Laundromat 2.0: The Most Important OCCRP Investigations
What is the "Azerbaijani laundromat"?
"Landromat" is a complex system of money laundering, where banks and one-day companies are used in different countries as reported by the Center for the Study of Corruption and Organized Crime (OCCRP) published an investigation on how Azerbaijani authorities used fictitious companies in the UK for laundering $2.9 billion. .
The money passed through a large European bank, Danske Bank, who closed their eyes to the transactions, although they should have checked them them. The Estonian branch of the bank processed the accounts of all four Azerbaijani laundering companies, allowing billions to pass through it.
Most of the money came from shell companies registered in the UK. Also, a large amounts went to companies in the UAE and Turkey. (Some of the transactions include companies from the Russian "Laundromat," a huge money laundering system previously promulgated by the OCCRP.)
Almost half of the $ 2.9 billion came from the account of the International Bank of Azerbaijan (IBA) of a mysterious shell company linked to President Ilham Aliyev. The second and third largest investors were two offshore companies with direct links to the regime. Part of the money came directly from various ministries. And another large part, from the Russian company "Rosoboronexport."
This money was used to bribe European politicians who lobbied Azerbaijan's interests in the EU. In particular, they blocked resolutions condemning human rights violations in the former Soviet republic.
For example, the German politician Edward Lintner headed the commission of observers for the presidential elections in Azerbaijan where Ilham Aliyev once again won on them. Two weeks later, his account received €61 thousand from the British company Polux Management.
The same company transferred money to the account of the husband of Irina Bokova, a Bulgarian politician and director of UNESCO, as well as to accounts of Italian politician Luke Volunte, the former leader of the European People's Party in the Council of Europe. He received more than $2 million to prevent the adoption of the PACE resolution on political prisoners in Azerbaijan, the investigation believes.
From 2012 to 2014, the Azerbaijani government imprisoned more than 90 human rights defenders, opposition politicians and journalists (such as the journalist of the OKRP Khadizha Ismailova) for political reasons.
Officials’ personal expenses
The company Metastar Invest (which also paid European politicians) transferred more than $12,000 to the account of one of the top American clinics, Johns Hopkins Medicine. The purpose of the payment indicated that the money was intended for the services of Yagub Eyubov and his son Emin. Eyubov is the first vice-premier of Azerbaijan and one of the most influential officials of the country. His son Emin is the Republic's Ambassador to the Council of Europe.
In January 2013, Azer Gasimov, a spokesman for the Azerbaijani president, received $18,000. The appointment indicated that it was a "deposit for an educational trip to the United States."
They bought fresh flowers ($ 6,600), high-quality cashmere and woolen products ($ 1,672 thousand), German luxury cars, Italian clothes, French perfumes using company accounts. Who eventually was given these items is unknown.
Connection with Rosoboronexport
Several British companies received more than $29 million from a Russian arms supplier, Rosoboronexport (owned by Rostekh Chemezov). Subsequently, this money was transferred to the account of the first vice-premier of the republic.
In 2012, Rosoboronexport transferred funds to the British company Metastar Invest. At least $ 1.8 million was placed in their account in Hungary, which belonged to the offshore company Velasco International. From the "Panama Archives" it is known that this company belonged to Orhan Eyubov, the son of the first vice-premier of Azerbaijan. In his post, Yagub Eyyubov, in particular, oversees the machine-building industry.
The lawyers who conducted the Velasco International case indicated that the originals of offshore company documents should have been sent to Baku. OCCRP reporters checked this address in the capital of Azerbaijan and found out that Yagub Eyubov lived there.
Also, money from Rosoboronexport went to an offshore company connected with the business of the family of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. In the distribution of some payments it was indicated that the money from Rosoboronexport must pass through British Metastar Invest and go to another offshore company, Inmaxo Capital.
Inmaxo Capital acted as an intermediary in the export of cement from Russia to Azerbaijan for the construction company Pasha Insaat, which is part of the holding Pasha Holding. This holding is controlled by Arif Pashayev, father of Mehriban Aliyeva and father-in-law of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.
Rosoboronexport refused to explain what was the true purpose of payments to offshore companies connected with high-ranking officials of Azerbaijan.