Independent Azerbaijani MP Rafael Jabrayilov resigned on Monday after he was accused of offering the certificate of his parliamentary mandate as collateral for a loan. This is not the first accusation of financial impropriety Jabrayilov has faced.
Report, a Baku-based news agency, reported on 20 September that Jabrayilov used the certificate of his parliamentary mandate as collateral for a $300,000 loan.
According to Report, he borrowed $300,000 in September 2015 in order to fund the construction of a house. Jabrayilov allegedly had a close family relationship with the lender.
As Jabrayilov was not able to return the sum on time, the report says, he left his parliamentary mandate certificate of the third and fourth convocation of the Azerbaijani Parliament as collateral. Tarana Fataliyeva, the lender, sought remuneration and filed a lawsuit against him. In February 2019, the court ruled in her favour.
Fataliyeva also published a video in which Jabrayilov asks her to wait on collecting the money, saying that he has ‘200 flats’ that he is not able to sell, which is the reason he can not pay his debt, promising to give her a flat if he does not come up with the money.
Jabrayilov told journalists on Monday that the allegations that he used his mandate certificate as collateral were ‘totally false and absurd’, showing journalists his current mandate certificate.
He also told journalists that Fataliyeva was formerly a business partner of his brother, Elshan Jabrayilov, and had invested money into his construction company, Darhal.
Jabryailov said that his relationship with Fataliyeva soured after the last devaluation of the Azerbaijani manat, which effectively tripled the value of the debt, which was in US dollars.
During a parliamentary session on Monday, Jabrayilov tendered his resignation, apologising to his voters, other MPs, and the public. The Central Election Commission accepted his resignation the following day.
Jabrayilov, who represented the Shirvan constituency in parliament, has a controversial history as an MP. He made headlines in October 2012 for his initiative to toughen the penalties for taking part in unauthorised protests.
The amendments, which increased fines from ₼100–₼500 ($59–$290) to ₼5,000–₼8,000 ($2,900–$4,700), were endorsed by the ruling party and passed by parliament in November 2012.
‘It could happen anywhere’
Siyavush Novruzov, Deputy Executive Secretary of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party told Parliament that Jabrayilov’s situation had been properly addressed.
‘There is no need to discuss it in the media or in parliament. It is a situation which could happen anywhere in the world. There is a culture of resignation everywhere. And deputy Rafael Jabrayilov made that step’, he said.
Zakir Garalov, Prosecutor General of Azerbaijan, told journalists on Tuesday that if the civil cases into Jabrayilov revealed evidence of fraud or criminal activity, the Prosecutor’s Office would open an official investigation.
Gultakin Hajibayli, a former MP and a member of the opposition coalition the National Council of Democratic Forces, told local news site GununSesi on Tuesday that Jabrayilov also owed money to several MPs. ‘One of them even beat Jabrayilov because of the debt’, she said.
Eldar Zeynalov, the head of the Human Rights Centre of Azerbaijan, a Baku-based rights group, told OC Media that according to Azerbaijani legislation, there is no direct prohibition on the use of property, including personal documents, as collateral.
‘True, it is assumed that the pledge should not relate to such property that could threaten state or public security. Obviously, one cannot pledge service weapons, access cards, etc.’, he said.
He also said that no one may prevent a lender and lendee from valuing a document at $300,000 — though, he cannot see how, in the case of non-repayment of a debt, a mandate certificate can be used to reimburse the lender.
‘He will not be able to sell this document at auction’, Zeynalov said.
The Jabrayilov brothers
The Darhal residential construction project in the township of Mehdiabad, which is owned by Jabrayilov’s brother, has been connected with a number of criminal cases and allegations.
On 20 September, Azerbaijani news agency APA reported that a number of people had turned to the courts to seek restitution from the brothers, accusing them of taking money for the sale of individual flats and then not delivering. A number of the cases are currently under judicial review, while others have reportedly been adjudicated in favour of the plaintiffs.
Malahat Qurbanova, a woman who alleged she was cheated by the Jabrayilovs, told news website Yenixeber in December that Rafael Jabrayilov took out a loan from her, leaving four flats as collateral. She said that he did not repay the debt in five years but that she still had not received the flats. Her lawyer told APA that even after the court ruled in her favour, she still cannot get her money back from Jabrayilov.
On 23 September, Rafael Jabrayilov was also sued by Azerbaijan’s AG Bank. Jabrayilov and his driver and brother-in-law, Agil Talybov, owed the banks for two loans valued at roughly $2.2 million and ₼324,000 ($190,000).
As collateral for these loans the pair left four non-residential properties belonging to Talybov.
In 2013, the Russian-owned Nikoil Bank in Azerbaijan filed a lawsuit against Rafael Jabrayilov because he and two of his brothers signed on as guarantors for a loan of ₼795,000 ($470,000) taken out by another of Jabrayilov’s brothers-in-law, N Bunyatov. As the loan was not repaid on time, the bank confirmed repossession of Rafael Jabrayilov’s home and office.
Eldar Zeynalov told OC Media that the law ‘On the rules of ethical conduct of deputies of the Mİlli Majlis of the Azerbaijan Republic’ expressly prohibits MPs from doing business, commerce, or other paid activities during their term of office.
‘It was not accidental that the electorate reacted so sharply to this case. An MP who yesterday voted to cut social benefits for the poor, […who] spoke about the inadmissibility of a gift worth more than ₼55 ($32), talked about morality and duty to the motherland, today he advocates for an increase in his salary and pension and cheats a person by an amount equal to 100 years of the minimum wage’, he said.
Zeynalov said that the constitution allows an MP to be deprived of their mandate if they are engaged in entrepreneurial activity and in flagrant violation of the rules of ethics.
‘After depriving a deputy of his authority, he becomes vulnerable to criminal prosecution’, Zeynalov said. ‘If it turns out that the deputy intentionally abused the trust of his creditor, they may well initiate a fraud case.’
However, Zeynalov also noted, a criminal case does not mean that Jabrayilov would go to prison. ‘Recent legislative changes allow for the closing of a criminal case if the debtor returns the amount taken and reconciles with the creditor’, he said.