A side event of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Summer Session was organised by the assembly’s deputy Pieter Omtzigt about corruption. It was titled “The state of play of the anti-corruption drive in the Council of Europe”.

The gathering was addressed by a former ambassador of Azerbaijan to the Council of Europe, Arif Mammadov.

“When Azerbaijan was joining the Council of Europe in 2001, the people of Azerbaijan were hopeful that their country will embrace the European and CoE values, but 15 years after, we see that vice versa happened. Azerbaijani regime has successfully exported its values to the CoE,” said Mammadov.

The former Ambassador of Azerbaijan noted that corruption has penetrated the PACE and the CoE in general. “It’s not just members of the PACE, but the secretariat of the PACE, Secretariat of the CoE in general, the member states are involved,” he said.

According to Mr. Mammadov, earlier this month he had heard seven hours of testimony before the Italian investigation team that visited Brussels to meet him. “I understand that the serious investigation on the case of Mr. Luca Volontè is still on the way. I’m confident that the Volontè case will bring more light to the corruption in the CoE and beyond.”

Volontè is accused of accepting millions of euros from Azerbaijan in exchange for supporting its government. He denies wrongdoing.

“I believe that by bringing the light to the corruption OCTOPUS that embraced the CoE we can save the European values,” said the Ambassador. “Instead of accepting the mistakes that brought the CoE to such a shameful situation, CoE leadership tries to say that what was happening within the walls of the CoE is just PACE issue. Nobody wants to acknowledge that this corruption OCTOPUS embraced the entire organisation.

“What happened with dozens of people proved to have accepted the bribes. They left the PACE, but most of them continue to be the members of their National parliaments,” he added. “The two key people who developed the schemes of corruption Mr. Elkhan Suleymanov and Muslim Mammadov were replaced by other members of the delegation and that is it.”

According to Arif Mammadov, there are over 160 political prisoners in Azerbaijan, including the Director of the CoE School of political studies, Ilgar Mammadov.