Since October 2015, after the Ministry of National Security (MNS) was closed down, the Prosecutor General Office has received hundreds of complaints against employees of the former ministry. Most of the plaintiffs claimed ministry officers had slandered, imprisoned, or stripped of large sums of money and property from them. The plaintiffs also claimed the MNS threatened them with arrests or taking secret videos of them. Later on, some of the plaintiffs took their case to the courts and were examined as victims of the ministry officers. The plaintiffs were even able to confront the men whom they claimed had taken money away from them. Many plaintiffs, however, failed to reach that point.
Twenty-one people from the ministry were prosecuted in connection with the "MNS case.” Among them were generals of various departments of the ministry: chief executive of the Transport and Energy Security head office Akif Chovdarov, Monitoring Centre director Teymur Guliyev, chief executive of the Department for Combating Transboundary Economic Crimes Subahir Gurbanov, chief of Anti-terror Centre Elchin Guliyev, also head of the Operation-Technical Department Natavan Murvatova 20 of those 21 people were detained, and Natavan Mürvətova, the only woman among the defendants, was ordered as a precaution to remain under the condition not to leave during the investigation and trial period.
Colonel Ilgar Aliyev, deputy chief of the Anti-terrorist Center, was one of those arrested as the result of the operation by Prosecutor General Office in MNS, and committed suicide in prison shortly after his arrest, December 20, 2015. Criminal cases of the other 20 defendants were divided into several parts and were sent to court separately. Akif Chovdarov and three people who worked under his command were convicted. Elchin Guliyev together with his former employee Azer Mehdiyev also appeared before court. The cases of Vusal Alakbarov, deputy chief of the Investigation Department of the MNS, and former head of Counterintelligence Office Miraziz Askerov, were considered separately. The remaining 12 cases, including generals Teymur Guliyev, Natavan Murvatova, and Subahir Gurbanov are being considered together. All the other trials, except for the cases of 12 former MNS officers, have concluded. They were sentenced from 3 to 12 years in prison. At the same time, sending a statement to the relevant state bodies for revoking their ranks were also reflected in the sentence.
While the trials of several arrested MNS officers were coming to an end, there was another man arrested related to the same case. He was assistant to the former National Security minister, Vugar Mahmudov. Mahmudov, at the same time, is a cousin of the former minister. Preliminary investigation of his case is ongoing.
Appropriation of budget money and claims worth millions of AZN
When the cases of MNS officers were divided, victims were also divided based on episodes. That is, the victims for each group's case were different. Although the victims testified against the accused and demanded their punishment, their primary purpose was to reclaim the money that, they claimed, had been taken away from them. This purpose was declared in court. Thus, three civil actions were raised in the court for compensation of damages.
In the MNS case, along with the victims among the civil plaintiffs, there is the State Security Service as well, which was created from the former ministry's base. Hence one of the charge episodes is about the appropriation of millions allocated from the budget for intelligence and operations. Filed civil lawsuits included 2.917 million AZN in the Chovdarovs' court case, 7.736 million AZN in Elchin Guliyev's case, and one milion AZN in the other 11 persons' case. At the end of both Akif Chovdarov and Elchin Guliyev's trials, civil claims were granted, and state confiscated the the property of the accused MNS members. The result of the civil lawsuit for one million AZN is yet unknown, as the trial of 12 people is currently on-going.
The problem is that, while the claims of State Security Service were provided, the victims were shown a different attitude on this issue. Out of more than a hundred victims, only one civil claim was granted. This one lawsuit was Akif Gurbanov's, one of the victims in the case of MNS colonel Vusal Alakbarov.
Akif Gurbanov, who is the head of several construction companies, is also the father of Vugar Gurbanov, the former chief of the 13th district police department. Vugar Gurbanov was a police chief at the time the accident occurred. According to the case materials, it was Vugar Gurbanov who gave 1 million AZN to Vusal Alakbarov to release his father from MNS custody.
There were many other victims in the Alakbarov case. It turned out that, during the MNS's 2012 investigation into "Texnikabank," some of the victims had possessed a large amount of money in their bank accounts. Those persons were arrested thereafter. In the criminal case materials, it is recorded they were kept in custody for about a month and half to two months and were released after their relatives collected and brought the demanded amount of money. Nizami Kazimov and Huseyn Safarov, who had also been in custody, claim two million AZN had been appropriated from their relatives during their custody. Later, the victims raised civil claims for the amount of money which had not been fulfilled by the court.
In general, victims of such MNS actions were unhappy with the results and the court sentences and thus filed an appeal. Baku Court of Appeal currently is considering their complaints. They are chiefly unhappy about not receiving full compensation for the damages incurred on them.
"We have sold everything, mortgaged our homes to banks..."
"I was illegally arrested and kept in a custody for two months. They released me after my family brought the money. When my son brought money for my release to MNS, he was only 18 years old. Two million is not the amount one could gather straight away. They sold everything we had, mortgaged our houses. All of my three children lost their houses to the bank. I had to sell my own. And I still cannot get rid of the debt. So what is there for me in this process if I am not able to get my money back? On what basis did they seize my property?” Huseyn Safarov, a victim, said.
The criminal court stated that the victim businessmen’s civil suits were not fulfilled because the victims had given the money to MNS officers as a bribe, and a lawsuit related to bribery can be resolved in a civil procedure.
As far as Akif Gurbanov's case was concerned, and in respect to the fact only his civil lawsuit was ensured, the court came to the conclusion the money had been appropriated from the victim through intimidation.
In the court's verdict, victims are advised to raise civil complaints against the accused. This is what made victims displeased.
"And this is what we got at the end."
"This decision damages the court and the country's reputation. The whole verdict is concluded simply with a piece of advice to raise a civil complaint. Here they want to say that, yes, you have suffered damages, yes, Elchin Guliyev, Azer Mehdiyev caused these damages, but you should solve this in the form of a civil complaint. Why were there arrests and revocations in relation to Elchin Guliyev and his company, if we just raised civil complaints? Colonel Azer Mehdiyev's five-room flat was confiscated in favor of the state. And what about our money and property? Who is going to share our grief? We have been waiting for the result for two years. And this is what we got at the end. So they kept us waiting to make such decision after all,” said Magsud Mahmudov, on the victims of Elchin Guliyev's case
"The market took the name of Farhad Aliyev, it was taken from our hands."
Other victims of the MNS case were the Safarov brothers: Salman, Jafar, Safar, and Qehraman, who were also unhappy with the result. According to the case materials, the Safarov brothers were forcibly brought to the MNS building, where they were beaten and intimidated, as the result of when the "8-ci kilometr" market was appropriated by the MNS officers. The marketplace was divided between Akif Chovdarov and the former deputy minister Hilal Asadov. Fifty percent of the shares were transferred on behalf of Chovdarov's daughter, the other half to Asadov's wife. But in the verdict of Chovdarov's case, it was decided that the marketplace is to be held by the state, instead of being returned to Safarov brothers. This outraged the Safarov brothers. As Salman Safarov said, the court came to the conclusion the marketplace was forcibly taken by the former minister of economic development Farhad Aliyev from its true owners in the first place, and then it was handed to the brothers to control.
But Salman Safarov does not agree with what is written: "We do not have any relations with Farhad Aliyev. The high court could not provide any evidence that would prove the contrary. But in the verdict, they stated it was owned by Farhad Aliyev, so it goes to the state. If the market indeed belonged to Farhad Aliyev, then they should have called him in and asked him about this in the court. They did not. They gave to the state what was used to be ours and was taken from us by robbery, after they falsely attributed it to Farhad Aliyev."
"Life sentence for Chovdarov"
The brothers also displeased with the fact that Akif Chovdarov has only been given 12 years of imprisonment. In the appeal, they demanded heavier punishment for Chovdarov and asked for a life sentence. Another demand of the Safarov brothers is for the former deputy minister, Hilal Asadov, to also be prosecuted by the court. "Although it is confirmed in the case materials that Hilal Asadov misappropriated 50 percent of the marketplace, he still has not been charged and gotten away from the responsibility. Why?"
Many of the victims voiced their protest, in their testimonies, related to the fact that neither the former minister, Eldar Mahmudov, nor the chief of the Investigation Department of MNS, Movlan Shikhaliyev, were prosecuted. The issues related to the abovementioned generals also were also reflected in the verdict of MNS colonel Vusal Alekperov. The decision regarding their investigation was sent to the Prosecutor General Office. Half a year has passed since that decision was made, but there is still no result.
"How come all four of the people detained in MNS custody ended up as heart patients?"
There is a group of people related to the "MNS case," who are dissatisfied generally with the investigation process, and with the prosecution of the persons who allegedly inflicted damages on them. One of them is the close relative of deceased Jahangir Mammadov. Jahangir Mammadov committed suicide after the house he had mortgaged to pay the MNS was taken away from him. He first cut open his veins after the court ruling, in which his family home was seized, but was saved from the suicide attempt. He thereafter stabbed himself in the heart area, only to be taken hospital. When he woke up and saw that he was still alive, he committed suicide by throwing himself out of the hospital room's window.
Jahangir Mammadov was arrested along with five other people. Four of them have been unsuccessfully knocking on different state bodies and courts’ doors for a long time, in order to punish those responsible and reclaim their money. They say they have sent more than ten letters and telegrams to the president, but there is no result.
According to their claims, in March 2013, they bought firecrackers from China in order to sell them in Georgia. They later faced some difficulty selling the goods in Georgia. As such, they decided to take them to Iran where there are no restrictions on the sale of fireworks. To this end, documentation for the transit of goods from Azerbaijan to Iran was put in order. After crossing the Azerbaijani border, the goods were sent to the Astara customs office, accompanied by local customs officials. On the way, the truck was stopped by MNS officers, who asserted that they are going to take the truck with them, which had been sealed and was under the control of customs officers. The fact that all documents for transit were in order was ignored: the goods were seized and the owners were detained.
"The real goal was to get a lot of money from us through force. After they kept us in jail for a significant period of time, they took 50,000 AZN from me and Orkhan Abdullayev, Afsal Gasanaliev had to pay 32,000 AZN, and Jahangir Mammadov paid 80,000 AZN in turn. After receiving the money, on the same day, they received expert opinions that all four of us were suffering from heart disease and released us. The remaining two people, who did not have money to pay, were illegally arrested for one year and released thereafter. How could it be possible that all four people suddenly had heart disease problems?” asked Sardar Ismailov.