Azerbaijan hits back over ‘scandalous’ money laundering claims …

The government of Azerbaijan has responded angrily to revelations that it ran a secret $2.9bn (£2.2bn) fund which was used to pay prominent Europeans, run lobbying operations, and launder money via a group of opaque British companies.

Azerbaijan’s presidential aide, Ali Hasanov, said the stories by the Guardian and other media partners were a smear. In the first official reaction from Baku, Hasanov said the regime was the victim of a “scandalous” campaign organised by British intelligence, the Armenian diaspora and the US.

“When did the Guardian write about the truth about Azerbaijan? This newspaper has been known for decades for being against Azerbaijan,” Hasanov told the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet. The reports were “biased, groundless and provocative,” he said.

On Tuesday, the authorities blocked access from inside Azerbaijan to the website of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). The OCCRP published details of the

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