UK at centre of secret $3bn Azerbaijani money laundering and lobbying scheme – The Guardian

09:13 • 05.09.17



Azerbaijan’s 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 revealed.


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 Azerbaijan’s 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 Europe’s 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. Estonia’s 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 Europe’s parliamentary assembly, Pace. One is Eduard Lintner, a German ex-MP and member of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to Angela Merkel’s 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 Azerbaijanwhere he monitored the country’s 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 Mitrev’s wife, Irina Bokova, who is the director general of Unesco. Bokova has bestowed one of Unesco’s highest honours, the Mozart Medal on Azerbaijan’s first lady and vice-president, Mehriban Aliyeva. She also hosted a photo exhibition at Unesco’s headquarters in Paris, entitled Azerbaijan – A Land of Tolerance. The Heydar Aliyev foundation organised the event.


 





Загрузка...

LATEST NEWSAll Today news

15:23 • 19/02

Nagorno-Karabakh expands international cooperation

13:29 • 19/02

Armenian marksman qualifies for youth Olympics

12:55 • 19/02

Turkey, US to form a three-way mechanism to tackle festering bilateral issues

12:06 • 19/02

ISIL claims responsibility for Russian church shooting in which five women were killed

11:51 • 19/02

National Security Service chief hosts Russian counterpart to discuss cooperation

10:59 • 19/02

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri enjoys a triumphant night at the BAFTAs as it becomes the big winner of the night with five prizes  

10:29 • 19/02

Asia shares extend global recovery, volatility subsides  

10:08 • 19/02

Winter Olympics 2018: Russian suspected of failed doping test

09:28 • 19/02

Mystery as shark falls from sky and lands in man’s back garden in Kent

09:14 • 19/02

Canada prime minister starts visit to India with Taj Mahal trip  

15:10 • 17/02

International community 'sees our campaign for justice' – Artsakh lawmaker  

14:51 • 17/02

Turkey, Germany pledge closer dialogue

14:42 • 17/02

Aravot: Genocide should not be underlying issue behind Armenian-Israeli relations

14:16 • 17/02

Japanese figure skater earns 1,000th Winter Olympics gold medal

14:06 • 17/02

Aliyev's belligerent rhetoric 'sign of solidarity with Turkey' – former defense minister

13:32 • 17/02

Nagorno-Karabakh reports 250 Azerbaijani ceasefire violations

13:13 • 17/02

Vic Darchinyan: I want to fight with Russian champion in Armenia 'before ending my career'

10:33 • 17/02

FBI under fire over Florida school shooting

09:12 • 17/02

Strong quake hits Mexico

17:53 • 16/02

Armenian, Russian emergency ministers discuss cooperation projects

16:51 • 16/02

Armenia-Belarus air transport cooperation discussed in Yerevan  

16:09 • 16/02

Armenian parliament rejects amendments to Tax Code

15:47 • 16/02

Arsenal boss Wenger confident of seeing out contract

15:30 • 16/02

Terrorist suicide bomber detained in Kyrgyzstan

14:53 • 16/02

18-year-old student saves toddler who jumped on tracks at Milan metro

14:39 • 16/02

US official ‘would be surprised' if Russia doesn't face more sanctions

14:31 • 16/02

iOS bug that displays an Indian character can crash iPhones and disable access to iMessages and WhatsApp

14:10 • 16/02

 NATO urges Turkey, Greece to ease tensions

13:15 • 16/02

Aravot: Supoerpowers' tolerance pushes Aliyev to further agression - politician

12:27 • 16/02

Major-General Tigran Parvanyan appointed commander of Russian-Armenian military contingent

11:52 • 16/02

Dutch parliament recognizes Armenian Genocide

11:28 • 16/02

Florida gunman who killed 17 in school shooting suffers from autism

10:50 • 16/02

Russian low-cost airline to launch flights from St Petrsburg to Gyumri

10:18 • 16/02

Aravot: Anti-Armenian propaganda contributed to tension over Karabakh, says official

09:41 • 16/02

Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux SPLIT after just two years of marriage

09:12 • 16/02

Australia PM Barnaby Joyce 'inept', says prime minister

18:18 • 14/02

Armenia named romantic travel destination

17:20 • 14/02

New anti-Russia sanctions ‘unrelated to Armenia’ – analyst

16:02 • 14/02

International community ‘turning blind eye’ to Turkey’s aggression – expert

15:33 • 14/02

Converse Bank offers agricultural loans

15:04 • 14/02

Amazon amid rare corporate layoff

14:18 • 14/02

Garo Paylan: Istanbul-Armenians unable to elect patriarch for 10 years       

13:27 • 14/02

Mammadyarov: EU-Azerbaijan cooperation not to affect Azerbaijan's partnership with Russia

12:54 • 14/02

Second US federal judge bars against Trump administration from ending DACA

12:44 • 14/02

Genes remain active after death

12:24 • 14/02

South Korea to pay North at Winter Olympics Olympics

12:13 • 14/02

Google Doodle celebrates Valentine’s Day 2018, Winter Olympics with two lovebirds skating together

