Azerbaijan’s State Security Service has arrested a senior customs official in the Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan in a special operation.
Mansur Asgarov, the head of the Customs Tariff Regulation and Payments Department of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic’s State Customs Committee, was arrested on charges of embezzlement.
On Thursday, the Sabail District Court of Baku ordered Asgarov be detained for four months while the case was investigated.
The State Security Service (DTX) reported that the Customs Committee had used fraudulent accounting to embezzle more than ₼100 million ($59 million).
Nakhchivan, which has been headed by Vasif Talibov for just under 30 years, has previously enjoyed a high degree of autonomy from Baku. The arrest has led to speculation that the central government may be trying to wrest power from the local authorities.
Samir Asadli, the head of the central executive office of the Civil Solidarity Party, said that such autonomy was ‘meaningless’
‘The Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic is financed from the budget of Azerbaijan. In such a case, it makes no sense to have so many ministries’, Asadli told OC Media
‘The [Azerbaijani] state is doing “cleaning work” in Nakhchivan. In general, it is enough to establish the head offices of the ministries in Azerbaijan and manage them from a regional centre in Nakhchivan,’ Asadli said.
The article under which Asgarov was charged — embezzlement causing serious damage — also implicates other high-ranking officials of the Nakhchivan customs service, and potentially also of other Nakhchivan state institutions, but other names have not yet been released.