Azerbaijan - Global Laundromatit is getting hot...
Posted 04 September 2017 - 02:20 PM
UK at center of secret $3bn Azerbaijani money laundering and lobbying scheme
Azerbaijans ruling elite operated a secret $2.9bn (£2.2bn) scheme to pay prominent Europeans, buy luxury goods and launder money through a network of opaque British companies, an investigation by the Guardian reveals.
Leaked data shows that the Azerbaijani leadership, accused of serial human rights abuses, systemic corruption and rigging elections, made more than 16,000 covert payments from 2012 to 2014.
Some of this money went to politicians and journalists, as part of an international lobbying operation to deflect criticism of Azerbaijans president, Ilham Aliyev, and to promote a positive image of his oil-rich country. There is no suggestion that all the recipients were aware of the original source of the money. It arrived via a disguised route.
But the revelations once again highlight the use of the lightly regulated British corporate landscape to move large sums of money around, beyond the purview of regulators and tax authorities. Seven million pounds was spent in Britain on luxury goods and private school fees.
The cash, contributed by an opaque array of paymasters in Azerbaijan and Russia, travelled to the British companies all limited partnerships registered at Companies House in London via the western financial system without raising red flags. One of Europes leading banks, Danske, processed the payments via its branch office in Estonia.
Danske Bank said money laundering and other illegal practices had taken place. It first noticed the irregular payments in 2014. Estonias financial regulator said systems designed to stop money laundering at the branch had failed.
The scheme has been nicknamed the Azerbaijani Laundromat. Confidential banking records were leaked to the Danish newspaper Berlingske and shared with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), the Guardian, and other media partners. The data covers a 30-month period. It may show the tip of an iceberg.
The leaked bank records show multiple payments to several former members of the Council of Europes parliamentary assembly, Pace. One is Eduard Lintner, a German ex-MP and member of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to Angela Merkels ruling Christian Democrats. Another is the Italian former chair of the centre-right group in Pace, Luca Volontè.
The payments came at a time when Azerbaijan was under fire for arresting human rights activists and journalists, and for holding rigged elections. The regime sought to blunt criticism from Europe and the US by allegedly bribing delegates in what has been called caviar diplomacy.
This intensive lobbying operation was so successful that Council of Europe members voted against a 2013 report critical of Azerbaijan.
Lintner stood down as an MP in 2010, but remained a firm supporter of Azerbaijan. He founded the Society for the Promotion of German-Azerbaijani Relations in Berlin, which received 819,500 (£755,000). One 61,000 payment was made two weeks after Lintner returned to Berlin from a trip to Azerbaijan where he monitored the countrys 2013 presidential election. He said the poll was up to German standards in direct contrast to official election observers who found significant problems.
Lintner says he received the money for his society, did not personally benefit, and was not an MP or Council of Europe member at the time. An Azerbaijani NGO paid for his election trip, he says. He says he has no knowledge of the original source of the payments received.
Details of cash given to Volontè emerged in 2016 and caused outrage. He received more than 2m in instalments via his Italian-based Novae Terrae foundation. Prosecutors in Milan have indicted him for money laundering and corruption.
Volontè denies wrongdoing. He is seeking to have the case thrown out.
The data also shows money being paid via the British companies to Kalin Mitrev, a Bulgarian appointed last year to the board of the London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Mitrev received at least 425,000 for private consulting work from a local Azeri company, Avuar Co. He acknowledges the payments and says they were for legitimate business consultancy. He denies all knowledge of the conduit used to execute them or the original source of the funds.
All the income, generated by activities in different countries, was duly reported and taxed in my country of residence, Bulgaria, Mitrev said. His consultancy work stopped when he joined the London bank, he said.
The revelation that her husband consulted for an Azeri company might prove awkward for Mitrevs wife, Irina Bokova, who is the director general of Unesco. Bokova has bestowed one of Unescos highest honours, the Mozart Medal on Azerbaijans first lady and vice-president, Mehriban Aliyeva. She also hosted a photo exhibition at Unescos headquarters in Paris, entitled Azerbaijan A Land of Tolerance. The Heydar Aliyev foundation organized the event.
Asked by the Guardian whether there was a conflict between her husbands work and her UN role, she strongly denied this, saying she had no knowledge of her husbands business affairs. As a director general of a UN agency, my duty is to develop sound working relations with all members of the organisation in conformity with the policies set by member states. Azerbaijan is not an exception in this respect.
I am immensely proud of my determined pursuit of the mandate of Unesco, including in the area of human rights, freedom of expression and the safety of journalists.
Large sums from the scheme were spent on lobbying. In 2014 Eckart Sager, a former CNN producer based in London, received nearly 2m from the British companies. His PR company is linked to articles that promote the Azerbaijani government and its views. One piece denies wrongdoing by Baku in the Volontè case. Sager did not comment.
Another beneficiary is a London-based Azeri, Jovdat Guliyev, who received 25 payments totalling almost £400,000. Guliyev is a member of the Anglo-Azerbaijani Society, a lobby group co-chaired by the Liberal Democrat peer Lord German. Guliyev did not respond to repeated messages asking him for a comment.
The British connection
The four firms at the centre of the Azerbaijani Laundromat were all limited partnerships registered in the UK. They were: Metastar Invest, based at a service address in Birmingham; Hilux Services and Polux Management, set up in Glasgow; and LCM Alliance, from Potters Bar, Hertfordshire. Their corporate partners are anonymous tax haven entities based in the British Virgin Islands, Seychelles and Belize.
L Burke Files, an international financial investigator, said these company structures were purposefully opaque. Foreign criminals used Scottish limited partnerships, or SLPs, he said. In June the government announced SLPs would have to name their significant owners, or pay fines, amid evidence of growing fraud.
No one suspects Scotland. Its never been on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) list of non-compliant countries, Files said. If you are going to launder money its probably best not to run it between Russia, Malta and the Cayman Islands. Does Scotland raise a red flag in your mind? No.
All four British companies are named as payment channels in the Italian prosecution case against Volontè. They have since been dissolved.
The banking data shows that the Azerbaijani fund was used for a wide variety of purposes. More than $2.9bn went to companies, with about $50m paid out to individuals. Many beneficiaries were retail and service firms in western Europe. In all probability, they would have been unaware of the origins of the payments they were receiving.
Some of the 200 money transfers to the UK concerned education. In 2014 £89,800 was transferred to Queen Ethelburgas Collegiate, a private boarding school in York. The school would not identify the pupil or pupils involved or comment.
There were payments to the tuition college Bellerbys and to the ICS international school in London. Bellerbys said it was investigating. The data suggests there were a number of relatively modest bursaries to regime-connected Azerbaijani students studying in Britain, as well as rental deposits on upmarket London flats. Other purchases included designer dresses, luxury cars and legal fees. There is no suggestion the UK recipients should have known about the provenance of the money.
Azerbaijans ruling family is not directly named. But the evidence of a connection is overwhelming. Large sums come via the state-owned International Bank of Azerbaijan. This is the largest bank in an oil-wealthy country, and yet earlier this summer it filed for bankruptcy protection in New York. The defence and emergency situations ministries in Baku all chip in cash.
The scheme was used to pay for the governments incidental expenses including the medical bills of Yaqub Eyyubov, Azerbaijans first deputy prime minister. There were separate payments to Eyyubovs son Emin, Azerbaijans EU ambassador, and to the presidents press secretary, Azer Gasimov.
Business partners of the US president, Donald Trump, in a project to build a luxury Trump Tower in Baku also appear in the Laundromat scheme.
The hotels local developer was Anar Mammadov, the billionaire son of Azerbaijans ex-transport minister Ziya Mammadov. At the time the scheme operated, the Mammadovs were one of the countrys most powerful and wealthy families. The Mammadovs Baghlan holding company is linked to Laundromat transactions.
In 2012 the Trump Organisation signed a deal with the Mammadovs to build a 33-floor, 130-metre-high ultra-modern skyscraper. In October 2014 Ivanka Trump toured Trump Tower Baku, posting photos of the unfinished building on her Instagram account. The hotel never opened. Trump has since cut his connection with the project. The Laundromat scheme does not link to Trump but raises questions about his choice of business partners.
It is not entirely clear where the money used in the scheme comes from. The Russian government paid $29.4m into the Laundromat via its main weapons company, Rosoboronexport. Several transactions link to another $20bn money-laundering scheme, which operated out of Moscow between 2010 and 2014. The scheme, the Global Laundromat, was exposed in March by the OCCRP, Novaya Gazeta and the Guardian.
A mysterious private firm in Baku, Baktelekom MMC, pays in more than $1.4bn. The firm is what fraud experts call a doppelganger entity. It sounds like the state telecoms firm with the same name but bears no relation to it. It doesnt have a website. Its function is unclear. According to the OCCRP, Baktelekom MMC is linked to Mehriban Aliyeva. In January the company was let off a $17.4m tax bill.
The Danish bank Danske said it had not been good enough at monitoring suspicious transactions at its Estonian branch. The bank has since tightened procedures and controls and terminated relationships with some customers.
We will not accept Danske being exploited for money laundering or other criminal purposes. We will do everything to prevent it from happening again, it said.
Madis Reimand, the head of Estonias financial intelligence unit, said his office had come across the suspicious Azerbaijani cash flows in 2013 while analysing a separate case. From there we followed the tracks, he said. We tried to cooperate with the source country in order to ascertain where the money came from. This, however, didnt work out.
Reimand said Estonias financial supervisory authority had identified what had gone wrong and taken steps to prevent similar fraud in the future.
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- onjig likes this
Posted 05 September 2017 - 09:23 AM
Open fraud and no one talks about it or cares, why? Maybe they are in on it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So called democracy and transparency.
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Posted 05 September 2017 - 09:47 AM
This is what all that money buys! So called free worlds corrupt conscience and it's silence to crime.
Panorama, ArmeniaSept 4 2017Armenia’s appeals to international community largely remained unanswered – deputy defense minister
Azerbaijan continues the arms race in the region, expanding the types and markets of the purchased weapons, Armenian Deputy Defense Minister Artak Zakaryan stated at a conference titled “Military-political tactic of the adversary and our challenges” underway in Yerevan. In Zakaryan’s words, Azerbaijani acquisition of large amount of weapons speaks of the country’s intention to solve the [Karabakh] conflict through military means.
“Since 2013, Azerbaijan has been consistently escalating the situation across the Line of Contact [between Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan] as well as at the Armenian-Azerbaijani state border. Armenia’s appeals to the international community over the matter, the OSCE Minsk Group in particular, have largely remained unanswered,” the deputy minister stressed, while presenting a report over the situation of border clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces and the current strategy of the military potential development of the Armenian forces.
“The military actions unleashed in April 2016 were unprecedented not only in nterms of being the first since the 1994 ceasefire, but also for the first Karabakh war, considering number of factors, including the fire intensity across the whole Line of Contact, the applied weapons and military equipment, the scale of involved forces and military hardware. In the occurred reality Armenia has adopted a policy of suppressing and containing the adversary’s large-scale offence on the frontline,” added the deputy minister.
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Posted 07 September 2017 - 10:02 AM
“In fact, this is nothing more than a trial against Azerbaijan – of course, figuratively, not in a legal sense,” Armenia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharyan told reporters at a briefing on Wednesday, commenting on the fresh corruption scandal around Azerbaijan’s ruling elite, which operated a secret $2.9bn (£2.2bn) scheme to pay prominent Europeans, buy luxury goods and launder money through a network of opaque British companies.
The deputy FM noted that what is happening today throughout Europe – investigations, criminal proceedings – come to prove that Europe has already run out of patience.
“People are weak: even MPs, officials in the heart of Europe cannot resist this temptation. There is a very interesting pattern here: these are those lawmakers whose term in office expires soon and they cannot regain it anymore. Anyways, it is a disgrace, a slap to entire Europe,” the official noted.
According to him, it is no accident that Azerbaijan’s response is the same – the Armenians have done it. “Whatever happens, they put the blame on Armenians,” Mr. Kocharyan highlighted.
“They say the Aliyev family has nothing to do with it. Meantime they do not deny that all of this has happened. This is noted in their official response. This means in that state, where everything is controlled, $3bn was taken out without their knowledge, which is absurd in itself,” the deputy FM said.
Asked whether the Azerbaijani delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) can be deprived of its mandate, Mr. Kocharyan said: “I believe that process will gradually develop.”
Posted 07 September 2017 - 10:07 AM
Armenpress News Agency , Armenia
September 5, 2017 Tuesday
PACE has exclusive chance to get rid of Aliyev's bribed puppet
lobbyists – Armenian lawmaker says
YEREVAN, SEPTEMBER 9, ARMENPRESS. The Parliamentary Assembly of the
Council of Europe (PACE) has the unique opportunity to shake off
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s corruption-soaked European
lawmakers from itself, PACE Armenian delegation member Naira Zohrabyan
BBC reported the results of an investigation by the consortium of
European newspapers andpublished by the Organized Crime and Corruption
Reporting Project (OCCRP), according to which Azerbaijan's ruling
elite operated a secret $2.8bn “slush fund” for two years to bribe
European politicians and make luxury purchases.
Zohrabyan reminded that in addition to this, many international
newspapers published the statements of former Azeri diplomat Arif
Mamadov, who said that he personally acted upon direct orders from
Aliyev to recruit European lawmakers, and that Azerbaijan has spent
dozens of millions of dollars yearly on European institutions alone,
“This was nothing new and now specific facts are being published, that
British lawmaker Robert Walter, the author of the infamous
““Escalation of violence in Nagorno-Karabakh and the other occupied
territories of Azerbaijan” report, has been bribed by Azerbaijan for 5
million dollars”, Zohrabyan said.
According to her, it is no coincidence that PACE created a special
commission for examining corruption facts in its July sitting, which
must present its first report in December.
“Be sure that information on serious corruption facts has been
provided to this body, and I think serious revelations will happen
regarding not only the already infamous corrupt politician Luca
Volonte. Criminal proceedings in Milan’s prosecution are nearing
completion against him, and Volonte, not wanting to be held
accountable for alone, has given the names of PACE lawmakers who have
been involved in this corruption scheme”, Zohrabyan said.
“PACE has the exclusive chance to reveal all of this and simply get
rid of Aliyev’s high-ranking puppet lobbyists”, she said.
Posted 08 September 2017 - 10:27 AM
This was an open secret that many knew about it, but willfully ignored it due to politics and interests. I don't believe anything substantive will come out of this fake investigations.
Armenpress News Agency , Armenia
September 6, 2017 Wednesday
British MPs demand probe into Azerbaijani money laundering scheme,
Aliyev blames Armenians again
YEREVAN, SEPTEMBER 6, ARMENPRESS. Opposition politicians of the United
Kingdom urged Prime Minister Theresa May to launch an investigation
into the Azerbaijani money laundering case and the involvement of
British companies in the matter, the Guardian reports.
In response to the opposition’s demand, May’s spokesperson said the
national crime agency will look into the published materials. “The
agency will examine whether or not there is a need for an
investigation”, the spokesperson said.
Tim Farron, the former Liberal Democrat leader, led calls for an
inquiry, saying this was what happened “when the corporate landscape
is too lightly regulated”.
“Thanks to the Guardian investigation we learn of something called the
Azerbaijani Laundromat,” he said. “But now is the time to wash some
fairly dirty laundry in public and find out exactly who paid money to
whom and why.
“We need a full investigation to see that dirty money has not been
used to buy influence in the UK. The Azerbaijani government is guilty
of systematic human rights abuses and it would appear the regime has
been making payments on an industrial scale.”
Lawmaker Margaret Hodge said: “Until we know who owns companies and
properties in Britain and in the tax havens we control, such
unacceptable practices will continue and Britain will be culpable
because of the government’s failure to act.”
Peter Dowd, Labour’s chief secretary to the Treasury, said: “Money
laundering hurts our economy, steals from others and corrupts our
society. The financial system should effectively and efficiently
provide investment that benefits the whole economy, not boost the
offshore bank balances of plutocrats and criminals here and abroad”.
One London-based beneficiary of the Laundromat,Jovdat Guliyev,
resigned on Monday from theAnglo-Azerbaijani Society. Guliyev received
nearly £400,000 from the scheme. A former British Petroleum employee,
he works for Azerbaijan’s state oil company. The society’s co-chair,
Lord German, said Guliyev quit nine minutes after the Guardian’s story
It is noteworthy that Baku has responded very loudly to this yet
another accusation of illicit operations of the Aliyev family.
Azerbaijan directly accused the Guardian, and the Armenian Diaspora.
Ali Hasanov, the Azeri president’s aide, said that the Aliyev regime
“has become a victim of the smear campaign of the British
intelligence, the Armenian Diaspora and the US”.
“When has The Guardian written the truth about Azerbaijan? This
newspaper is known for its anti-Azerbaijani nature for many years”,
Moreover, the Azeri president’s press office blamed George Soros and
Armenian lobbyists for the revelations.
“The fact that one of the authors of the article is Armenian Dina
Nahapetyan, proves that the Armenian lobby stands behind these
accusations”, the Azeri officials said.
Immediately after the revelations, Azerbaijani authorities blocked
access to the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project
website. It was this very project that published details of the
so-called Azerbaijani Laundromat scheme.
The money was allegedly channelled through four UK-based opaque companies.
People said to have been paid include European politicians who adopted
a favourable attitude to the government.
There is no suggestion that all the recipients were aware of the
original source of the money, it added.
The secret fund, nicknamed the Azerbaijan Laundromat, operated for two
years until 2014, according to the investigation, carried out by a
consortium of European newspapers andpublished by the Organized Crime
and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).
The origin of the money was unclear, the report said, but there was
"ample evidence of its connection to the family of President Ilham
Posted 08 September 2017 - 10:39 AM
- 20:18 | September 7,2017 | Politics
Transparency International, the global anti-corruption organisation, is calling for politicians, banks and businesses that helped to launder the reputation of Azerbaijan across Europe to be investigated and, if appropriate, for the perpetrators to be sanctioned.
The anti-corruption organisation will launch national and international advocacy campaigns targeted at strengthening anti-money laundering practices, identifying individual wrong-doing and calling for international organisations, including the Council of Europe, to investigate allegations of inappropriate behaviour and take corrective action.
This follows an investigation carried out by journalists in six countries (Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, United Kingdom and United States) into a shady financial network that appears to have funnelled money from a US$2.9 billion Azeri slush fund to pay decision-makers and prominent individuals across Europe.
“It is shocking to see that some politicians at respected bodies like the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe are up for sale and are willing to turn a blind eye to corruption and human rights abuses for cash. They must be sanctioned and we will put pressure on the authorities to take action. The story does not end here,” said José Ugaz, Chair of Transparency International.
The investigation names, Danske Bank, a prominent bank in Denmark and specifically its branch in Estonia as the centre of the financial network. It also identifies four shell companies set up in the UK with secret offshore owners that received money from the slush fund. In addition, individuals and businesses are reported to have received payments from these companies in Germany and the UK.
The reports describe how politicians and consultants who received the money were in a position to influence decisions about Azerbaijan’s human rights record at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). The purpose of the payments appears to have been to limit the effects of damaging information regarding human rights and election fraud that would have brought the country into greater disrepute.
“These investigations show that even in countries where corruption risks are considered low like Denmark, which ranks at the top of Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, the regulatory bodies are still behind in enforce anti-money laundering legislation,” added Ugaz.
Transparency International, as part of a partnership with the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project that broke the story, will pressure the appropriate authorities to ensure that any wrongdoing is both investigated and punished, and that regulatory loopholes are closed.
As first steps, Transparency International will:
Present evidence to the special corruption investigative group at PACE on 7 September and ask for a full, transparent investigation
Provide a dossier relating to the investigation with the US authorities since the International Bank of Azerbaijan is based in the United States.
The slush fund also supported the lavish lifestyles of the ruling family of Azerbaijan and a crony network of accomplices, including business leaders and politicians both in Germany and elsewhere. The investigations uncovered that the money was used to buy a football club, jewellery and major real estate in the Czech Republic.
Transparency International will also:
Call on the authorities in the Czech Republic, Denmark and Germany to investigate the role of shell companies with secret ownership and push for public registers of beneficial ownership
Call on the authorities in those countries to tighten and implement anti-money laundering procedures
Call for full investigations into those receiving “dirty money” at the international, regional and national levels
Ask citizens across Europe to write to their parliamentarians who attend the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to adopt stronger integrity standards in light of serious allegations of corruption and manipulation.
The Council of Europe is the leading forum in Europe tasked with monitoring human rights, democracy and the rule of law in its 47 member states.
Posted 10 September 2017 - 08:11 AM
In a series of new investigations, a network of investigative journalists have discovered the government of Azerbaijan was the driving force behind a $2.9 billion secret slush fund that may have helped it pay off European politicians.
Dubbed “Azerbaijani Laundromat”, the secret slush fund was put in operation between 2012 and 2014, according to the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project:
The Azerbaijani Laundromat is the name given to a complex money-laundering operation that handled US$ 2.9 billion over a two-year period thanks to four shell companies registered in the United Kingdom. Between 2012 and 2014, Azerbaijan’s kleptocratic ruling elites pumped the money through the companies’ Estonian bank accounts. The companies’ true owners were hidden behind unknown offshore shareholders.
The money transfers made into the accounts of politicians in Europe may have helped persuade the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to vote against a critical report of Azerbaijan in 2013 calling for an adoption of the resolution on political prisoners, although that has not been proven.
Money-laundering operations like the Laundromat are common in the former Soviet republics and are often deeply integrated into their economies. They may be used by government officials, organized crime groups, or even ordinary businesses for purposes such as disguising the origins of money, evading taxes or sanctions, paying bribes, bypassing customs fees, moving funds to Europe or other markets, or embezzling funds.
The Azerbaijani operation, too, was likely designed primarily to obscure the origin and destination of dirty money. It was also used as a slush fund to pay off people (both inside and outside the country) who served the interests of the political elite in Baku; to buy luxury goods; or to move money abroad for various purposes.
Crucially, OCCRP allege:
Out come the trolls
[Azerbaijan] used the slush fund to buy silence and praise from influential European figures during a time when the government in Baku threw around 90 activists, journalists and opposition politicians into prison on politically motivated charges.
Following the release of the OCCRP investigation patriotic trolls stormed online to accuse journalists of spreading unverified information and maintaining ties to an ill-defined “Armenian lobby”.
The patriotic trolls used the same texts when commenting under the OCCRP story shared on Facebook.
The positions of the trolls were mirrored almost exactly by Azerbaijani officials, blocked access to OCCRP's website for good measure.
While Azerbaijan's MFA spokesperson seethed:
The Soros-hatred makes sense in so far as billionaire philanthropist George Soros’ Open Society Foundation has provided grant money to OCCRP in the past. But Hajiyev might have asked the president's media department to remove this picture from its page before embarking on a full-scale offensive.
