The president of Azerbaijan announced yesterday a set of imminent restrictions on gambling casinos, night clubs and drinking establishments — and more generally on places and forms of entertainment deemed "incompatible with the traditional morality of the Azeri people." The measures were decided on at a January 27 session of the Security Council chaired by Haidar Aliev. The president targeted, in particular, the Europe Hotel in Baku, run by the Turkish firm "Imperial," which is said to be connected to organized crime. Aliev gave the Justice, State Security and Internal Affairs ministries ten days to crack down on the "immoral" activities, including those at Imperial and the Europe Hotel, and on organized crime as such.
The president blamed Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov personally for having changed that hotel’s original destination as a diplomatic residency, handing it instead over to the Turkish firm for illicit use as gambling casino. After this attack, Hasanov is likely to be dismissed from the government. (Panorama, Turan, January 28)
Aliev acted following last week’s allegations in the Turkish press that the hotel had been handed over in order to offset his son Ilhan Aliev’s purported gambling debts to Imperial. Ilhan is first vice-president of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan. The press allegations cited a Turkish government report on organized crime in Turkey. The government in Ankara promptly denied that the official report incriminated Ilhan Aliev or any member of the presidential family. Nevertheless, the opposition in Azerbaijan seems set to exploit the allegations in the upcoming presidential election campaign. (Western agencies, Turan, January 26-27)
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