ROME (Panorama.am) — The former Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Luca Volonte, was sentenced to four years in jail on Monday, January 11, for taking a bribe from two Azerbaijan politicians to get the Council of Europe to pull a critical report on political prisoners in Azerbaijan. He was found guilty of taking about two million euros from the Azeri politicians, who were given the same four-year sentence, the ANSA news agency reported.
Luca Volonte has been involved in the international “Caviar Diplomacy” scandal, according to the investigation of the international NGO European Stability Initiative. He was accused of receiving 2.3 million euros from Azerbaijan, which was spent on bribing a number of PACE deputies to fail the report on political prisoners in Azerbaijan.
In early 2013, the Council of Europe discussed a critical report concerning the treatment of political prisoners in Azerbaijan, presented by Christoph Straesser, a German Social Democrat member of the parliamentary assembly of the Council.
According to investigators, Volonte had been tasked by Azerbaijani officials to “direct votes within his parliamentary group” in favor of the country. He also sought the support of Spanish EPP member Pedro Agramunt to divide the socialist group and vote down the Straesser report. The report was eventually rejected by 125 to 79. The strong criticism on human rights in Azerbaijan, an oil-rich country classified as “not free” by the US-based democracy watchdog Freedom House, was then rejected.