Tremors in Europe
— Mike Runey (@MikeRuney) September 5, 2017
While Azerbaijani authorities were busy refuting any connections with the reports, movers and shakers in Brussels demanded investigations into the deeds of the leaders and politicians named in the investigations.
Moreover, Bulgaria's state prosecutor ordered an investigation into new information about payments made by Azerbaijani companies into the accounts of Kalin Mitrev, the country's representative on the board of directors of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
OCCRP published a comprehensive list of reactions to the project's findings on September 8.
Given that corruption provides the basis for the Azerbaijani state and has infested its international relations with the West it is unsurprising that journalists and organisations that draw attention to this problem face serious hurdles and even imprisonment.
Khadija Ismailova, one of the main investigators in the laundromat series, was sentenced to over seven-and-a-half years in prison on trumped up charges in 2015. Although she was releasedthe following year after one-and-a-half years’ jail time in total, the charges against her were not dropped.
Transparency International, perhaps the world's most famous anti-corruption body announced just this month that its Baku office was closing down due to restrictive laws put in place to prevent locally-based civic organisations receiving funding from abroad.
It remains to be seen whether European policymakers will impose similar restrictions on dirty money coming from a certain oil-rich, ex-Soviet state in the South Caucasus.
Posted 11 September 2017 - 08:10 AM
It's ironic that so called European democracies are quick to label small countries corrupt, and give non ending lessons how to be just and European yet they ignore their true colours like a smelly fish. Non of the big news corporations talks about it, silence in this case is not golden!
The Herald (Glasgow) ScotlandSeptember 9, 2017 Saturday
Another Scots agency linked to £2bn Azeri slush fund
by David Leask
More than £53 million of mystery money has been laundered from
oil-rich Azerbaijan through a shell firm based at one of Scotland's
longest-established company formation agencies, investigators claim.
The business was one of 20 Scottish limited partnerships (SLPs) named
in an investigation into the elaborate and far-reaching £2.2 billion
Azerbaijan Laundromat money-laundering scheme.
The firm, called Rasmus, received some $70m in payments fed through
the Laundromat, according to an international journalistic
investigation sending shock waves through Europe.
It took receipt of the cash, nominally for equipment deliveries, in
the course of just 18 months while registered at the Edinburgh base of
Jordans Scotland, a specialist corporate law services firm that can
trace its roots back to Victorian times.
There is no suggestion Jordans Scotland, which was rebranded from its
historic name Oswalds in 2014, had any knowledge of Rasmus's
activities or links to the former Soviet republic.
There is growing concern those close to the authoritarian regime of
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev used the Laundromat as a slush fund
to pay off western politicians.
The government of Azerbaijan has dismissed the allegations as a
"scandalous" smear campaign orchestrated by enemies, including in the
neighbouring country of Armenia.
The two countries have a troubled relationship, particularly over the
disputed area of Nagorno-Karabakh, which has led to clashes in the
However, Duncan Hames, of Transparency International, stressed real
people suffered from laundering of this kind.
He said: "Knowing UK-registered companies were at the heart of a
scheme that saw $2.9bn stolen from Azerbaijan underlines just how
damaging it is to be complicit in global corruption."
The Rasmus payments - and $2bn more - were revealed as a journalist
group called the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project
(OCCRP) published 16,000 bank transactions previously leaked to the
Danish newspaper Berlingske.
The historic data dump has already exposed that two SLPs,
Glasgow-based Hilux Services and Polux Management, and two English
firms made up a core that distributed the cash from Azerbaijan.
Raw data analysed by The Herald shows 83 transactions from the two
core firms to Rasmus between June 2013 and December 2014.
It cannot be assumed, warn OCCRP, that all transactions in the
Laundromat are suspicious.
Rasmus has never filed any accounts and has never revealed its true
owners. The now dissolved SLP was formally held by two firms
registered in the British Virgin Islands.
Rasmus was wound up in April 2016, more than a year before the UK
Government imposed emergency transparency rules on SLPs after a series
of revelations by The Herald around their abuse by criminals,
especially in the former Soviet Union.
The Herald reported yesterday most of the 20 SLPs in the Azerbaijan
Laundromat were registered at addresses that have featured in previous
scandals, including the10-times-bigger Russian Laundromat exposed
earlier this year. These included a number of private homes and
mailbox and virtual offices in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Rasmus itself was initially registered at a small private home in
Bishopbriggs, near Glasgow. It moved to Oswalds, now Jordans Scotland,
in June 2013 shortly after the first payments from the Laundromat were
The Herald asked Jordans to comment but we have received no response.
The agency's Edinburgh division is led by director Andrew Cockburn. Mr
Cockburn is an active member of the Institute of Directors and past
president of the Edinburgh City Business Club.
Jordans Scotland's sister firm Jordan Trust Company offers UK and
offshore company registrations, including in Russian, to an
Last week it emerged Edinburgh accountants Saffery Champness, who also
have an offshore business aimed at former USSR clients, hosted an SLP
at the centre of an investigation in to an alleged £40m VAT fraud in
Russia. A man has been jailed.
Posted 11 September 2017 - 08:15 AM
The Herald (Glasgow), Scotland
September 9, 2017 Saturday
Contagion threat from Baku billions pouring through companies
Baku has always felt like the crossroads of Europe and Asia, a city,
rather like Istanbul in Turkey, that somehow bridges two worlds.
Ultra-modern glass and steel skyscrapers now punctuate the skyline of
the Azerbaijan's ancient capital, thanks to its second great oil boom
in just a century.
The new buildings - five-star hotels and glitzy malls - represent the
regime of Ilham Aliyev just as ostentatious Communist buildings did
for his father, Heydar, Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev's strongman in
Aliyev senior, a former KGB man, ran Azerbaijan for most of 1969 to
2003. He was only out of power for six after Pravda, the paper of the
Communist party, accused him of corruption.
His son has had a similarly bad press, thought not usually at home,
for the same reasons.
