Monday, October 16, 2017

Assassinated Journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and Malta-Azerbaijan Links She Investigated

Malta’s leading investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed in a bomb blast on October 16, 2017. Caruana Galizia was known for her exposures of the governing Labour Party of Malta and its leader, prime minister Joseph Muscat. Muscat has strongly condemned the assassination and pledged to bring perpetrators to justice.

Earlier this year, Caruana Galizia’s investigations focused on Muscat’s connections to the Ilham Aliyev regime in Azerbaijan. 

Below is a rundown of known Malta-Azerbaijan connections, including those investigated by Daphne Caruana Galizia (DCG):

In 2004-8 Muscat, then the Maltese member of the European Parliament, becomes member of the EP-Azerbaijan relations committee; around this time a former senior Maltese official Dennis Sammut became involved in the EU-funded Karabakh Track II programs. Both Muscat and Sammut have regular contacts with Azerbaijani officials.

In 2007, Azerbaijan’s state oil and gas company SOCAR – through mediation of Valery Golovushkin of Russia’s Lukoil - buys Malta-based Supra Holdings Ltd. Renamed SOCAR Trading Holding Ltd. it becomes parent company for SOCAR international trading operations. Link

In 2009, after Azerbaijan’s lobbying, Maltese MP Joseph Debono Grech from Muscat’s party becomes PACE co-rapporteur on human rights in Azerbaijan. Subsequently, Debono Grech is suspected of receiving gifts while travelling to Azerbaijan. Link

In May 2011, May 2012 and May 2013 Eurovision song contests Malta gives Azerbaijan the highest score (12 points); Azerbaijan reciprocates in May 2013.

In March 2013, Muscat becomes prime minister of Malta after his Labour Party’s victory in elections.

In October 2013, chair of Malta parliament Angelo Farrugia (also from Muscat’s party) "monitors" the presidential elections in Azerbaijan, describing them as “fair, democratic and transparent.”

In February 2014, Muscat’s wife Michelle hosts Ilham Aliyev’s daughter Leyla Aliyeva in Malta for a Heydar Aliyev Foundation event.

In December 2014, Malta PM Muscat visits Azerbaijan; documents signed for Azerbaijan’s SOCAR launch of construction of an LNG facility in Malta.

In January 2015, companies associated with Azerbaijan's emergencies minister Kamaleddin Heydarov open in Malta, formally led by Dubai-based dual Iranian-Azerbaijani national Manuchehr Ahadpur Khangah. All these companies were shut down by December 2015, after spending around 600,000 Euros. Link. Another link. In 2010, the U.S. embassy in Azerbaijan prepared a background on Heydarov that mentions Khangah as Heydarov's frontman. 

In April 2015, Malta PM Muscat makes another trip to Azerbaijan, this time to speak at the 3rd Global Forum in Baku.

In August 2015, Pilatus Bank is licensed in Malta. Bank owner is Seyed Ali Sadr Hashemenijad, an Iranian who uses passport issued by St Kitts and Nevis. Hashemenijad applied for the license in December 2013.

In November 2015, Farrugia, Debono Grech, Labour MP Joseph M. Sammut and Nationalist MP Frederick Azzopardi "monitor" Azerbaijani parliamentary elections and praise their conduct in meeting with Aliyev.

In March 2016, in a widely read blog post DCG exposes Dennis Sammut’s political past in Malta.

In September 2016, Farrugia heads “European Academy of Elections Observation” during constitutional referendum in Azerbaijan.

[The plot to kill Daphne Caruana Galizia began in "the months before the June 2017 election" when Maltese businessman and partner of SOCAR in LNG venture Yorgen Fenech reached out to Melvin Theuma with a request to hire assassins, Theuma testified in December 2019. As a reward for his services, Theuma was put on the Maltese government payroll after meeting with Prime Minister Muscat's chief of staff Keith Schembri.]

In April 2017, DCG reveals that 60% of Pilatus Bank deposits are from Azerbaijani officials (with less than 100 clients overall). The bank's largest client is emergencies minister Kamaladdin Heydarov. Second and third largest clients are Ilham Aliyev's children: Heydar Aliyev Jr. (who first applied to Bank of Valetta, but was refused because of his political exposure) and Leyla Aliyeva (via Dubai-based Al Sahra FZCO). Bank also had accounts of Maltese officials (including PM’s chief of staff, energy minister and former Maltese EU commissioner), as well as the son of Angola leader Eduardo Dos Santos (who, incidentally, studied in Baku in Soviet times). On 4/19/2017 DCG reveals more than $1mln in money transfers from Leyla Aliyev to Michelle Muscat. On 4/20/2017 bank CEO Hashemenijad arrived in Malta to remove documents and/or cash from the bank to be flown to Baku and from there to Dubai. DCG alleges Maltese government cover-up.

