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Why did Uefa hand Azerbaijan hosting rights for the Europa League final?

The ruling body’s principle of rotating finals is a good one but the golden ticket has to be awarded for the right reasons

You had to admire Uefa’s steadfastness in the face of unfortunate timing. The decision to award the hosting rights for this year’s Europa League final to Baku, capital of Azerbaijan, was made public in September 2017, just a few weeks after entirely unrelated revelations about a huge underhanded campaign to whitewash Azerbaijan’s international reputation.

The so-called Azerbaijani Laundromat scandal came to light thanks to bank leaks that showed that about £2bn had been funnelled out of oil-rich Azerbaijan between 2012 and 2014 through various European financial institutions and companies, including some registered in Britain. It was primarily an elaborate money-laundering scam but some lolly found its way into the pockets of lobbyists and politicians who were encouraged to help polish the reputation of Azerbaijan.

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