Mr Aliyev - his name is sometimes transcribed in to English as Aliev -
was named as "Corrupt Person of the Year" by Transparency
International in 2013. Reporters without Borders, the freedom of
speech group, this year ranked his country as one of the worst in its
world press freedom index.
It said: "Discontent with crushing all forms of pluralism, President
Aliyev has been waging a relentless war against his remaining critics
"Independent journalists and bloggers are thrown in prison if they do
not first yield to harassment, beatings, blackmail, or bribes."
Aliyev regime sources have therefore dismissed the Azerbaijan
Laundromat story as a "smear". In a clear dogwhistle to borderline
anti-Semites, it suggested the evidence brought against it was the
product of the Jewish American billionaire George Soros, who is
something of a bogeyman for some former Soviet regimes.
Mr Soros invests heavily in independent journalism and civic society
programmes and funded one of the bodies behind the Laundromat, the
Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.
Media close to the Azerbaijani regime immediately assaulted both the
OCCRP - whose raw data has formed the basis for The Herald's series of
reports - and The Guardian. And they clearly tried to tap in to the
same anti-media sentiment in the US, encouraged by President Donald
Trump, who also happens to be behind one of the new Baku skyscrapers
thanks to a deal with an Azeri named in the Laundromat.
"Freedom of the press in the West is illusory," said Day Az, the
country's first web newspaper. "This is confirmed by a crisis of trust
in the mainstream media in Britain itself." The paper called OCCRP,
whose website has been blocked in Azerbaijan, "the lapdogs of Soros".
Also to blame for the stories, said Azeri sources, were the Armenians.
Azerbaijan fought a bloody war with its neighbours over a territorial
dispute which has still not been resolved. Oh, and MI6.
Europe is watching with concern. Money from the Laundromat, say
investigators, was used to make payments to Western politicians
sympathetic to Azerbaijan as Mr Aliyev plots a careful course between
Russia, the EU and Middle Eastern neighbours.
Western leaders fear contagion from Azerbaijani corruption, press
repression and authoritarianism thanks to money passed through
Baku is not the only bridge from East to West. So, it seems, is Scotland.
Posted 11 September 2017 - 08:22 AM
PACE Monitoring Committee’s report outlines ‘Money laundering processes by Azerbaijan’
One of the main topics of the fall session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), to be launched in Strasbourg on October 9, will be the report on Azerbaijan’s obligations.
Recently the PACE Monitoring Committee has confirmed that report in Paris. During the discussion at the Commission meeting, some formulations in the document were toughened.
“Aravot” asked Hermine Naghdalyan, a member of the Armenian delegation to the PACE Monitoring Committee, whether what toughening and new provisions are included in the report in particular, Mrs. Naghdalyan said: “The commitments undertaken by Azerbaijan, as a country under monitoring, are spoken about in the report presented by co-rapporteurs Austrian Stefan Schennach and Romanian Cezar-Florin Preda. There were also controversial opinions. Perhaps the most important thing is as Dutch delegate Tony Cox said that these are the obligations and commitments that every country voluntarily assumes when joining the Council of Europe. However, their fulfilment, according to the delegate, remained in the form of a dream in case of Azerbaijan”.
According to Hermine Naghdalyan, the report is quite critical, although there were also opinions that the ideas are quite softly and diplomatically expressed in the report.
The report touches upon the problems in Azerbaijan in almost all spheres: the problem of separating power wings, Parliament’s role, accountability of the executive power, which is at a fairly low level, the justice system, which is far from being independent and impartial, independence of judicial bodies, implementation of European Court judgments, arbitrary use of criminal law as a means of limiting the disagreement of opinions. All the pressures that exist in the mass media are presented in detail.
Let us also note that in one week the co-rapporteurs will again visit Azerbaijan, after which the report will be supplemented, which will be put to a vote in the October session.
Mrs. Naghdalyan stated that the memorandum of the report, the documentary materials received by the rapporteurs, has been prepared much more comprehensively this time, it is full of serious documentary materials. But there were also claims to include the names of human rights defenders and journalists who were subjected to pressure in the resolution.
Let us also inform that before the PACE autumn session, another criticizing report against Azerbaijan is presented in the Legal Affairs Committee. It is titled “Presidency of Azerbaijan. What are the consequences?”. According to Mrs. Naghdalyan, dissatisfaction with Azerbaijan was still in the year of its presidency – 2.5 years ago, when a question arose, whether how such a country could take over the presidency. But, according to the order, Azerbaijan was given that opportunity, and also a timely decision was made to give Azerbaijan one year after its presidency to make all those changes. At that time, there was an initiative to prepare another report on Azerbaijan. Mrs. Naghdalyan said that the discussion of this report was deliberately delayed, and now two reports are presented simultaneously. This report also points out the corrupt practices in Azerbaijan.
At the end of the conversation Mrs. Naghdalyan also mentioned that in both reports there is a provision on money laundering in Azerbaijan, approximately worded as follows: “Large-scale money laundering processes have taken place in Azerbaijan over the last few years, which aim to influence the PACE delegates and reporters in order to prevent the criticism against Azerbaijan”.
- MosJan likes this
Posted 13 September 2017 - 09:00 AM
Posted 15 September 2017 - 09:12 AM
To me this is just a window dressing, nothing will come out of it!
Panorama, ArmeniaSept 14 2017The Guardian: European Parliament calls for investigation into 'Azerbaijani Laundromat'
The European Parliament has called for an investigation into revelations by the Guardian and media partners that Azerbaijan ran a secret $2.9bn (£2.2bn) slush fund to pay influential Europeans to paint a positive image of the authoritarian regime, The Guardian reported laundromat.
According to the source, MEPs have demanded a “comprehensive” investigation into “attempts by Azerbaijan and other autocratic regimes ... to influence European decision-makers through illicit means”, following a last-minute amendment to a report on corruption.
