By Will Fitzgibbon, Miranda Patrucic and Marcos García Rey
BAKU (Irish Times) — On October 31st, 2003, Ilham Aliyev, the newly elected president ofAzerbaijan, stood behind a podium and a profusion of white flowers to address presidents, prime ministers and 2,000 other guests assembled at the Respublika Palace. First touching the constitution and then the Koran, Aliyev swore to serve his people. That night, fireworks lit up the sky of the Azeri capital, Baku.
Aliyev’s election to lead this energy-rich former Soviet republic bordering both Russia and Iran had been all but guaranteed. His ailing father, Heydar, an ex-KGB officer, had served in the same role for the previous 10 years. Election monitors reported that police had beaten and detained political opponents, in line with the country’s reputation for repression.
Becoming president wasn’t Aliyev’s only ascension during 2003. Using a network of secretive companies in offshore tax havens, his family, advisers and allies set about acquiring expensive overseas homes and positions in the country’s valuable industries and natural resources, including the family’s majority control of a major gold mine that has been unknown until now.
The new details of the Aliyev offshore empire emerge from secret records obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and other media partners from Mossack Fonseca, a Panama-based law firm that helps to set up hard-to-trace corporate structures for clients. The more than 11 million documents reviewed by ICIJ and its partners — emails, bank accounts and client records — represent the inner workings of Mossack Fonseca for nearly 40 years, from 1977 to December 2015.