Two lawmakers from opposition United National Movement (UNM) party, Zurab Japaridze and Irma Nadirashvili, confirmed they were stopped at the airport in Baku on June 19, but denied reports about Azerbaijani customs officers seizing large amount of undeclared cash from them.
News about this case, details of which remain sketchy, broke late on Thursday afternoon when the Georgian news agency, InterPressNews, reported, without providing a source, that MPs Japaridze and Nadirashvili were “detained” in the Baku airport with “large amount” of undeclared cash and “electroshock devices”. MP Nadirashvili denied the report in brief comments to the Georgian television stations via phone from Baku.
Georgian ambassador to Azerbaijan, Teimuraz Sharashenidze, denied reports about electroshock devices, but he told Georgian television stations via phone from Baku that the embassy was informed by the Azerbaijani authorities that MPs Nadirashvili and Japaridze were “stopped” at the airport over “undeclared cash… in an amount between USD 500,000 and USD 1 million.”
On Thursday evening, when MPs Japaridze and Nadirashvili were still in Baku, GD ruling coalition released a statement and, citing a report from the Georgian ambassador, said UNM “is not giving up using black money and illegal methods.”
Upon arrival in Tbilisi from Baku late on Thursday, MPs Japaridze and Nadirashvili told journalists in the Tbilisi airport that they were stopped by the Azerbaijani customs officers, but were allowed to go after a thorough search found nothing illegal.
MP Japaridze said that after arriving in the Baku airport and after checking in, a customs officer took his passport and “searched” him for reasons unknown for him; MP Japaridze said that passport was returned to him in about twenty minutes but by that time their flight to Tbilisi had already been gone, so they decided to go back to the city and wait for the next flight for later on the same day. He said it was at that time when they learned about reports in the media about their “detention”. The two lawmakers said that after arriving back in the airport, they saw representatives from the Georgian embassy in Baku, who, Japaridze said, were asking Azerbaijani customs officers how much in cash and how many electroshock devices were found; MPs said that it was embassy representatives’ actions that made Azerbaijani officers to search them thoroughly (it was a second search for Japaridze, according to his account) before letting them go to take flight to Tbilisi.
Georgian Foreign Minister, Maia Panjikidze, said on June 20 that Tbilisi has requested Baku to provide information about what happened in the Baku airport.
“The fact is that something has happened there; some kind of problem took place,” Panjikidze told journalists, adding that Georgian consular and his deputy in Baku arrived in the airport after media reports emerged about the incident.
Azerbaijani ambassador in Tbilisi, Azer Huseyn, was in the Georgian Foreign Ministry on June 20 over the issue; he declined to comment after the meeting in the Foreign Ministry. The State Customs Committee of Azerbaijan did not respond to a request for comment.