Azerbaijan's ruling elite operated a secret $2.8 billion slush fund for two years to pay off European politicians and make luxury purchases, according to an investigative report publicized by news media on September 4.
Thousands of payments allegedly were channelled through four companies in the United Kingdom to European politicians and other people who did favors for the Baku government, although the recipients may not have been aware of where the money came from, according to an investigation carried out by a consortium of European newspapers and published by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).
The secret fund was nicknamed the Azerbaijani Laundromat and operated for two years until 2014, the investigation found, according to the BBC and Guardian newspaper.
The origin of the money was unclear, but there was "ample evidence of its connection to the family of President Ilham Aliyev," the report said.
There was no immediate reaction from Aliyev or Azerbaijan's government.
At the time the payments allegedly took place, the oil-rich state was accused of systematic corruption, vote-rigging, and other abuses, including the jailing of opposition politicians, human rights activists, and journalists.
The investigation found that much of the money was paid to European lobbyists, journalists, politicians, and businessmen, while some of the cash funded luxuries such as private education for well-connected Azeri families living abroad.