Two members of Azerbaijan’s ruling Aliyev family have been found to have received millions in suspicious funds through the infamous Azerbaijani Laundromat, connected directly to the ruling president’s family for the first time.
The ongoing investigation by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) had previously implicated many high-ranking Azerbaijani officials and individuals in the Laundromat, but this is the first known member of the ruling family to have been involved.
This “all-purpose financial vehicle” was exposed by the OCCRP back in 2017. The Laundromat facilitated ways for the Azerbaijani ruling elite to embezzle, avoid tax, engage in money laundering, and funnel bribes amassing to more than €3 billion into the EU.
The money was used for various purposes, including “reputation laundering” and bribing European politicians and organisations. The illicit funds were also used to pay for luxurious properties and lifestyles for Azerbaijani citizens in the West.
Izzat Khanim Javadova, otherwise known by her DJ stage name “Mikaela Jav,” is the cousin of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Her father was a member of parliament before his death, and her husband, Sulyeman’s father was Deputy Energy Minister until 2020.
NEW: A popular London-based DJ turns out to be the cousin of Azerbaijan’s president.
— Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (@OCCRP) June 29, 2021
President Aliyev has ruled the country for almost two decades and has been widely criticised for corruption, press freedom violations, human rights issues, and of course, his enormous wealth, mainly acquired during his rule.
Findings published by the OCCRP detailed how for several years, Izzat and Suleyman were under investigation in the UK concerning millions of pounds of suspicious transactions that the National Crime Agency (NCA) suspects are “proceeds of corruption, theft, or embezzlement.”
Investigations by the Evening Standard had found that the unnamed couple had received £13.9 million from suspicious origins. British courts put a gag order on publishing the couple’s names until it was lifted following an appeal.
It was revealed how Izzat, a DJ on the Spanish island of Ibiza, and her husband had used a web of 20 offshore companies to receive the funds into their UK accounts. The NCA said the money flowed in such a way that it was difficult to find an auditable trail of banking transactions.
Out of the 20 companies used by the Jadovas to move money, seven of them were identified as part of the Azerbaijani Laundromat.
The couple’s family ties should have meant they were subject to enhanced scrutiny when opening bank accounts in the UK due to being classified as Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs). But the NCA investigation found that Sulyeman had claimed that his father was not a Minister and that they just shared the same name.
Izzat tried to shrug off the millions in suspicious transfers as income from a property rental company in Azerbaijan. However, the figures didn’t add up as the amount of money received was more than double their rental income.
They provided more than 250 rental agreements and contracts in an attempt to justify the transfers. Still, investigators said the dates didn’t tally, and there were questions about the validity of signatures on some of the documents.
The NCA concluded that the couple was aware that what they were receiving was from an illegal money laundering operation and that they were “simply the beneficiaries of payments made by, or on behalf of their powerful relations in Azerbaijan”.
Malta has also been implicated in the facilitation of the Laundromat. In 2019, Italian media published an investigation into corruption and money laundering in Azerbaijan and found that the now-defunct Pilatus Bank held an account for Hilux Services. This company was part of a more extensive network used to launder illicit money.
Disgraced Latvian Bank ABLV, implicated in the Laundromat, was reported to have made several transfers to 17 Black, a shell company owned by Yorgen Fenech, accused of commissioning the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. He led Tumas Group, part of the Electrogas Consortium, which includes Azerbaijan’s state-owned energy company SOCAR.
The deal saw Malta pay almost twice the market price for gas from SOCAR, as LNG bought at low market prices from Shell are sold on to Malta at a premium.
The Maltese government then went to a great effort to hide critical agreements related to the deal from the European Commission, The Shift revealed.