On 25 October, the Baku Court of Appeal looked into a complaint filed by Lala Bunyatova, co-signatory of a loan agreement, who had been arrested for debt on orders from AtaBank. Bunyatova had filed the complaint after the Sabunchu District Court issued a warrant for her arrest. Judge Mirzali Abbasov, who looked into the case, released Bunyatova from the courtroom.
Meydan TV learnt about this from Akram Hasanov, Bunyatova’s defence lawyer. He said that the judge found that the arrest warrant issued by the Sabunchu district court resulted from an improper investigation:
“This is the first time in the history of this country that an arrest caused by debt has been repealed. I congratulate everyone. We are about to prove that we are a civilized society, not barbarians.”
On 20 October, following the warrant issued by the Sabunchu District Court, Lala Bunyatova was put under arrest for a period of 10 days. She had served as a co-signer for a loan from AtaBank and the principal borrower failed to pay his debts of 8,701 manat (4,363 euro). According to Akram Hasanov, judge Suleyman Aghayev issued the warrant for Bunyatova after AtaBank failed to locate the main signatory of the loan. The defence lawyer further stated:
“It is not possible for an unemployed person to pay a debt. One just cannot say that this person is guilty in any way.”
There are currently 31 banks operating in Azerbaijan. As of 1 September, these banks had a total of 5,720,291 customers and more than 2,428,000 of them have loan accounts. Their overdue debts to the banks amount to more than 1.824bn manat (914bn euro), which is 15% of all loans.
Gubad Ibadoghlu, an economist and chairman of the Azerbaijani Democracy and Prosperity Movement, says this means that debt is a matter of concern for every third citizen:
“According to the latest information, the amount of overdue debt is higher than the banks’ dedicated back-up (i.e. higher than 1,635,700,000 manats, or 820mn euro) which is meant to cover possible losses caused by loans. This means that the amount of debt on overdue loans has crossed the red line. In reality, it has long been at a critical level.”