For more than 26 years, Vasif Talybov has been keeping Nakhchivan in a tight grip.
Those arrested during his reign were subjected to beatings and various tortures. Dissidents were forced into psychiatric hospitals. He also used his power to silence the independent media. Journalists and activists who criticized Talybov’s rule were subjected to pressure and arrests or were forced to leave the country.
Vasif Talybov’s official salary is less than $26,000 a year. And his sons are registered in low-paid government positions: Rza works in the migration service, and Seymour is a member of the Nakhchivan parliament.
Vasif Talybov came to power thanks to his marriage to Sevil Sultanova. Her mother’s uncle was none other than Heydar Aliyev, who held a high post back in Soviet times.
In the early 90s, on the eve of the collapse of the USSR, Aliyev returned from Moscow to Nakhchivan. He had nowhere to live there, and Talybov settled his wife’s relative in his two-bedroom apartment. The very next year, Aliyev thanked him for his hospitality – becoming the chairman of the Nakhchivan parliament, he made Talybov his assistant.
Talybov at that time was only thirty years old. Later, in one of his interviews, Heydar Aliyev said that he doubted whether he would cope with such a responsible position. But Talybov, they say, proved that a person devoted to his homeland, nation and people, regardless of age, is capable of great things.
In honor of the 60th anniversary of Vasif Talibov, the local news agency Nahçıxan named his “great patriot, resolute, courageous and humane”, as well as “extremely modest”.
In the international media, Talybov’s name is more often mentioned in the context of the strict rules he set: for example, a strong recommendation to local residents read Hemingway, ban dry clothes on the balcony or prohibiting government employees wearing patterned socks.
Because of all these rules, Nakhchivan has gained several “nicknames”: opposition activists call it the “North Korea of Azerbaijan”, and international organizations – “Black Island Country”.
An American diplomat who made a business visit to Nakhchivan later described the region as Talybov’s “khanate” in a letter to his Washington leadership. “Nakhchivan is a world turned upside down”, – described he his impressions.
According to data released recently, while the population of Nakhchivan is barely making ends meet under Talybov’s authoritarian rule, his sons Rza and Seymur opened accounts in foreign banks and stole more than $20 million through dubious money transfers .
Earlier, the Center for Corruption and Organized Crime Research (OCCRP) identified two large-scale money laundering mechanisms called Azerbaijan and Troika. The shell offshore companies of the Talybov brothers were also part of these mechanisms, through which large sums of money were transferred to their bank accounts. After analyzing these transfers, a financial crime expert came to the conclusion that there are reasons to consider these transactions suspicious, and this should not have escaped the attention of the banks.
Over the following years, the Talybov brothers purchased $63 million worth of real estate in Dubai and Georgia.
Unthinkable round sums were regularly transferred to their accounts – for example, 500 thousand dollars at a time. These transactions were explained in a very abstract way: either “metal”, then “metal parts”, then “electrical equipment”. At the end of 2012, the brothers received a total of about $20 million.
As already mentioned, all these millions ended up in the pockets of Talybov’s sons with the help of money laundering schemes. Previous OCCRP investigations revealed that the mechanism was used by Azerbaijani elites, including President Ilham Aliyev’s cousin. Now this famous list can be replenished with the Talybov family, who is also related to the president.
What exactly the Talybovs spent this money on is not indicated, but they began to spend it soon after the start of transactions.
The bank accounts to which the transfers were made were opened in the largest banks in different countries of the world, such as Emirates NBD, Barclays andCredit Suisse. And all these banks either denied the claims made against them, or stated that they could not provide information regarding individual clients.
In 2008, Rza Talybov, together with his mother, cousin, and several entrepreneurs, founded a bank. Four years later, as transactions peaked, Rza purchased two adjacent buildings in the southern Georgia resort town of Batumi and converted them into five-star hotels.
Along with Rza and Seymour, their sister Bakharkhanym Talybova also earned about a million dollars through these frauds with front companies.
After that, the family bought a luxury villa in Dubai, a 12-storey hotel, several apartments and other real estate. The total value of their real estate is estimated at 63 million dollars.
Talybov is strangling Nakhchivan not only in the political sense. This family is said to dominate the local economy as well. Experts say the Talibovs are restricting imports , displace competitors and even force the population to work in the harvest.
A Nakhchivan living in exile says that many products in the region are produced under the Talybov brand Gəmiqaya Holdinq. This holding also participated in the construction and repair of dozens of public facilities located in Nakhchivan, such as ministry buildings, hospitals, universities, and a mosque.
But all this property was not “lit up” in any way on the pages of the Talybov brothers in social networks. Unlike the children of some authoritarian leaders, Rza and Seymour do not brag about their wealth to their “friends” and followers, but instead write posts about their love for their homeland, about their father’s successes and devotion to President Ilham Aliyev.
Last year, Rza Talybov shared a quote from Ilham Aliyev on his Twitter page, apparently wanting to show how simple and modest the regime is.
“Traditions, values and way of life are our wealth”, read the quote cited by Rza, written in capital letters.
He did not list other riches.