corrupt activities ended with her imprisonment and prosecution on the absurd charge of inciting a colleague to suicide. Her trial remains ongoing but its outcome appears preordained.
The Aliyevs are leading players in the spheres of banking, construction, transportation, insurance, mining, oil, and gas (see here and here). Investors beware of setting up shop in countries like Azerbaijan, where your main market competitor may end up being the ruling family itself.