The Prince, the brutal dictator and a friendship he just won't give up

Duke of York continues to request briefings on Azerbaijan despite losing his trade role

His lavish spending of taxpayers' money on private jets, not to mention his numerous uncomfortable friendships with questionable world leaders and a convicted paedophile, forced Prince Andrew to step down as the UK's Special Representative for Trade and Investment, amid claims that he had become an embarrassment to the Government.

But now, more than a year later, the Duke continues to take an interest in the affairs of Azerbaijan, where he is friends with President Ilham Aliyev, regarded as one of the most brutal and corrupt rulers in the world. He has held talks at Buckingham Palace with the UK's Ambassador to Azerbaijan, Peter Bateman. It is understood that the Prince requested he be kept informed about developments in the country, and Mr Bateman asked for a meeting with him when the ambassador was in Britain last week.

As is customary, the nature of the discussions will not be made public, but a Palace spokesperson confirmed that, while the Duke no longer has an official role in promoting British business, he is "of course, still interested in British business; especially small and medium-sized enterprises, science and technology and research and development."

Critics of the Azerbaijani regime, of which there are many, hope that matters besides business were discussed. "We can only hope that Prince Andrew, who no longer has an official role in promoting trade, is instead using these 'private' talks at Buckingham Palace to persuade the ambassador to raise serious concerns about the numerous human rights abuses in Azerbaijan," said Natalia Nozadze, Azerbaijan Researcher for Amnesty International.

"These include the routine use of excessive and brutal force by police, restrictions on public protest and the censorship imposed on bloggers and journalists who are beaten and imprisoned for criticising the government," she said.

Prince Andrew has visited President Aliyev eight times in the last five years. According to Buckingham Palace sources, all of his dealings in recent years with Azerbaijan and with other states questionable human rights records have been on behalf of the UK government, which has requested that he go there. But two of his visits to Azerbaijan have been designated as "entirely private".

In March last year, a former ambassador wrote to three government departments demanding that Prince Andrew be stripped of his role, citing among other things a "worrying" private meeting with Libyan tyrant Colonel Gaddafi in 2008.

He also entertained the son-in-law of the ousted Tunisian president, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, at Buckingham Palace. The lavish nature of such trips has also been fiercely criticised. One of his visits to Azerbaijan involved the hiring of a private jet, at the cost of £60,000 to the taxpayer.

News reports in Azerbaijan have long speculated that the Duke has his own business interests in the region, including a golf resort on the Caspian Sea, a claim that Buckingham Palace denies. A Foreign Office spokesperson said: "It is not uncommon for our heads of mission to meet with members of the royal family."

It is not the first time the Prince has met Mr Bateman, and the meeting was published in Court Circular.

The Palace said that while the Duke no longer has an official title, he has not lost interest in the country, in which he showed particular interest duing his time as trade ambassador. He also continues to play in "an informal role in boosting trade between the two countries."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk