Minister of Foreign Affairs: Jeyhun Bayramov's Family Business [Investigation]

Minister of Foreign Affairs: Jeyhun Bayramov's Family Business [Investigation] Minister of Foreign Affairs Jeyhun Bayramov
12 İyun 2024
Mətni dəyiş

When Minister of Foreign Affairs (of Azerbaijan) Jeyhun Bayramov joined the civil service in 2013, he was serving as a director in a private law firm. As per the law, a public official must completely withdraw from a business relationship upon assuming their public duties. However, there are evidences that Mr. Bayramov has not entirely divested from the "OMNI" company, in which he has held a significant share over the past 10 years.

He is still listed as the company's managing partner on some global platforms. Another noteworthy aspect is that the company pays dividends to its shareholders in millions of manats continuous participation in government procurements successfully. Jeyhun Bayramov is one of the three co-founders of a company that operates in the fields of law and consulting services. According to the company's website, it was established in 2002. However, official sources confirm that the company was registered in November 2003.

The minister's official separation from the company did not occur immediately when he took the office. On May 30, 2013, Jeyhun Bayramov was appointed the chief of staff of the Ministry of Education. On the same day, at the annual general meeting of shareholders held at Bridge Plaza, the issue of his resignation from the company due to his transition to the civil service was not discussed. The shareholders only addressed Jeyhun Bayramov's dismissal at the meeting held on September 17th - a month after his appointment as Deputy Minister of Education.

After stepping down as director of the "OMNI", Jeyhun Bayramov retained his shares in the joint-stock company until at least May 10, 2017. Exactly one year later, during a meeting on May 10, 2018, his wife Aygun Huseyn gizi Bayramova was announced as the owner of 30 percent of the shares among the five shareholders, replacing Jeyhun Bayramov. At that time, Jeyhun Bayramov had been appointed as the Minister of Education.

Before taking up the position at the Ministry of Education, Jeyhun Bayramov had left another company, Omni Legal and Consultancy Services Ltd., an offshore company. The company was established in August 2009 in the British Virgin Islands by Jeyhun Bayramov and Roman Alloyarov, his business partner in Baku. However, as indicated in the "Panama Papers", the company was set up indirectly with the assistance of the Panama law firm "Mossack Fonseca" and the Panama "Brotherhood Foundation". There is no information  in open sources about the type of legal assistance this offshore company operating in Switzerland has  provided. It is only known that the company ceased operations a few days before Jeyhun Bayramov assumed the position at the Ministry of Education, specifically on April 30, 2013.

As for the "OMNI" company in Baku, based on its annual reports, the company is a small law firm that had 5-7 employees in previous years and  12 employees in 2021. Despite its small staff, the company has a significant financial turnover by Azerbaijani standards. It's worth noting that the company has many state organizations among its clients.

In the years when Jeyhun Bayramov was a shareholder, the company made a net profit of 452 000 manats in 2013 and 263 000 manats in 2014. The company had over 2.4 million manats in undistributed profit in 2014. Despite "OMNI" CJSC announcing that it wasn't paying dividends to its shareholders during these years, the retained earnings decreased to 1.4 million manats by the end of 2017. However, the company performed reasonably well in the following years.

There are reports stating that in 2020 and 2021, the company paid a total of 1 317 000 manats in dividends to the Bayramov family. The report on the expected outcome for 2022 has not been published yet.

In the area of legal consulting services, "OMNI" CJSC has had multiple interactions with state institutions.

In 2019, the Ministry of Economy signed a contract with “OMNI” for consultancy services on purchase of shares of  US-based "R.V. Investment Group Services”  operating in   Gizilbulaq and Vejnali gold mines. The law firm received 265,000 manats for these services. As per the contract, the OMNI was supposed to provide legal advice on the purchase and sale of a gold deposit. However, the Azerbaijani government did not repossess the deposits it had granted to the US company for exploitation. Instead, in 2022, the government extended its contract area including three additional fields - "Garadagh", "Kharkhar", and "Demirli" non-ferrous metal deposits.

Jeyhun Bayramov's wife is involved in business management, while his 27-year-old son Rahim Bayramli is the executive director of Sabah.lab LLC. The company was established in 2021 under the Education Institute of the Ministry of Science and Education, of which his father was once minister.

Rahim is often introduced as an "entrepreneur and founder of a number of successful startups in Azerbaijan" during official events. Additionally, he serves as one of the two executive directors of Integrity Group. "Integrity Group" is also a partner of "Sabah.Lab". We sent a request to Sabah.lab LLC to inquire about Rahim Bayramli's financial source of his business, but our questions were left unanswered.

Akram Hasanov, an expert in corporate law, believes that Jeyhun Bayramov's ownership of shares in the company highlights a gap in the legislation. Hasanov states that this is not considered a commercial activity and is not prohibited by law. However, the expert emphasizes that Bayramov should have stepped down from the management of the company when he took office.

“”There is the Law on Civil Service which prohibits these individuals from engaging in other activities. If they are found to be engaged in such activities, they should be relieved of their duties. However, in Azerbaijan, government officials are often unofficially involved in commercial and business activities.It can never be determined anywhere,"- said Akram Hasanov.

The "OMNI" law firm did not respond to our inquiry regarding Minister Jeyhun Bayramov's current relationship with the company. Aykhan Hajizade, the press secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, mentioned that he had delivered our questions to the management, but the minister did not respond.


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