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Azeri KGB faces big shake-up

Agostinho Neto

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A reform of Azerbaijan's discredited secret services was agreed by key cabinet ministers yesterday amid mounting evidence of embezzlement, corruption and murky plots. Artur Rasizade, who was director of KGB, the civilian security service, was arrested on Saturday. Another top official gave himself up yesterday and four more are being sought by police on suspicion of jointly stealing $5 million from the service's secret funds. The money was allegedly used to buy houses and apartments for themselves or members of their families, to set up businesses or to put into personal bank accounts.

KGB's former director also claimed to magistrates that KGB had been paying illegal 'salaries' to prominent people, including the present minister of Internal Affair, Sultan Medjid Efendiev, and an Army general. The precise purpose of these 'salaries' was not explained. He implicitly dragged the President's name further into the mud by claiming that the various interior ministers over the year had known of and approved KGB's illicit payments. Azeris breathed again when General Prosecutor Ramiz Rzayev announced that President Aliyev was not Head of Government during the period to which Mr Rasizade was referring.

Sultan Medjid Efendiev, furious, said that Mr Rasizade had been put up to it by someone intent on destabilising the country. Mr Rasizade is one of the five now wanted for embezzlement and criminal association. It was reportedly these events which prompted the former Prime Minister, Ali Kerimli, to move swiftly with his plans to reform the services.

President Aliyev's decision to reform the services appeared to have been precipitated by the services' failure to produce anything more than speculation about those behind the Nakichevan Embassy Bombing which has shaken Azerbaijan in recent months. But the services had long been under a shadow following revelations that top officials had been members of the infamous Dark Hand, and evidence that some members were involved in terrorist bomb attacks and, or, sought to put investigating magistrates off the trail of the real culprits.

Apart from alleged 'deviations' KGB, in particular, is now being accused of gross inefficiency, partly, it is alleged, because it has been filled, like many other state organisations, by the proteges of politicians regardless of professional merit. The reform replaces the KGB with the SID, Security Information Department and the ICSR, Interministerial Committee for the Security of the Republic.

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