In a separate move, the head of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, called for unprecedented legal action against Azerbaijan over its refusal to release a political prisoner in defiance of the European court on human rights. The Council of Europe and ECHR are not part of the EU, but the coincidence in timing shows how political repression and corruption in Azerbaijan is rising up the agenda of Europe’s institutions, the newspaper writes.
At a meeting of Council of Europe ambassadors on Wednesday, Jagland called for the launch of legal proceedings against Azerbaijan for flouting ECHR court judgments – an unprecedented step in the 68-year history of the Council of Europe.
“We cannot have political prisoners in Europe and we cannot have a situation in which Azerbaijan continues to deprive Mammadov of his liberty against the judgment of the highest court – which clearly stated his arrest and detention were arbitrary,” Jagland said in a statement released to the Guardian. “The time has come for Azerbaijan to think hard about its obligations as a member of the Council of Europe and whether it still wants to fulfil them.”
Jagland wants to invoke the Council of Europe convention’s article 46.4, which could ultimately lead to Azerbaijan being ejected from the human rights body. This “nuclear option” has never been used before and would require action from European foreign ministers, following a court assessment.
The paper remind that the politics of the oil-rich country were also being debated in the European parliament, when MEPs voted to set up a corruption investigation by 349 votes to 290, with 42 abstentions. “Following the recent ‘Azerbaijani Laundromat’ https://www.theguard...jani-laundromatrevelations, attempts by Azerbaijan and other autocratic regimes in third countries to influence European decision-makers through illicit means [the European parliament] calls for a comprehensive parliament investigation,” the text stated.
Posted 15 September 2017 - 09:15 AM
By Weekly Staff on September 14, 2017
BRUSSELS—The recent “Azerbaijani Laundromat” revelations should be investigated and the “Magnitsky” sanctions list adopted by the EU, Members of European Parliament (MEP) urged on Sept. 15.
MEPs condemn the recent revelations, “attempts by Azerbaijan and other autocratic regimes in third countries to influence European decision-makers through illicit means,” in a resolution approved by 578 votes, to 19, with 68 abstentions. They also called for the European Parliament to investigate and adopt robust measures to prevent such corruption occurring.
Corruption is “one of the most neglected causes of human rights violations” and the European Union should foster international cooperation to fight it, urged the MEPs.
They called on the EU to ensure that existing anti-corruption conventions are enforced; add an anti-corruption clause to its deals with non-EU countries; monitor EU-funded projects closely and permanently, in cooperation with local anti-corruption agencies; as a last resort, use sanctions or suspend deals in cases of systemic corruption leading to serious human rights breaches; support and protect independent media, civil society organizations and whistle-blowers who expose corruption cases, despite risks of reprisals; bring the “Magnitsky” sanctions list against the 32 Russian state officials responsible for the death of Russian whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky to the Council as soon as possible for its adoption, and impose targeted sanctions against these officials.
With Lux Leaks, Panama Leaks, Russia and Azerbaijan Laundromats, we realize that corruption stretches far across state borders, and has dramatic repercussions on policy decisions,” said Lithuanian politician, and MEP Petras Auštrevičius. “Through this report, we call for the highest possible ethical and transparency standards to be upheld in international and national bodies and for the EU to set up a legal framework to deter any type of corruption and fraud.” Auštrevičius added.
An in-depth investigation led by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) revealed on Sept. 5 that Azerbaijan’s ruling elite operated a secret $2.9 billion scheme to pay European decision-makers, purchase luxury goods, and launder funds through a network of British companies.
Azerbaijan’s leadership made more than 16,000 covert payments between 2012 and 2014, according to the information presented. Some of the money was given to lawmakers, politicians, and journalists as part of an international lobbying mission to deflect criticism of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and to portray Azerbaijan in a positive light.
The investigation also revealed that that several bank transfers—in excess of $7 million—were made to a Budapest bank account around the time the Hungarian government extradited Azerbaijani ax-murderer Ramil Safarov to Azerbaijan.
As part of the ongoing investigation into the “Azerbaijani Laundromat“—a nearly $3 billion slush fund tied to Azerbaijan’s ruling elite and used to buy influence around the world—Hungarian investigative journalism NGO Átlátszó.hu revealed that the Budapest bank account belonged to an offshore company owned by the son of an influential Azerbaijani politician.
According to the report, more than $7 million was transferred to the account in 2012 right around the time the Hungarian government struck its deal with Azerbaijani authorities, allowing for Safarov’s extradition. The offshore company has since been closed.
Ramil Safarov, the Azerbaijani army officer who was serving a life sentence in Hungary for axing to death Armenian Lt. Gurgen Margaryan, was extradited to Azerbaijan on Aug. 31 and pardoned by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.
Posted 16 September 2017 - 07:38 AM
Armenpress News Agency , Armenia
September 15, 2017 Friday
Europe never said that Azerbaijan is a democratic country – former Israeli MP
YEREVAN, SEPTEMBER 15, ARMENPRESS. On the whole Europe has never said
that Azerbaijani is a democratic country, and Azerbaijan tries to push
forward its interests with the help of money, Alexander Tsinker,
former lawmaker of Israeli parliament, co-chair of the
Armenian-Israeli public forum, said, commenting on the ‘Azerbaijani
Laundromat’ scandal disclosed by the efforts of The Guardian and media
partners, reports Armenpress.
“It’s obvious that something like that happened: investigation will
reveal what money is the talk about, and to whom it was given.
Moreover, I would like to note that various, the so-called, not so
democratic countries apply this method: when the MEPs visit that
country, they are hosted very well, they are given gifts with an
expectation that the lawmakers will positively express their opinion
about that country. I remember one of the British lawmakers said
during the Azerbaijani elections that elections were so well organized
in Azerbaijan that Europe should follow its example, this means that
these are obviously ordered speeches”, Alexander Tsinker said who is
in Armenia during these days.
