Prince Andrew enjoyed “caviar diplomacy” from an autocratic nation, including lavish hospitality, private flights and a blind Russian masseuse.
- Prince Andrew: The Azerbaijani dictatorship was using a full-spectrum influence campaign to sway Western opinion in its favour.
- Since 1991, about 20 billion pounds was invested by the UK into the former Soviet state, according to the Daily Mail.
- Moreover, the royal met with the autocratic president of Azerbaijan 12 times.
- Caviar diplomacy is used to improve a country’s image in the eyes of the world.
- Plus reports of Azerbaijan lobbying of Prince William and Prince Harry to host a polo match in the country.
Prince Andrew: The former soviet nation courted the Duke of York with lavish hospitality and declared him the “Dear Guest”, travel records, media reports and anti-corruption reports show.
From flights on the president’s jet to gifts of the fishy delicacy, they rolled out the red carpet for Prince Andrew.
Azerbaijan is a nation where you can bathe in crude oil to improve your health. Or just because you can, if you have the money.
There is no evidence the royal engaged in inappropriate behaviour. But he spent time with unsavoury people.
Critics are accusing the Azerbaijani government of carrying out a “full-spectrum influence campaign” in the West. This includes lobbying, PR, lavish gifts, and junkets.
The goal of this campaign was to sway Western opinion and it appeared to have worked.
In recent years, the nation enjoyed increasing support from the UK.
Prince Andrew was an advocate for closer ties with Azerbaijan.
This was despite reports of widespread torture and repression in the nation.
According to The Economist, caviar diplomacy diverts “attention abroad from its (a nation’s) human-rights record and discourage the opposition at home”. In the case of Azerbaijan, through lavish extravaganzas and high-end lobbying.”
Why is this relevant? Jeffrey Epstein described Prince Andrew as a “useful idiot.”
The royal linked him up with contacts who wanted deals in obscure countries, according to biographer Tina Brown.
Epstein would fly Prince Andrew to meet governments who could not refuse to see him because he was a royal. The now-dead pedophile would come with him as an ‘investment adviser’ to His Royal Highness.
Moreover, Epstein would then negotiate deals for his personal gain.
During his time as UK special representative, Prince Andrew helped negotiate several energy deals, according to The Economist.
In 2017, Britain was the largest investor in Azerbaijan, mainly through BP oil and companies related to resources.
As well, the UK has invested about 20 billion pounds in the country.
According to The Daily Mail: “In Azerbaijan, Prince Andrew is routinely described as a ‘dear guest’ by the leader of a country that ranks as one of the most corrupt in the world on the Transparency Index.
President Ilham Aliyev took the royal to his spa, which employed the blind masseur, described as the best in the world.
Moreover, former UK PM Tony Blair had a private meeting with Prince Andrew in 2009 after they stayed in the same hotel in Baku.
Andrew was on a private three-day visit ‘with an element of work’. But he had previously established a wealth of contacts while promoting British business interests in his envoy role.
Prince Andrew was in 2014 censured for sneaking off twice to Azerbaijan.
Moreover, the Duke of York flew by private jet to meet President Aliyev. The royal stayed in the capital, Baku, during one ‘private’ trip.
A British Government source tipped off the pressure group, Platform, which campaigns against abuses associated with the energy industry.
Its spokesman, Emma Hughes, accused the prince of having a ‘cosy relationship’ with the President.
The Duke of York had also summoned Britain’s Ambassador to Azerbaijan for a meeting at Buckingham Palace.
Prince Andrew made eight visits to Azerbaijan in six years. Two were private, arousing suspicions he has business interests there, including a golf complex. There was a total of 12 jaunts to Baku.
The business claims have been vigorously denied by Buckingham Palace. Categorically. Vehemently. Absolutely denied.
At Andrew’s 60th party, a friend of Aliyev donated caviar and a monster bottle of wine. The links don’t stop there – the friend’s wife is the President’s niece.
The donor, Soheil Dadfar, was thanked on the menu. It just happened to drop into the hands of The Daily Mail.
So what does the President of Azerbaijan want from his caviar diplomacy? Well one thing you can do is launder money overseas.
According to a report from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, the regime parked money in London. The President and two daughters — Leyla and Arzu — own a penthouse in London worth $26 million.
Finally, Prince Andrew is friends with Layla.
In 2021, The Guardian reported The Queen’s estate launched a review into a £67m London property, bought from the family.
The Pandora papers revealed a network of offshore companies linked to Aliyev and associates. They traded £400m of UK property over 15 years.
Properties include a London mansion worth $25 million, a flat near Hyde Park worth $8 million, nine waterfront mansions in Dubai valued at $44 million, a dacha near Moscow worth $37 million, and a villa in the Czech spa town of Karlovy Vary worth $ 1.1 million.
These are just “the known properties”.
But it’s not just about money.
The Economist: “The government practises a revolving-door policy with critics, locking them up and releasing them when it is expedient.”
But Azerbaijan wants more than honorary membership of the European community. Exactly what that is remains unclear.
Moreover, the nation faces increased sanctions and is finding it difficult to steal from its people and launder money. This is due to human rights, money laundering and election rigging.
But whatever it does, it involves oil, property and the provision of caviar.