25.Jul .2022 15:30

Azerbaijani ruling family tightens control over central bank

Azerbaijani ruling family tightens control over central bank
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With a recent series of personnel shakeups, Azerbaijan’s central bank has come under ever tighter control of the country’s ruling family.

A changing of the guard at the bank began in April, when President Ilham Aliyev appointed a family loyalist, Taleh Kazimov, as chairman of the Central Bank of Azerbaijan.

Kazimov, 38, had since 2015 held senior executive positions at Pasha Bank, which is owned by Aliyev’s daughters Arzu and Leyla Aliyeva, together with their grandfather Arif Pashayev, Aliyev’s father-in-law.

The move was unexpected: the previous chairman, Elman Rustamov, had held the position since 1995 and had been reappointed in April 2020 to a five-year term. But in April, Aliyev proposed to parliament that Rustamov be removed, without offering any justification, and the legislature quickly rubber-stamped the move and appointed Kazimov. Rustamov was then appointed as an adviser to Prime Minister Ali Asadov, but nothing has since been heard from him and he does not appear on the website of the cabinet of ministers.

The bank is by law politically independent, and many observers saw Kazimov’s appointment as a sign of Aliyev’s tightening control of the banking system.

“The banking sector had already been under the control of Pasha Holding. Now the Pashayevs have gained complete dominance,” economist and opposition politician Gubad Ibadoglu wrote on Facebook.

That appointment turned out to be only the beginning.

In May, Kazimov named a new advisor, Farhad Valiyev, another senior Pasha Bank official. Before his time at Pasha, Valiyev worked at Premium Bank and Silk Way Holding, both of which also are connected to the ruling family.

Then on June 1, another senior Pasha Bank official, Gular Pashayeva, also was appointed as an adviser to Kazimov.

And on July 22, Kazimov promoted Pashayeva to the post of the general director of the central bank. The same day, the director of human resources at the central bank was replaced by Oksana Ismailova, who had held the same position at Bravo Supermarket, one of the largest companies under Pasha Holding, the holding company that brings together all the family’s firms.

“The central bank has officially become a branch of Pasha Bank. Long live Pasha Azerbaijan!” one Facebook user commented on the most recent appointments. Satire news site Hamam Times covered the story by speculating on what it might mean for the national currency, the manat.

“In summary, from now on the fate of the national currency of Azerbaijan is in the hands of the former Pasha Bank employees, or ‘Pashayev's people,’” Hamam Times wrote. “In your opinion, which would benefit Pashayev more - a strong manat, weak manat, a fixed rate or a floating manat?” Eurasianet reports.