This is One of Those Firsts You Don’t Want to Talk About
But I guess I’m going to talk about it anyway. Otherwise you would probably be confused as to why I’m no longer working with Araz Credit Union. I walked into the credit union office today to find empty desks, chairs, and shelves. But why? I’ve actually been withholding information from you (*gasp*). Over the past two months I’ve ridden a roller-coaster whose only direction is down. We plateaued for a few days, but then continued a nosedive until arriving at this point, where the only options were crash and burn.
I don’t really know enough about all that went on to make any accusations. And I don’t really want to accuse anyone of anything. Yet, in any given project here, we can’t really be surprised when things don’t quite work out as expected. To be honest, I haven’t heard anything from my director or from my accountant friend, Elşən. I heard about this after my return from Minqəcevir and Ağcabədi. My guy in Baku, Elçin, gave me the news that the credit union “has collapsed.” I’ll probably never know the exact story, but this is what I’ve heard from other folks involved:
When they applied for a Peace Corps Volunteer, Araz Kredit İttifaqı was one of the more outstanding credit unions in Azerbaijan. My director here is well known and he’s been considered an upstanding citizen and overall good guy. So placement here was going to be good. Apparently the trouble started in November, before I arrived, when my credit union failed to make a payment on their loans from the Credit Implementing Agency. This is just at the time when I was selected for the credit union. They continued not to pay in December. And it looks like they have continued this pattern through January and February. How did this happen? You might suppose that it is the members who haven’t been paying back their loans who are to blame for this. You would be half-right. Unfortunately, it turns out that my director faked a large quantity of loans. He enlisted some of his fellow community members to take loans out in their name and then he used the money, promising to pay it back himself. When the CIA folks asked these community members, they dutifully responded that they took the loans. I’m told this was just to protect my director here. That’s a nice way to commit fraud.
And this is how you end up with a credit union 250,000 AZN (~$300,000) in debt. And most of it has to be paid back by one person. That is a tough bill to count out. This also explains why they kept telling me that they wanted to find a new donor to fund their loan activities. It’s tough to find a donor who can fund a million-dollar operation, much more so when that operation is fraudulent and corrupt. Time to find a some new things to do in Lənkəran!