The revelations came just days before Azerbaijan’s SOCAR inaugurated its LNG facility in Malta on April 24, 2017 with SOCAR president Rovnag Abdullayev and foreign minister Elmar Mamedyarov in attendance.

On May 1, Muscat calls an early election for June 3. Following that vote, Muscat's party retains majority in Maltese parliament and he is re-appointed as prime minister.

[In May-June 2017, the plot to kill Caruana Galizia was reported suspended until the day after the elections were held. Fenech passed Theuma 150,000 Euros for the assassination, with 30,000 paid as an advance, and the rest after the murder. In the following months, Theuma and the assassins spied on DCG's house and cafes and stores she frequented and procured an explosive device.]

On September 5, DCG posts about a March 2017 report titled "European Values Bought and Sold" by the Freedom Files Analytical Centre that documents Azerbaijan's extensive "outreach" to Maltese politicians. The report cites a Baku-based source interviewed in 2016 as suggesting that Azerbaijani leaders are treating Malta as their overseas "province."

On October 16, 2017, Daphne Caruana Galizia is killed when her car explodes near her house in Malta. Earlier this month she reportedly filed a police report citing threats against her. Link Both CNNBBC noted these Azerbaijan investigations in their coverage of the assassination.

[Following the assassins' arrest at the end of 2017, Melvin Theuma testified that Yorgen Fenech continued to support them and their families financially, further transferring more than 60,000 Euros. According to Theuma, at one point an employee of prime minister's office promised the assassins bail and a million Euros each as long as they do not reveal the assassination's organizers.]

UPDATE1 in mid-2019: Whereas the Maltese government has tracked down and arrested three individuals - members of a Maltese criminal gang - suspected of carrying out the assassination, those on whose behalf the assassination was carried out have not been determined. A report adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in June 2019 criticized this lack of thorough investigation.

UPDATE2: In late 2019, details of the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia were revealed following the arrest of its organizers. The chronology above is thus updated with these [new details]. As a result of the revelations, Joseph Muscat was forced to announce plans to resign from the ruling party leadership and as prime minister in January 2020.

Also, the EU Observer revealed that in 2018, the Maltese government hired a UK PR firm Chelgate, which in turn hired a Luxembourg-based private intelligence firm Sandstone, which prepared a report promoting theories that Azerbaijan or Russia were behind the Caruana Galizia assassination.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Azerbaijan media uses Georgian, Serbian and U.S. props to illustrate Karabakh reports

This image from 2008 war in South Ossetia is frequently used by Azerbaijani
news sites to illustrate reports from Karabakh. From google image search.
With low-intensity shooting incidents continuing between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces in Karabakh and elsewhere along the Line of Contact, local media reports tend to highlight occasional casualties and officially-issued statistics.

To anchor these often repetitive reports on the news sites, media on both sides rely on stock conflict images. Lack of familiarity with media rules and military matters and general laziness result in frequent confusion as far as the origin of images used. Frequently, images are copy-pasted from other sites, with no regard for copyright.

This is particularly pronounced in Azerbaijan, where media is legally prohibited from reporting on military matters without official sanction, reporters rarely get official access to the armed forces and those traveling in frontline areas are likely to be stopped and sometimes even beaten.

One of the common forms of conflict reporting in Azerbaijan is laudatory short stories about Armenian casualties - real and imagined - accompanied by stock photos of bodies in uniform, typically unrelated to the Karabakh conflict.

Thus one of the popular images used is by Brennan Linsley of AP Photo dated July 6, 2009 and described as "a U.S. Marine from the 2nd MEB, 1st Battalion 5th Marines, who was overcome by heat exhaustion, lies on a stretcher.. in the Nawa district of Afghanistan'".  Linsley's photo found second life accompanying Azerbaijani reports of Armenian casualties, including on main regime-run sites, such as and

Another image used is by Dmitry Kostyukov for AFP / Getty taken on August 10, 2008 and described as a body of a Georgian soldier on the outskirts of Tskhinvali during the war with Russia over South Ossetia. Kostyukov's photo can be seen in the Boston Globe's August 11, 2008 report about the war. The image - seen above in a Google search - has been used repeatedly by some of the most popular Azerbaijani news sites.

