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Transparency International is calling for tough anti-corruption measures, including sanctions on corrupt members, to restore trust in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in the face of a series of corruption allegations and the resignation of its president, the organization said in a statement.

Transparency International welcomes this week’s scheduled vote by PACE to pass a resolution to strengthen its anti-corruption rules. But it calls on the organisation to move swiftly on current allegations.

On 4 September, investigations by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and its partners revealed that current and former members of PACE allegedly received payments to launder the image of Azerbaijan abroad. On 6 October, the president of PACE, Pedro Agramunt resigned before facing a motion to remove him.

“The new president of PACE must act fast against wrongdoing. It dragged its feet in the past when this issue first surfaced in 2012. It must not make the same mistake again,” said Patricia Moreira, managing director of Transparency International. “Members and former members of the parliamentary assembly who are proven to have received questionable financial benefits from Azerbaijan should be investigated and eventually prosecuted by their national authorities.”

Politicians have been implicated in Belgium, Germany, Italy and Slovenia, while reports of reputational laundering touch Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Hungary, Russia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Rather than wait for the independent external body appointed by the Council of Europe to finish its investigation into the wrongdoing, authorities in these countries should launch their own probes into the reports of political corruption, in addition to cooperating fully and effectively with this Council of Europe investigation and other such future investigations.

The member states of the Council of Europe should ensure that investigators can access all the information and documents they need, and have the authority to conduct on-the-spot checks and inspections.

Transparency International also calls upon the Council of Europe to establish a permanent investigative office as an effective mechanism to uncover future reputational laundering and bribery.

The Council of Europe and its member states must also adopt procedures that allow it to expel member who flout integrity rules and take bribes.

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