BAKU: Azeri, Armenian “mafia bosses” in fear of Georgia’s crackdown

Hurriyyat, Baku, in Azeri
11 Mar 04, p 4

Azeri, Armenian “mafia bosses” in fear of Georgia’s corruption
crackdown – paper

Serious processes are under way in the South Caucasus. The region has
attracted the world’s attention. After his election [Georgian]
President Mikheil Saakashvili started economic and political reforms
that have global significance.

[Passage omitted: More on Georgian politics]

The fight against corruption in Georgia is a highly risky undertaking
since Saakashvili takes on not only local corrupt officials, but also
giant international corrupt networks which earn dirty money and use
Georgia for transit. The directives to protect the borders have
caused fear among certain mafia-related structures in Ukraine,
Azerbaijan and Armenia. Saakashvili said that by controlling the
railway he would rid the country of corruption. Suffice it to recall
the arrest of the former Georgian railways chief, Akaki Chkhaidze.

[Passage omitted: More on Georgian politics]

During his visit to Azerbaijan, Saakashvili sent a message to
[Azerbaijani President] Ilham Aliyev by saying that “together we can
work miracles”. Our newspaper reported that Georgia handed over to
the Azerbaijani authorities a list of Azerbaijani officials with
criminal links to their venal Georgian counterparts. There are even
reports that some officials will be summoned by court when Chkhaidze
is tried by the Georgian law-enforcement bodies.

[Passage omitted: Details]

The Georgian government closed down corridors on its territory
between the Azerbaijani and Armenian borders, which caused fear among
mafia bosses in Armenia and Azerbaijan. According to unofficial
statistics, Armenia and Azerbaijan are involved in shady dealings to
the sum of 35m dollars. This mainly amounts to export of Azerbaijan’s
oil and food to Armenia. The closure of borders means that
higher-ranking state officials will lose their dirty profits.
Moreover, this will create an economic crisis in Armenia. That the
Azerbaijani bodies have failed to take any serious measures to stop
the trade confirms that the state bodies protect the mafia.

In the wake of Saakashvili’s visit to the USA, the fight against
corruption and closure of borders has become more intense. This leads
to the conclusion that the USA uses Saakashvili as a stick to punish
the Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders for their servitude to Russia.
During the upcoming visit to Armenia, Saakashvili will discuss with
[Armenian President Robert] Kocharyan the fight against corruption
and urge Kocharyan to join efforts. Otherwise, Georgia will refuse to
restore the railway to Armenia.

Should Aliyev and Kocharyan fail to take serious measures against
corruption, the processes in Georgia may trigger a US export of
“velvet revolution” to Azerbaijan and Armenia.