This week, The New Yorker’s Adam Davidson published a remarkable investigation into Donald Trump’s allegedly suspect dealings in Azerbaijan.
An attempt by the property tycoon to develop a Trump Hotel in the capital of Batu has been scrutinised following allegations by Davidson that Mr Trump's business partners in the country may have had ties to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
Plans to convert an existing structure in Azerbaijan’s Baku into a Trump branded tower began in 2008.
Then in 2012, the Trump organisation signed a contract to turn it into an “ultra-luxury property’ called Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku - two years later a public announcement from the Trump organisation confirmed this.
According to the latest figures from the Corruption Perceptions Index, Azerbaijan scores high on the corruption scale list, coming in at 123 out of 170 countries.
The Trump organisation conducted business with Transport Minister Ziya Mammadov and his family.
Of the Mammadovs, Davidson writes:
For years, it has been financially entangled with a family tied to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which has been identified as a major supporter of international terrorism.
Sanctions against Iran.
The US imposed economic sanctions on Iran following the revolution in 1979 and lifted them only in 2015 as part of Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal. Trumps’ anti-Iran stance was cemented with an announcement to sanction 13 people and 12 entities following Iran’s testing of its ballistic missile programme.
Allegations of corruption.
According to Davidson, the Transport Minister gave a number of contracts to an Iranian construction company called Azarpassillo. Chaired by a former Iranian soldier called Keyumars Darvishi, he once headed Iranian construction firm Raman, which was a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
Alleged links between the family and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard have been widely publicised. One Wikileaks cable from the US embassy of Azerbaijan in March 2009 states:
Kamal Darvishi, [Kamal's brother] formerly ran the 'Nasr' company, an alleged Revolutionary Guard-controlled business in Iran. Some of his business activities and networking reportedly aroused suspicion, resulting in his official "retirement" from the Revolutionary Guard.
The cable goes on to claim that Darvishi had developed “close ties” with Ziya Mammedov, who helped him get a number of road construction contracts.
Mammedov's immediate family owns Azerbaijan's largest commercial development company, and he is notoriously corrupt even for Azerbaijan. Iran watcher has heard many allegations from Azerbaijani contacts of creative corrupt practices involving highway construction here.
The Trump Organisation’s chief legal officer, Alan Garten, said the now - President was “merely a licensor,” who gave permission to Mammadov’s company for use of his name, and his involvement in the hotel’s construction was minimal.
The Trump Organisation withdraws from the deal.
In April 2015 the hotel was set to open, and Ivanka Trump said she was eager to relish in the “huge spa area” with the promise that it was to open in June.
In December 2016 The Trump Organisation cancelled the licencing agreement, which Garten described as “regular housekeeping”.