Investigations into a slush fund used by Azerbaijan’s ruling class to pay off politicians in Europe looked similar to the Ta’ Xbiex-based Pilatus Bank case, a European Parliament committee heard on Tuesday.
Eva Jung, an investigative journalist who helped expose a complex $2.9 billion money-laundering scheme known as the Azerbaijani laundromat, said the methods and procedures exposed in Malta looked similar.
At least three European politicians, a journalist who wrote stories friendly to the regime and businessmen who praised the government were among the recipients of Azerbaijani laundromat money.
Ms Jung said no Maltese politicians were exposed in the Azerbaijani laundromat.
Citing Maltese media reports, Ms Jung told the committee money flows from a Dubai-registered company controlled by the ruling Aliyev family in Azerbaijan were filtered through Pilatus Bank to Panama companies owned by Maltese politicians.
No Maltese politicians were exposed in the laundromat
Simon Bendtsen, another investigative journalist, said payments in the Azerbaijani laundromat passed through Danske Bank in Estonia through the use of four shell companies in the UK.
A team of journalists analysed over 16,000 leaked transactions from Danske Bank. They found money was transferred from either State-owned companies or by powerful Azeris with close ties to the country’s elite. Large amounts of money from Azerbaijan, including from the “very powerful” Ministry for Emergency Situations, flowed through Danske Bank to European politicians, the committee heard.
The companies were set up by Nexia BT soon after Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, his chief of staff, Keith Schembri, and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi visited Azerbaijan in December 2014.
Nexia BT were the same financial advisers used to open Panama companies for Mr Schembri and Dr Mizzi, sheltered by trusts in New Zealand, which were not declared to the local tax authorities.
Slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia had reported that Mr Heydarov was Pilatus Bank’s biggest client, with millions being deposited there.
Ms Caruana Galizia had published numerous articles based on accounts by a Russian whistleblower alleging that the Aliyev family transferred money to Mr Schembri’s and Dr Mizzi’s Panama companies. The whistleblower had also claimed that a third Panama company was owned by the Prime Minister’s wife, which company received $1 million from the Aliyev family.
All those involved deny the claims.
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