Andrew Jennings

Andrew Jennings

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

The Sporting Corleones of the Caspian - Part 2: Meet the IOC's Pat Hickey & The Mafia

Hickey sucks the dictator
PAT HICKEY KNOWS MORE THAN MOST about Olympic corruption. He has seen it firsthand over the past quarter of a century. In 1991, when he was an official at the Olympic Council of Ireland, Pat learned that in the dirty fight to host the 1998 winter Olympics some IOC members were selling their votes to rich bidding city Nagano for $100,000 a time.

We know this because in March 1991 Pat sent a letter marked "Strictly Private & Confidential" to the leaders of Salt Lake City's rival bid for the Games. We obtained our copy from the archives compiled after Salt Lake's bribes became public. Pat never reported the crooks and having proved his reliability, was elevated to IOC membership in 1995.
Those were jolly times at the IOC. Pat got his share when Atlanta was bidding for the 1996 Summer Games. They paid for his vacation, with other Olympic officials, at The Cloisters hotel-to-die-for on Sea Island, off the Georgia coast. Hickey's return airfare from Dublin was $5,344 and their official greeter noted, "Gee, they all eat a lot."

Those were jolly times at the IOC. Pat got his share when Atlanta was bidding for the 1996 Summer Games. They paid for his vacation, with other Olympic officials, at The Cloisters hotel-to-die-for on Sea Island, off the Georgia coast. Hickey's return airfare from Dublin was $5,344 and their official greeter noted, "Gee, they all eat a lot."

Three years later the Salt Lake corruption scandal broke and several more followed quickly. Pat Hickey was appointed to an IOC committee tasked with "reform." Alongside him were members concealing histories of sports contracts kickbacks, hiding doping scandals and more bribe scams. As expected their "reforms" weren't and the IOC carried on selecting themselves from people like themselves.
Message from Sonny: you wanna find this in your bed? 

Pat did have to face an election when he became President of the Olympic Council of Ireland in 1989 but, enjoying a novel constitution that gives his supporters extra votes, he is still in place. In his time Pat has threatened to sue most of the Irish media so they have made him a hero at home.
Real power fell at Pat's feet in 2006 when he won control of the little-known 49-member European Olympic Committees [EOC] and entered a new world of Gala Dinners.  But he wanted his own Games. Asia had them, the Americas did, Pat must make a European Games his legacy. Problem was, nobody wanted them. The European summer is crammed full of elite sports events across the continent. Who could afford them, and where would the athletes be found?

Hickey's Love letter to Lukashenko 
The democratic countries of Europe looked away, embarrassed. But there was one that wanted to divert attention from its ghastly human rights abuse and all-pervading dictatorship. The first clue to Pat's plans came at the EOC congress in Istanbul in 2008. Without consulting his members Pat announced a special award to the president of the national Olympic committee of Belarus for "His outstanding Contribution to the Olympic Movement." This was baffling because Belarus has inherited the former East German preeminence in doping its athletes. Every Olympics has its Belarusian scandals. It was the first at the London 2012 Games.

This president's day job was President of the Stalinist hangover of Belarus. When Alexander Lukashenko wasn't setting his thuggish police on youthful pro-democracy demonstrators he wanted sports events. This impressed Pat Hickey who announced in 2011, “It is important that the National Olympic Committee in Belarus is headed by Alexander Lukashenko.” This did not impress the European Union who banned the thug from travelling. Hickey pondered the near bankruptcy of Minsk and looked south to where the black gold gushed. On 12 December, 2012, Pat's EOC voted the first European Games to Baku.

Lukashenko and Aliyev: Hello & Goodbye to Hickey's SportsFest 
THE ALIYEV government embodies "organised crime." Who says so? An American diplomat in Baku in a secret report to Washington in September 2009. He had consulted sources inside the government before writing a detailed – and sometime hilarious – description of how Mafia politics and business work in Azerbaijan.

The report, circulated by Wikileaks, says President Ilham Aliyev is two men. "Michael Corleone on the outside, Sonny on the inside," said the diplomat.