12:03 • 14/02

Rare photos of celebrities back in days captured by one lucky teen photographer

11:46 • 14/02

Turkish citizen apprehended after illegally crossing Armenia’s border

11:15 • 14/02

No serious cooperation between our private sectors - head of Iran-Armenia Chamber of Commerce

09:35 • 14/02

Danish Quee’s husband Prince Henrik Dies at 83

09:15 • 14/02

Russian reported killed in Syria airstrikes

18:38 • 13/02

Planned sale of US fighters to Turkey ‘to be problematic for Armenia’ – Russian expert

17:32 • 13/02

Trump says America won't build more nuclear weapons – if other nations make commitments first

17:13 • 13/02

US planning cuts in economic, military aid to Armenia

16:21 • 13/02

Woman, 21, has abandoned by her husband and called a witch because of 'sweating' blood from eyes

15:57 • 13/02

Armen Sargsyan 'far more suitable candidate for prime minister' – Heritage party rep  

15:47 • 13/02

Ucom launches sales and service center in Armenia’s Agarak

14:56 • 13/02

Touching photo of baby gorilla hugging the man who saved her from being eaten wins wildlife photograph of the year

14:43 • 13/02

Boston Dynamics robots can open door for everyone (video)

14:33 • 13/02

Putin and Trump discuss North Korea by phone

13:42 • 13/02

Iran unveils new homemade nuclear-capable ballistic missiles

12:57 • 13/02

Iran has not proposed cheaper natural gas deal to Armenia, says official

12:31 • 13/02

Rio carnival dancers sparkle at samba parade as 72,000 spectators watch 'greatest show on Earth' 

12:13 • 13/02

Man who saved numerous lives with only one hand: Istanbul-Armenian doctor Hakob Kotoghian dies

11:38 • 13/02

CoE head to visit Turkey on Feb 15

11:06 • 13/02

Obamas' official portraits expand beyond usual format

10:53 • 13/02

Turkish prosecutor demands 10 years for HDP’s new Co-chairperson  

10:38 • 13/02

Winter Olympics: Chloe Kim wins halfpipe gold medal for US

09:57 • 13/02

Saakashvili seized at restaurant in Ukraine and Deported to Poland  

09:46 • 13/02

Trump administration aims to privatize the International Space Station

09:29 • 13/02

Zhamanak: PKK rebels seek asylum in Armenia

09:13 • 13/02

North Korea’s Kim thanks South for 'impressive' effort

18:02 • 12/02

Serzh Sargsyan’s preferred successor says 'final decision due' after next meeting with president

17:00 • 12/02

Iran ready to sell natural gas to Armenia ‘on affordable terms’ - ambassador

16:00 • 12/02

Criminals hide ‘billions’ in crypto cash

15:30 • 12/02

Serzh Sargsyan: Azerbaijan's snap presidential polls 'unrelated to Nagorno-Karabakh'

14:45 • 12/02

Armenian Genocide commemoration to be held in New York Times Square on April 22nd

14:22 • 12/02

Armenian-Austrian agricultural cooperation to be discussed in Vienna

13:30 • 12/02

Ranked voting system 'no reason' to end coalition partnership with Republican - ARF-D member

11:50 • 12/02

Tough weather conditions hamper recovery work at Russian plane-crash site

11:40 • 12/02

London City Airport shut after WW2 bomb found in Thames

11:22 • 12/02

International experts discuss Blockchain advantages in Yerevan

11:19 • 12/02

Russian pilots shoot down conventional 'enemy airdrome' in Armenia

10:38 • 12/02

Mirai Nagasu becomes first American woman to land triple axel at an Olympics

10:25 • 12/02

Reg E Cathey, ‘House of Cards’ and ‘The Wire’ actor, dies

09:51 • 12/02

Germany's Merkel calls for younger ministers in new government

09:45 • 12/02

Michigan town where only Christians are allowed to buy houses

09:27 • 12/02

NY state sues Weinstein Company

09:13 • 12/02

OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs call for fulfilling Vienna, St Petersburg agreements

09:02 • 12/02

71 killed in Russian passenger crash near Moscow

14:59 • 10/02

Aliyev calling snap presidential election ‘to win time’

14:14 • 10/02

Bulgarian president planning state visit to Armenia      

13:56 • 10/02

3,400-year-old mummy is brought back to life with controversial fair skin using 3D scans

13:44 • 10/02

'Rarest white diamond ever' is unveiled at Sotheby's London boutique

13:32 • 10/02

Pyeongchang 2018: Feuz promises 'full-on attack' in men's downhill

13:19 • 10/02

Nagorno-Karabakh reports 300 Azerbaijani ceasefire violations

13:02 • 10/02

Bako Sahakyan hosts OSCE Minsk Group mediators  

12:35 • 10/02

Armenia to criminalize terrorism

12:13 • 10/02

Israeli F-16 jet shot down by Syrian fire, military says