Commenting on the forum works, he informed that during the recent
session the Armenian-Israeli cooperation, a number of issues relating
to joint projects were discussed. The next meeting of the forum
members is scheduled in spring.
Posted 17 September 2017 - 08:23 AM
Hakob Badalyan, Political Commentator
- Politics - 16 September 2017, 13:19
BP is a consortium in which the Azerbaijani Socar has a share which has been increased from 11.7% to 25% which has been hailed by Aliyev. He noted that Baku will get an additional 3.5 billion dollars. This money is important for Azerbaijan considering the financial issues that there are in the banking system of this country. A few months ago the Western press reported a possibility of default in one of the major banks in Azerbaijan. In this respect, Azerbaijan gains an important financial source. On the other hand, the new agreement is interesting against the corruption scandal involving Aliyev revealed in the international press, namely the Guardian. Moreover, Baku blamed not only the Armenian lobby for the scandal as it traditionally does but also the British special services. And now, a few days after the latest corruption scandal the agreement is signed which extends the term of the authority of BP consortium over Azerbaijan’s oil resources by another 26 years, until 2050. Now it is clear why Baku hinted that the British special service backs the next international scandal. Had Baku refused to extend the agreement with BP until 2050 or was it trying to set its own conditions. What was the initial issue before the international corruption scandal and what was the solution is confidential but interestingly the agreement between Azerbaijan and BP was prolonged immediately after the corruption scandal.
It is also interesting that this time the corruption scandal involved one of the companies of the Russian defense industry, Rosoboronexport.
It is possible that Azerbaijan was planning to sign an oil agreement with Russia, not BP or Moscow was trying to strike a deal with Baku.
Azerbaijan practically surrendered, even if it got an additional 3.5 billion dollars. The point is that the presence of a Western consortium in the Azerbaijani oil and gas sector is an indirect but quite specific mechanism of stability and security in the Caucasus because only in such setting is the smooth flow of oil money possible.
One should not underestimate the role of oil interest of the West in Baku in the relative stability of the process of the Karabakh conflict in the past two decades. In fact, currently this interest is prolonged by another 26 years, until 2050. De facto it means extension of the current status quo and relative peace until 2050. Aliyev knew this very well but he was helped to understand what else the water of the “laundromat” could wash away if they disobeyed regarding oil.
Posted 17 September 2017 - 08:24 AM
Blogger Alexander Lapshin who was jailed in Azerbaijan for visiting Karabakh and later pardoned by Ilham Aiyev commented on “recognition” of Karabakh as “Azerbaijani terroritory”.
In his message on Facebook, blogger, who is national of Russia and Israel, said he had been shocked not only by “obscurantism of the early Islamic caliphate, hidden under modern shopping mall, but humiliation of Azerbaijanis asking me to agree to recognize Karabakh as their territory.”
He added that Azerbaijanis have unfortunately turned from cultural national of poets and merchants into nervous and revengeful people convinced that “their future depends on Sasha Lapshin”.
“Do they seriously believe that I can decide anything in your conflict with Armenia and the world?” he wonders. “Today I am so generous to hand over…. Alaska to Azerbaijan!”
Lapshin said he could imagine how much Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko got in exchange for something with help of which Azerbaijan spoiled relations with Armenia and Russia, let alone Israel.
“And this because of a blogger. That's where the money from the Caspian oil is plunging, while the people are begging for $ 100-150 a month,” he wrote.
- MosJan likes this
Posted 21 September 2017 - 09:22 AM
Where is the money? Show me the money!!!!!! Today's politicians vocabulary.
Public Radio of ArmeniaSept 20 2017Azerbaijan Laundromat: Merkel ally ‘received cash from regime’Photo: Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images
Revelations over payments by Azerbaijan to European politicians have seeped into the German election as it emerged that a close ally of Angela Merkel allegedly received money from the authoritarian regime, The Guardian reports.
According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung , Strenz was paid between €7,000 and €15,000 (£6,000-£13,000) sent to her via a firm set up by Eduard Lintner, a former German MP and lobbyist for Azerbaijan.
The Guardian said Strenz has refused to comment and did not respond to emails.
The scandal threatens to shake up what has so far been a sleepy election campaign, lacking any of the personal mudslinging or scandal-ridden offensives typical of the US or Britain, with Merkel’s CDU on course to secure victory. Latest polls show it to be on 36% – 14 points ahead of the party’s nearest rival, the Social Democrats.
Lintner was one of several prominent Europeans to have received large sums of money from a scheme nicknamed the Azerbaijani Laundromat, exposed this month by the Guardian and other media partners. Lintner admits the payments but says he did not personally benefit and he was unaware of the original source of the payments.
Azerbaijan’s ruling elite used the $2.9bn (£2.1bn) fund to silence criticism of the country’s dismal human rights record with a series of under-the-table payments made to leading European politicians.
Leaked banking data shows that Lintner received more than €800,000 through UK shell companies. Some of this money was paid to other parliamentarians in Germany and Belgium. The payments to Strenz in 2014 and 2015 were sent through Lintner’s company, Line M-Trade, based at the office of his Nuremberg lawyer.
Strenz has visited Azerbaijan on several occasions, including as an election monitor, and is chairwoman of the German-South Caucasian Friendship Group. She has posted a photograph on her website – slogan “Politics can be different” – with Azerbaijan’s authoritarian leader, Ilham Aliyev.
Strenz, a former teacher, has been a member of parliament since 2009. She is now under pressure to explain whether the payments may have influenced her voting record in Berlin and in the Council of Europe, where she is a member of the parliamentary assembly.
In June 2015, Strenz voted against a parliamentary assembly motion calling on Azerbaijan to release its political prisoners, who include several journalists. She was the only German representative who voted no. Strenz has given an approving verdict on Azerbaijan’s elections, in contrast to other observers who have been critical.
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