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Italy joins countries investigating bank in Azerbaijan corruption scheme

Photo credit - Finn Årup Nielsen

Prosecutors in Milan are now also investigating Danske Bank in Italy, topping the list of countries already investigating the bank’s activities in what has been dubbed the biggest money laundering scandal in history.

The bank is being investigated in Denmark, Estonia, the UK, the US and, now, in Italy. The prosecutor’s office in Milan has requested from the Danish authorities information regarding funds originating from Azerbaijan, according to Italian national daily business newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore.

The investigation is running in parallel with another that led to the indictment of Italian politician Luca Volontè, accused of having received large amounts of money originating from Azerbaijan through offshore companies and bank accounts. Volontè was absolved of money laundering charges – the prosecutors are appealing the court judgment. He will also be facing charges for corruption.

The Italian politician allegedly received money through Danske Bank when he formed part of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in return for support for Azerbaijan within the Council, according to the prosecution.

PACE expelled 13 members for accepting gifts and bribes from the Azerbaijani government following investigative reports on Azerbaijan’s alleged efforts to boost the country’s image among PACE members.

Former officials of the Estonian branch of Danske Bank were indicted for their involvement in this operation. The bank hosted accounts that let billions of dollars from Azerbaijan and offshore companies flow freely through its Estonian branch, with much of the money going to other offshore companies, high ranking officials and European politicians who praised the regime.

The companies now being looked into by Milan prosecutors allegedly received $3 billion through a complex series of transfers through several banks and companies spread all around the world that included the Latvian bank ABLV, according to court documents seen by Il Sole 24 Ore.

The Latvian Bank ABLV was also allegedly involved in money transfers to 17 Black, one of two companies set up to transfer monthly kickbacks to Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri according to leaked emails.

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