Finally, another recurring favorite (seen below in regular and enhanced versions) is an older image from Serbian-Croatian fighting in Bosnia taken on August 18, 1995 by Tom Dubravec of AFP/Getty and is no. 27 at this link.

In another example of this sort of careless copy-pasting, photo of a soldier wearing an Armenian camouflage pattern was used as a stand-in for an Azerbaijani soldier in a military education text book for high schools. Image grab below is from a social media site of an Azerbaijani journalist who noticed the text book gaffe.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

List of Armenian servicemen and volunteers KIA in Karabakh from April 2-8, 2016

Often called the 4-day war, the most intense period of April 2016 fighting was in fact limited to three days from April 2 to 4. The first day was also the bloodiest, with the Armenian military losing 37 servicemen, 22 of them on or near Laletepe, 4 at Seysulan and 11 in Talish-Madagis direction. Three elderly civilians and one schoolboy were also killed on April 2. 6 more servicemen and 1 reservist were lost on April 3 and 19 servicemen and 12 volunteers / reservists on April 4. There were more losses in subsequent days, but active operations - efforts to capture or recapture territory - ended on April 4. Below are the names of these Armenian military personnel and volunteers.

April 2

Լալե Թեփե

Շահբազյան Աշոտ Կարապետի, լեյտենանտ, 1993-2016թ.
Անդրեասյան Արման Սեյրանի, սերժանտ, 1996-2016
Սարգսյան Նորիկ Զավենիշարքային, 1996-2016   
Սիմոնյան Ազատ Քաջիկիշարքային, 1996-2016  
Գևորգյան Արթուր Գառնիկիշարքային, 1997-2016
Հարությունյան Գրիգոր Գևորգիշարքային , 1997-2016   
Սահակյան Ադամ Խաչատուրի, սերժանտ ,1996-2016
Ներսիսյան Կարեն Արտակի, սերժանտ, 1997-2016
Գալստյան Սաշա Վաչագանի, կրտսեր սերժանտ, 1996-2016
Ալեքսանյան Բագրատ Արթուրի, շարքային , 1995-2016
Եսայան Ժորա Արթուրի, շարքային,1996-2016  
Օզմանյան Բորիս Ռաֆիկի, շարքային, 1996-2016
Բերակչյան Տիգրան Էդուարդի,շարքային,1997-2016
Գրիգորյան Անդրանիկ Մարատի,պայմանագրային շարքային, 1986-2016
Առաքելյան Ալեքսան Գևորգի, փոխգնդապետ, 1982-2016
Պողոսյան Ռոման Վլադիմիրի, փոխգնդապետ,1979-2016
Գրիգորյան Օնիկ Կարոյի, փոխգնդապետ,1978-2016
Մելքումյան Սուրեն Գրիշայի, մայոր,1979-2016
Գրիգորյան Մաքսիմ Վագիֆի, ավագ լեյտենանտ,1986-2008  

Գրիգորյան Հայկ Ռոդիկի, լեյտենանտ, 1993-2016
Գասպարյան Նորիկ Ժորայի, սերժանտ, 1996-2016
Զաքարյան Վահե Սամվելիշարքային, 1995-2016


Ուրֆանյան Արմենակ Մերսի, կապիտան, 1990-2016.
Սլոյան Քյարամ Քալաշի, շարքային, 1996-2016
Աբաջյան Ռոբերտ Ալեքսանդրի, կրտսեր սերժանտ, 1996-2016
Զոհրաբյան Անդրանիկ Ատոմի, շարքային, 1996-2016


