By | Rachel Brooks
February 20, 2021
Images credit: “File:Franck Muller Boutique in Frankfurt, Germany.jpg” by Emenay is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
Franck Muller is a luxury watch brand that has been reported engaged in illegal gold exportation.
In the 30 years since the Karabakh conflict was catalyzed by the collapse of the Soviet Union, Karabakh has been left to devolve in criminal activity. Armenian control allowed for criminal networks to pass unchecked through the occupied zone. This criminal network was observed and documented first hand with the foray into Yerevan of one British journalist and political commentator.
The mysterious Harrold Cane
The author of the Narco Karabakh is the United Kingdom-based author Harrold Cane whose name is a pseudonym to protect his privacy. With his book’s website currently offline, his current activity in the literary world is unknown.
Overview of the book
The book follows the experiences of Harrold Cane in Armenia as he poses as a tourist in Yerevan.
The book Narco Karabakh has received a great deal of press criticism for its alleged foray into the criminal underworld of Yerevan, Armenia, and the enterprise that led to the post-First Karabakh conflict criminal enterprise in Karabakh. The book opens on the scene of the seedy nightclub Charlotte Cabaret in Yerevan, Armenia just a block down from the Presidential palace. The book opens with the story of Christina, a girl who was sold into sex work from Armenia to Greece and again to Armenia when she was only 16.
The book then goes into a detailed analysis of how the Karabakh has been exploited by the “not-so-frozen” conflict in the region. This book was published in 2019 before the events that would catalyze the Second Karabakh conflict. The book highlights how the Islamic Republic and Hezbollah have been able to exploit the fragility of the Karabakh conflict for its criminal nexus and traffic of resources through the region.
Karabakh, the vacuum, and Iran
Harrold Cane’s work highlights the security issues presented to the post-conflict fragility of the Karabakh. Cane’s work exposes the nature of Karabakh to be the connective highway of crime in the Persian block. Speaking in an interview with Report.az, Harrold Cane noted the tendency of Kabarakh to be exploited.
“Due to its current status, Nagorno-Karabakh exists in a vacuum. This fact has been ruthlessly exploited and allowed the territory to become used as a clearinghouse for international organized crime,” said Cane, speaking with Report.az under his pen name to protect his privacy.
Cane told Report.az that, during his research of the crime nexus trafficking through Karabakh, he was investigated by the Armenian Interior Ministry and beaten in Khankendi. In the interview with Report.az, Cane likewise stated that Karabakh is ground zero for the criminal enterprise of the surrounding region and that the crime that passes through the region.
A lucrative business
The social media following of Nacro Karabakh has drawn attention to the gold racketeering by Armenia to luxury Swiss watch brand Franck Muller. The story of Franck Muller’s purchase of gold strip-mined from occupied Karabakh was covered by MenaFN. Gold watches of a rare variety from the Franck Muller brand have become a payment of sorts, a currency of the criminal underbelly upon which the crime nexus of Karabakh’s formerly occupied region crawls.
In the months to follow the end of the Karabakh conflict, Eurasianet reported that Azerbaijan has taken control of the lucrative gold mines of the region. In particular, Azerbaijan has seized control of Anglo-Asian Mining. In addition to losing control of the gold mine, the Artsakh settlement minister stated that the former Armenia settlement had likewise lost control of the hydroelectric plants of the area.
IRGC exploits Karabakh before the second conflict
In April 2020, in the months just before the reescalation of conflict in the Karabakh, Israel Hayom published an analysis for how the IRGC has exploited the Karabakh conflict for its interests. Despite being a self-proclaimed protector of all Muslim countries, Iran has closeted support of the Armenian land claim in the Karabakh region. This would be an apparent political preference for the professing Apostolic Christian Armenia and opposition of the Shia Muslim majority Azerbaijan.
Israel Hayom cites Harrold Cane’s work in his article The Islamic Republic which has been quoted by Mena FN and various news sites. Cane’s article cited the use of the Khodaafrin Bridge, which is the main point of access between Iran and the Azerbaijani territory which was under de facto Armenia control at the time of the report, as an illegal crossing. He noted that illegal activity on the Khodaafrin was useful to the criminal nexus of the area because it was “well beyond the reach of global law and order agencies.”