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Azerbaijan's Undue Influence Exposed As Texas Congressman Indicted On Bribery & Corruption

Updated: May 9

Washington, DC - Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX), Co-Chair of the Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus, was indicted today by the Justice Department on charges involving unlawful foreign influence, bribery and money laundering in connection to the Government of Azerbaijan, reported the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly).

"Countries like Azerbaijan spread around money, and they corrupt our system of democracy," said Assembly Co-Chairs Van Krikorian and Anthony Barsamian. "There needs to be a broader investigation in relation to these charges and who else may be tied to Azerbaijan's corrupt modes of operation. For years now, Azerbaijan and Turkey have had their hands dirty in having undue influence over Members of Congress, including a previous investigation of funding secret trips for elected officials."

The indictment stated that Rep. Cuellar and his wife took $600,000 in bribes from Azerbaijan's government, which were "allegedly laundered, pursuant to sham consulting contracts, through a series of front companies and middlemen into shell companies owned by Imela Cuellar, who performed little to no legitimate work under the contracts," according to the Justice Department.

In exchange for the bribes paid by the Azerbaijani oil and gas company, Rep. Cuellar "promised to use the power and prestige of his office to advance Azerbaijan's and Foreign Bank-1's interests in the United States," the indictment said, which included Rep. Cuellar "advocating for greater Azerbaijani control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region that borders Armenia, working on immigration issues for an Azerbaijani citizen and promoting Azerbaijan as a U.S. ally, according to the indictment."

Over the years, Rep. Cuellar communicated with foreign officials about language in the National Defense Authorization Act, appropriations bills and speeches he planned to give in Congress, and other matters, the indictment stated, including one specific exchange when the unnamed foreign diplomat asked Rep. Cuellar to ask an unnamed House member - a member of the Congressional Armenian Caucus - to withdraw an amendment that would pay to remove land mines from the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Azerbaijan has exhibited a pattern of influencing foreign governments, including the Azeri Laundromat, and its use of caviar diplomacy.

Rep. Cuellar and his wife each face a number of federal criminal charges, including five counts of money laundering, two counts of bribery of a federal official, and two counts of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, according to the Justice Department.

The Assembly has consistently raised concerns about Azerbaijan's blatant foreign influence peddling, and in a 2015 letter to the Department of Justice requested a "full and thorough investigation" and "the full application of the law."

Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.



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