"Sonny is brash, impulsive, and puts blind faith in force to address affronts to the Corleone family. For him, business is personal," wrote America's man in Baku. "Sonny refuses to contemplate a present or a future in which the Corleone family does not dominate . . . His goal appears to be a political environment in which the Aliyev dynasty is unchallenged."

That explains the vicious beatings, jailing and murders. If you must come to the Baku Games don't offend Sonny the Godfather sulking in the Presidential Palace. Be warned that if "Aliyev perceives a challenge to his authority or affronts to his family dignity, even minor ones, he and his inner circle are apt to react (or overreact)" with "crude retaliation."

Thug, Prince, Pauper
The "Michael Corleone on the outside" in his tailored suits and speaking perfect English negotiates with oil corporations, throws parties at Davos with the IOC's Pat Hickey and Prince Albert of Monaco cozying up to him and spends a fortune on massive international public relations campaigns to obscure his sordid "Sonny" image.

He is also "a talented balancer of alliances." That's a polite way of saying that the spoils from robbing the state and its vast oil wealth are shared equitably between the leading Families - including the First Lady's clan, the Pashayev Family, said to be the most powerful commercial family in the land.

Pat Hickey and his desperate need to overlord a European sports event ticked all their boxes. It would be immensely profitable for the families and generate warm soft images with the pliant international sports press as he bowed and scraped to Mehriban.

Europe's top gangster
The US Government view of Michael/Sonny was reinforced in public at the end of 2012 when the Sarajevo-based Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), a collective of classy investigative journalists working across Eastern Europe, applauded President Aliyev as their "Man of the Year."

They had acquired well-documented evidence that his family has secret ownership stakes in the country’s largest businesses including banks, construction companies, gold mines and phone companies. Maybe he was "Thief of the Year."

Meet Azerbaijan's First Lady, president of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassadorchair of the Organizing Committee of the Eurovision Song Contest, winner of the 2014 "Olympic Excellence" Special Honorary Prize of the International Olympic Academy for promotion of Olympic values, vice-president of the Azerbaijan National Olympic Committee, Member of the Azerbaijani Parliament, vice-president of the ruling YAP – Yeni Azerbaijan Party – (take breath ) . . .  Chairperson of the Baku 2015 European Games Organizing Committee, Mehriban Aliyeva, neé Pashayev.

First Lady and the company she keeps
It was prescient of Mehriban to take the Presidency of the Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation in 2002. These Games feature Rhythmic and Artistic Gymnastics in the spectacular new National Gymnastic Arena, described by the Financial Times as "a delightful essay in architecture parlante," built by Pasha Construction. Yes, its her clan and their conglomerate includes several banks, including Pasha Bank, Pasha Insurance, a TV station and much, much more. They are probably the richest tribe in this land, the size of Ireland but with twice the oil of Texas.

Mehriban and Michael – and sometimes Sonny – live well, according to another Wiki-leaked US embassy cable"There appeared to be an eerie sense of disconnect between President Aliyev's personal, private residence and the socioeconomic conditions for average Baku residents,” reported the ambassador in 2007. He and other diplomats were taken aback at the "ostentatious display and opulence" at the ruling couple's beach-front dacha with its "stunning" views of the Caspian.

Mehriban's profitable gymnastics hall 
The bus carrying them "sped toward the Presidential dacha through roads that were completely cleared of traffic." Lunch took four hours and "guests were treated to plenty of caviar, sturgeon, and wine, interspersed with frequent vodka/wine toasts . . . There were several underground saunas and an enormous indoor swimming pool. An indoor fountain and gold trimming throughout underscored the extravagance."

Reviewing his day the ambassador commented, "It is unclear whether Aliyev understands or is concerned with the sharp contrast between his life and that of average Azerbaijani citizens, many of whom are struggling."

The First Lady's PR machine wants us know that "Mehriban Aliyeva is committed to use all available opportunities to enhance the efficiency of humanitarian programs benefiting the Azerbaijani people." Maybe she was too busy to read a report in February from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. It dealt with marriages at the age of 12, prostitution, abortions and violence against women in Azerbaijan. The evidence is grim and gets worse because Sonny, trying to isolate his people from the better world beyond his borders, shuts down the NGOs working for women’s rights.

