Azerbaijan’s minister of emergency situations, beluga caviar and fruit juice
This cable could be a new nominee for Colum Lynch’s list: THE MINISTER OF EMERGENCY SITUATIONS, BELUGA CAVIAR, AND FRUIT JUICE. The minister in question is Azerbaijan’s Minister of Emergency Situations Kamaladdin Heydarov, also known as the Minister of Everything Significant: 5. (SBU) The Ministry of Emergency Situations (MES) has consistently proven itself to be ...
This cable could be a new nominee for Colum Lynch's list: THE MINISTER OF EMERGENCY SITUATIONS, BELUGA CAVIAR, AND FRUIT JUICE.
This cable could be a new nominee for Colum Lynch’s list: THE MINISTER OF EMERGENCY SITUATIONS, BELUGA CAVIAR, AND FRUIT JUICE.
The minister in question is Azerbaijan’s Minister of Emergency Situations Kamaladdin Heydarov, also known as the Minister of Everything Significant:
5. (SBU) The Ministry of Emergency Situations (MES) has consistently proven itself to be one of the most powerful ministries in Azerbaijan. It is suspected to have the largest revenue of any Ministry. It even has its own para-military unit, consistent with other such ministries in the CIS. Heydarov mentioned to a visiting Washington VIP in 2008 that his ministry had recently taken control of an anti-aircraft battery near Baku in which he had served as a young conscript during Soviet times. The Ministry now controls the fire departments and other emergency services, fire code inspections, state grain reserves, and construction licensing. This last area of responsibility (perhaps the most important for foreign entities operating in Azerbaijan) also covers building inspectors who can interfere with, delay, or stop any construction project they declare to be “unsafe.” In fact, MES staff have previously warned American and other foreign businessmen that their purview covers anything that is associated with temperature, pressure, or isotopes — categories broadly interpreted to include just about everything under the sun.
Kamaladdin has also brought his sons into the highly lucratic “emergency situations” business, which is where they juice and caviar come in. It’s apparently not wise to try to muscle in on the Azerbaijani juice market:
Kamaladdin’s two sons, Nijat Heydarov and Tale Heydarov, have recently expressed a desire to purchase two Gulfstream jets, valued at $20 million each. The family also owns an Airbus A319 corporate jet that is presently undergoing cabin completion in Basel, Switzerland. According to initial reports, ownership of the Gulfstreams would be shared between “Shams al Sahra FZCO” (registered in Dubai to Tale and Nijat) and Mr. Manouchehr Ahadpur Khangah, with Shams al Sahra and Kangah each holding 50 percent of each jet. Khangah was not previously known to the Embassy, but according to information from Gulfstream appears to be a citizen of both Iran and Azerbaijan (unclear if he also holds other passports). Purportedly as part of Patriot Act compliance, Gulfstream asked the Heydarovs for information that would confirm the lawful sources of their wealth. The Heydarovs provided Gulfstream an overview of their family holdings, and it appears they own more businesses than any other Azerbaijani family, including companies in food canning, construction materials, concrete, asphalt, chemicals, bricks, textiles, CD and DVD production (since licensed CDs or DVDs are generally unavailable on the local market, these are certainly all pirated), milk processing, tourism, gypsum materials, leather, agriculture, pianos, alcohol and spirits, juices, banking, insurance, and construction.
9. (C) One Embassy contact, XXXXXXXXXXXX referred to Khangah as the Chief Executive Officer or “front man” of a substantial portion of the Heydarov family conglomerate. This contact noted that while Khangah is listed as the official owner of various businesses, they are very much Heydarov-owned operations in which Khangah functions more as a manager. This source added that Khangah’s role was mirrored by an unnamed Turkish citizen who controls another segment of the family businesses.
10. (C) Many of the family,s operations are part of the “Gilan,” “Qabala,” “Jala,” or “United Enterprises International (UEI)” family of companies. Gilan Holdings is omnipresent in Baku, as the company is one of several major real estate developers and has been in the forefront of Baku’s highly speculative real estate market. Observers compare Gilan to Dubai World or Nakheel, although admittedly on a smaller scale. The Heydarovs have largely cornered the fruit juice market in Azerbaijan, maintaining extremely high prices for locally produced juices and watered-down juice drinks, while making life difficult — with the help of State Customs — for cheaper competitors from Turkey, Ukraine and Russia. When USAID tried to support the production and distribution of pomegranate products in Azerbaijan, they quickly learned that no one sells pomegranate juice, concentrate, or derivatives from Azerbaijan without Heydarov’s permission. Azerbaijan’s economy is largely dominated by monopolistic interests, and observers suggest that the Heydarovs are at the top of this mountain of non-competition.
It is rumored that the Heydarovs also have interests in the local Pepsi bottler, the local license for Red Bull, British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco, and Imperial Tobacco. Heydarov has readily admitted to visiting U.S. delegations that he owns and operates the Caspian Fish Company which controls the lucrative (and previously Russian Mafia-controlled) Beluga Caviar production in Azerbaijan.
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating
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