Կիրակոսյան Հովսեփ Գեղամի, կապիտան, 1988-2016
Փարամազյան Յուրի Անատոլիի, սերժանտ, 1996-2016   
Մարգարյան Նոդարիկ Արտաշի, պայմանագրային եֆրեյտոր, 1963-2016
Իսկանդարյան Ռուբեն Աշոտի, կրտսեր սերժանտ 1993-2016
Ղահրամանյան Հենրիկ Ռուդոլֆիկրտսեր սերժանտ, 1996-2016  
Ղարիբյան Հրանտ Սամվելի, պայմանագրային շարքային, 1947-2016  
Թորոյան Հայկ Վահանի, մայոր, 1985-2016
Ստեփանյան Մերուժան Արթուրի, ավագ լեյտենանտ, 1993-2016
Յուզիխովիչ Վիկտոր Ալեքսանդրի, շարքային, 1997-2016
Հակոբյան Ռաֆիկ Խլղաթի, շարքային, 1996-2016
Ասատրյան Աղասի Սարմենի, շարքային, 1996-2016  

April 3


Մկրտչյան Սասուն Ֆահրադի, պայմանագրային շարքային, 1989-2016
Մկրտչյան Գեղամ Ռաշիդի, պայմանագրային շարքային, 1986-2016
Սահակյան Սարգիս Արմենակի, շարքային, 1995-2016  
Թովմասյան Մասիս Միքայելի reservist, 1979-2016

Լալե Թեփե:

Եղոյան Բենյամին Ներսեսի, ավագ լեյտենանտ, 1992-2016
Աբգարյան Տիգրան Արամի, շարքային, 1996-2016
Ալիխանյան Վլադիմիր Վարուժանի, շարքային, 1996-2016

April 4


Թադևոսյան Վարդան Սուրիկի, պայմանագրային շարքային, 1990-2016
Աբրահամյան Հարություն Հովհաննեսի, պայմանագրային, 1985-2016  
Սարգսյան Վրեժ Վարդանի, պայմանագրային սերժանտ, 1989-2016
Մելքոնյան Գագիկ Սուրիկի, պայմանագրային ենթասպա,, 1982-2016
Գալստյան Հրաչ Վարդանի, ավագ լեյտենանտ, 1991-2016
Վարդանյան Գևորգ Գագիկի, շարքային, 1996-2016
Գաբոյան Արգիշտի Արծվիի, ավագ լեյտենանտ, 1993-2016
Մկրտչյան Նարեկ Վարդանի, շարքային, 1996-2016
Աղաջանյան Միշա Կամոյի, շարքային1996-2016
Պետրոսյան Արտակ Այգավարդի, շարքային,1997-2016  
Հայրապետյան Դավիթ Ռազմիկի, շարքային, 1997-2016
Մովսեսյան Ռուդիկ Բախշիի, մայոր, 1976-2016
Գասպարյան Դավիթ Յուրիի, ավագ ենթասպա, 1979-2016

Volunteers / reservists:
Ալեքսանյան Էդուարդ Յուրիկի
Ասրյան Սեդրակ Սերգեյի
Բեգլարյան Արմեն Մինասի
Դանղյան Սերգեյ Գուրգենի
Միրզոյան Մայիս Երջանիկի
Նիկալյան Եղիշ Արտավազդի
Սարգսյան Դավիթ Բագրատի
Արմեն Արեգի Հովհաննիսյանը (1978-2016)
Համբարձումյան Կարո (1959-2016)
Փարսադանյան Գագիկ Կոլյայի (1960-2016)
Խալաֆյան Սարգիս Լազրի (1967-2016)
Հաջյան Նորայր Միքայելի (1976-2016)

Լալե Թեփե:

Բալայան Ազնաուր Ռաֆիկի, պայմանագրային շարքային, 1987-2016
Սահակյան Ղարիբ Հայասերի, պայմանագրային ավագ սերժանտ, 1987-2016
Սիմոնյան Նվեր Սարոյի, պայմանագրային ավագ սերժանտ, 1990-2016

Մայիլյան Հովսեփ Ռաֆայելի, մայոր, 1978-2016
Աբրահամյան Արամ Արայիկի, շարքային, 1996-2016
Միքայելյան Արամայիս Գրիգորի, շարքային, 1996-2016

April 5
Նարինյան Վլադիկ Ստեփանի կրտսեր սերժանտ, 1996-2016
Կիրակոսյան Գոռ Կարապետի, շարքային, 1996-2016

April 6
Գասպարյան Արմեն Կառլենի volunteer, 1974-2016
Հոսեփյան Նիկոլայ Սարգսի volunteer, 1953-2016

April 7
Մուրադյան Հրաչ Սամվելի, պայմանագրային, 1983-2016

April 8
Ճարտանյան Սուրեն Միսակի volunteer, 1955-2016

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

My recent articles for Eurasianet