Azerbaijan has one of the highest abortion rates in Central Asia. Around 200,000 abortions were registered in 2012. On average women earn 58% less than men. In the oil and gas industry they earned 38% less.

THE FIRST DAUGHTER, Leyla Aliyeva, now 29, doesn't have to worry about a weekly wage packet. Reportedly, she ran up a £300,000 champagne bill entertaining a dozen girlfriends. The First Family's fleet of private jets shuttle her between luxury homes in London, Moscow and Baku.

Daughters Arzu and Leyla and mother Mehriban
The First Daughter's PR machine wants us know her personal philosophy is, "Releasing the power of youth to create greater harmony with our global environment." Leyla is editor-in-chief of art and fashion magazine Baku, launched in London three years, and delights starring in fashionista shoots with sister Arzu. At other times she paints, writes poetry and represents the Heydar Aliyev Foundation in Russia where Patriarch Kirill bestowed on her the honour of the Holy Order Of St Olga, Apostelian Princess (Third Class).

She is said to be friends with Prince Andrew who has visited Baku a dozen times in recent years to chat with Michael/Sonny. His nephews William and Harry play polo with super-rich Azeris who have made their homes in England. Sadly, polo with not be a sport in these Games.

The First Lady's Pasha Bank invites Princess Diana's former press secretary Patrick Jepson to speak at their seminars on "Building a Global Reputation" and he tells them, "I believe your country is a pearl of tolerance all over the world." Another visitor welcome in Baku is Tony Blair who is reputedly paid up to $150,000 a time to deliver warm and upbeat speeches.

YOU CANNOT HIDE FROM HIM. Fly 70 miles off shore to an island covered in oilrigs and at the heliport there's a giant billboard with a giant portrait of the National Leader, the Father of the Nation, the Architect of the People's Freedoms. Onshore he is watching you on every street in every town and city. This wise and kindly man – let's not linger on Heydar Aliyev's service in Soviet times as a Stalinist KGB enforcer – looms over every aspect of life in Azerbaijan. His image overhangs main roads on high gantries, he is watchful outside the Central Bank - even though he died in 2003.
When this little boy grows up, he will be a Great Leader 
One of the biggest hoardings, again over a major road into Baku, shows the Father of the Nation followed one step behind by current President Ilham. Behind them is the grandson, little Heydar. Sonny is determined the boy will succeed him at the Presidential Palace. Barely up to dad’s elbow he is already a real estate genius owning, according to the Washington Post, $44million worth of villas in distant Dubai. With his two big sisters, Leyla and Arzu they have $75 million worth of Gulf property registered in their names.

Every meeting room, public and private, has a prominent portrait of Heydar Aliyev. Hard-eyed in military uniform, strong in a suit or benevolent in evening dress. His image oversees foreign delegations, university lecture halls, army conference rooms.

Schoolbooks mould young minds with reverential mentions of the Wise Leader, the Great Leader who will be remembered forever. His grim image looms over the Home Page of the Ministry of Education website.

Big Brother is watching you
The National Academy of Sciences has a department devoted to studies of Heydar Aliyev. It takes a compassionate view of his career as a KGB general, first secretary of Azerbaijan’s Communist Party, a member of the Moscow Politburo, Azerbaijan's President from 1993 to 2003. His earlier years working with the traditional mafia brought his first riches from Caspian Sea caviar and looting customs revenues is now erased. 

Visitors arrive at the Heydar Aliyev International Airport and encounter Heydar Aliyev Avenue, Heydar Aliyev ArenaHeydar Aliyev Park, Heydar Aliyev Sports and Exhibition Complex. They will be steered to the $250 million Heydar Aliyev Centre, designed by Zaha Hadid.

Leave the country and you can't escape Aliyev statues in Turkey, Georgia, Egypt, Iraq, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Ukraine, Serbia, Romania, Mexico, Canada and Moldova. That oil money goes a long way.

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