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Newsline: Azerbaijani embassy denies Australia’s black market trade in booze

The 2014 end of year party at the Azerbaijan embassy in Canberra must have been epic if its official requests to import duty-free booze and cigarettes were any guide. Leaked documents show Azerbaijan Ambassador Rovshan Jamshidov and financial attache Araz Khasiyev used their diplomatic status to get Australian government approval to import duty free 2000 litres of beer, 1100 litres of wine, 520 litres of spirits and 40,000 cigarettes from two suppliers. While the amounts might seem excessive for an embassy which represents an overwhelmingly Islamic nation and is staffed by five diplomats, they were within Australia’s generous rules for the representatives of foreign governments. Unlike most of us who are only entitled to a handful of bottles at airport duty-free shops, embassies and high commissions in Australia can obtain excise-free a maximum of 260 litres of spirits, 1000 litres of beer and 20,000 cigarettes every six months if the products are used in an official capacity. Individual diplomats can receive half this amount every six months for personal use. Azerbaijan embassy’s alcohol and tobacco import requests also attracted the attention of DFAT and Customs. The Australian Border Force, which is now responsible for Customs, told Fairfax Media that it had assessed allegations it had received some products were sold on the black market, and decided not to take the matter any further. It is understood that although the size of the proposed Azerbaijan embassy imports raised eyebrows, they were still within Australia’s limits and there was insufficient evidence to proceed.



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