“La Caviar Connection”, on Arte: full powers and dark ideas in Azerbaijan


Among the Aliev, in Azerbaijan, we like power. Absolute and without opposition of preference. Having become independent in 1991, the former Soviet Republic on the shores of the Caspian Sea was ruled for more than ten years by Heydar Aliev. In 2003, upon his death, his son Ilham succeeded him. Since then, the latter has been re-elected three times (2008, 2013, 2018) to the post of president, following rigged elections. Political prisoners inside, flourishing business with the Western powers outside, thanks in particular to oil money, Ilham Aliev plays on all fronts.

To stay in power and prosper, to buy an image of respectability with Western democracies, the Aliev family practices what is called “caviar diplomacy” (luxury dishes of which the country is one of the main producers. ). Members of the European Parliament invited to monitor and “validate” the elections are paid handsomely. Stars like Lady Gaga or Jennifer Lopez come to Baku and pocket hundreds of thousands of dollars. International sports competitions are organized to show the whole world that the country knows how to host.

Enlightening testimonials

This documentary divided into two parts with explicit titles (The power of money and The march to corruption), signed Benoît Bringer and Laurent Richard, details this vast system of corruption. In 2015, Laurent Richard had already carried out a survey (My president is on a business trip) on the strange relations between certain French elected officials and the unsavory regime of Ilham Aliev.

In this new documentary benefiting from illuminating testimonies such as those of investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova, activist Emin Huseynov or former diplomat Arif Mammadov, we note with concern the fragility of democratic institutions in the face of a system of corruption. elaborated.

In 2013, a report on political prisoners in Azerbaijan was rejected by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, an institution whose mission is to ensure respect for human rights. Christoph Strässer, rapporteur at the time, tells how dozens of European parliamentarians, suddenly mobilized, voted against this report. Aliyev’s money is visibly more effective than love of democracy …

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A valuable whistleblower from within the system, Arif Mammadov, former diplomat with the Council of Europe, decided to speak. He explains how, from 2010, the regime set up a sophisticated money laundering structure. And underlines that the regime has 30 million euros to bribe European politicians. After years of silence, international investigations lead to convictions, such as that of the conservative Italian parliamentarian Luca Volonte or his German colleague Eduard Lintner, corrupted by the Baku regime.

In January 2020, a second report on political prisoners was finally adopted by the Council of Europe. In March of that same year, 38 of them were released by the government. To date, 14 members of the Council of Europe have been excluded for life following the revelations made in particular in 2017 by The world and ten other European publications. The “caviar connection” is still far from being dismantled.

The Caviar Connection, by Benoît Bringer and Laurent Richard (Fr., 2021, 2 x 55 min). On Arte.tv until December 3


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