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Proxies Make The World Go Round

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his wife, Mehriban, attend the opening of Baku's Crystal Hall, the venue of the Eurovision-2012 Song Contest and built by a construction company connected to the family through proxies.
In a pair of recent investigative reports, Khadija Ismayilova worked with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) to expose two of the ways by which the family of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev enriches itself through proxy companies in the oil-rich country.

Proxy companies are nothing new, but they have become part of an "unseen global offshore financial platform," linking companies and banks in Russia, Moldova, and Eastern Europe to others in Asia and around the world, OCCRP notes in a series of reports under the rubric "The Proxy Platform."

The system is built on hundreds, maybe thousands, of ever-morphing phantom companies. They exist on paper only and appear to be run by scores of common people, who are, in fact, simply proxies. Many are unaware that their names appear in official documents as the human face of a company. Others are naive or don't care.

Crime lords and corrupt government bureaucrats use these paper companies run by proxies to launder illegal billions into usable wealth. The crimes they commit don't come back to them because of the subterfuge and unwitting proxies are left alone to face the consequences of actions they never performed.

"These methods are used to launder funds in every kind of international crime -- human, drug, and weapons trafficking, financial crimes like tax evasion, which has been a cause of the current euro crisis, and terrorist financing. The current system leaves the global financial system wide open for these kinds of crimes," said Anthea Lawson, head of the Banks Campaign at Global Witness, an international anticorruption organization.

"One of the main findings here is that 20 to 25 percent of opiates which are being produced worldwide are being seized. When it comes to cocaine, that figure rises to approximately 40 percent. When it comes to money laundering, we are talking about an order of magnitude of 0.2 percent," said Thomas Pietschmann, of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Studies and Threat Analysis Section.

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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