A business built on a close alliance with officials is a house built on sand, the house will certainly fall, and the business will certainly be destroyed or taken away.

And the whole recent history of business in Azerbaijan is proof of that. But what if any large business in the country can only arise as a result of collusion between businessmen and individual unclean officials?

Attack on Accord

First Accord

In 2005, I created the Accord Construction, Industrial and Investment Corporation. I already had experience selling everything from gum and soda to granite slabs. A few years later, Accord became the largest construction holding company and one of the largest non-primary companies in the recent history of Azerbaijan. How did I achieve that? Of course, we can say that it's all about my connections with the leadership of the republic.

European mortgage in Azerbaijan

I quickly realized that expensive houses would only go on bribes. Permits for the construction of each house cost 30% of the cost of the house. And that's not the limit. Plus, elite housing was not in mass demand. Wealth was concentrated in the hands of a narrow group of officials and businessmen close to them, and there was no noticeable layer of the middle class in the country.

Together with the largest International Bank of Azerbaijan in the Republic and personally Jahangir Hajiyev (serving his sentence in a fabricated criminal case), Accord has developed and launched its own mortgage program for the purchase of economy class housing "Morgich". The idea was to provide housing at the European level to ordinary Azerbaijanis, people with modest income: yesterday's students, public sector employees, ordinary clerks, self-employed - in general, a wide range of the population. There was no down payment at all. The monthly payment was about $215. Soon after the launch of the country's only affordable mortgage, Accord's revenue and cost literally soared. Demand was ten times higher than supply.

The state mortgage system practically did not work and could not compete with the offer of Accord, and did not want to compete with the offer of Accord. The head of the national bank Elman Rustamov complained about me to the President of Azerbaijan: he tried to present my business as a financial pyramid. To no avail. The President knew me well, because almost every two months we opened a new road with him or a bridge built by the Accord forces. Subsequently, the same Elman Rustamov bought out my ready-made mortgage portfolios and distributed them among Azerbaijani banks.

Recaps and leading world standards

Speaking of the Accord, it is very important to understand: it was a company that combined an incompatible, paradoxical company. On the one hand, the business was based on relations with the family of the President and the leadership of the Republic, the Prosecutor General and other officials, kickbacks and bribes for permits, which reached 30% of the cost of the project.

I didn't get into these games voluntarily. I have never chased non-market privileges and non-competitive benefits. Even the opposite. My whole journey in business to Accord suggests that I'm used to relying only on myself. But the specifics of the construction business I dreamed of then is that without official papers, state permits and permits, no one will allow you to build any structure, especially the larger one. And officials give these permits. In Azerbaijan, as in Russia, it is a huge segment of the economy, opaque, unclean, involved in kickbacks and bribes, and informal agreements with big bosses.

So, we can say that in my case, the very specifics of the business predetermined its nature. But at the same time, surprisingly, I had another image of the future company in my head, separate from reality. This image was completely different, even the opposite of the corrupt foundation on which the Accord stood. I built a European, world-class company that meets leading standards in the field of construction. It was a dissonance that I felt very acutely. But Accord really did have achievements.

Accord and I- dollar billionaires.

Not only has the company collected a whole "coup" of various awards and awards in the field of construction. I'll name just a few of them. In 2012, Accord was awarded the Golden Prize "European Quality 2012" by the International Commercial Association BİD. In April 2012, Accord also won the International Caspian Energy Integration Award - 2012, established by the Caspian-European Integration Business Club (CEIBC) in the category "Construction Company of the Year".

It wasn't just about prizes. Having conquered the construction market of Azerbaijan, Accord led expansion to other countries of the region, began to win contracts and build residential buildings, roads and interchanges in Georgia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkey.

In 2008, three years after the company was founded, auditors from the U.S. Kazimir fund estimated the total cost of Accord at $4 billion. So I, as the owner of the company, suddenly turned into a dollar billionaire.

Of course, such success did not go unnoticed. My partner, Prosecutor Garalov, began to look more and more closely at the company's successes and failures, too.
He only needed an excuse and found it.

Corruption

My secret companion and part-time Prosecutor General of Azerbaijan Zakir Garalov (who acted as a bridge between me and the Aliyev family and other corrupt officials) liked to play a businessman. Garalov often arranged checks for the Chord, the ultimate goal of which was to catch me by the hand. He, like any hypocrite and acquirer, seeing his own vices in others, suspected me of unfair play. I thought I was withdrawing money to the left, in our case, "left" is past him.

The formal reason was the "missing" $100 million, which we actually transferred through Beilar Muallim to the president's family as another setback from construction. Without a doubt, Garalov knew it, he couldn't help but know. But having found the best moment when the degree of discontent with me at the top was as high as possible, he started an audit campaign against Accord at the price of my business.

The audit lasted as long as 2 years. The inspectors literally settled down and started living in the Accord office. I had to be caught in something. Having found no real abuses or theft, they came up with nothing smarter than to start interfering in business processes, managing. It was nonsense. Government official, head of the anti-corruption department Ilgar Abbasov checked Accord and at the same time gave the company's management orders that sooner or later would lead to the success of its verification.

Prosecutor's Office - new Accord office

All my life, I thought everyone should be in their place and do what they do better. The security forces at the helm of Accord were best able to corrupt, threaten, illegally plant, extort bribes, but not manage a successful business. Their stupid activity led to major losses.
Without thinking about the condition of the company, they began to make expensive purchases and rearmament to impress the President. Once profitable enterprises turned into unprofitable enterprises. Seeing how they were confidently leading my life's cause to collapse, I began to openly protest and conflict with Garalov.

Quite quickly, I felt surveillance. Phones were being auditioned. I think they were looking for any clue, anything to fabricate a criminal case against me that could become a trump card in the conflict. Then the company could be taken away for nothing and I would have to go to any conditions. At that time, I estimated Accord's assets at $1 billion, and the portfolio of orders at another $1 billion and 700 million.

In July 2010, right after my birthday, the Attorney General called me to his place. By that time, the Prosecutor General's Office had become the office of the private company Accord. Board meetings were held all the time. The Prosecutor General of the Republic, like a teenager playing Monopoly, played my business, which he had no idea about.

He started a new conversation with me with my wife still attending a Christian sect, and I sponsoring this sect. This cannot be allowed in a formally secular but actually Muslim country. He warned, but I didn't understand. Yes, yes! That's how easy it is to explain to a person why his property should no longer belong to him on the basis of an imaginary conflict of religious beliefs. Otherwise, anything can happen, such as suicide in prison or an accident at will.

In general, it became clear from the conversation: if I want to stay alive, at large and with money, I must retire and rewrite the 51% stake in the company for President Aliyev's family. Their trustee and front owner was Ashraf Kamilov, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of ATA Holding and founder of Synergy Group. He was supervised by the Minister of Taxes, at that time Fazil Mamedov held this post. I was promised regular monthly payments ($100 thousand), as well as part - 25% - of the total profit of the Accord at the end of the year. Until they changed their minds, I agreed, took the tickets and moved to Switzerland with my family.

Conclusion

Accord's experience has taught me that you can't gamble with the state, especially if you play on its side. In Azerbaijan, the absolute majority of companies built on relations with officials sooner or later face repression of their owners. This is evidenced by the example of dozens of well-known entrepreneurs of Azerbaijan who built their business according to this model: Jahangir Hajiyev, Nizami Piriyev (co-founder of the petrochemical company "PNN Group") and others. I repeated my way in other conditions, already in Moscow.