New information suggests that payments transferred to 17 Black’s account at Noor Bank in Dubai originate from the “Azerbaijani Laundromat,” a network of shell companies used to embezzle public funds out of Azerbaijan and pay bribes around the world, the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation said in a statement on Tuesday.
The Laundromat, an “all-purpose financial vehicle” exposed by the OCCRP in 2017, facilitated ways for the Azerbaijani ruling elite to embezzle, avoid tax, engage in money laundering, and funnel bribes totalling more than €3 billion into the EU.
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.
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, Suleyman’s, father was deputy energy minister until 2020.
— Mikaela (@Michaelajav) September 27, 2015
The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) just settled its prosecution for money laundering against the couple. As part of the settlement, the NCA seized £4 million (€4.7 million) the couple received from Azerbaijani Laundromat shell companies.
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.
The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation obtained a registry filing of one of the shell companies cited in the NCA’s case. The filing for Hong Kong company Ago Limited states that, from 2015 onwards, the entity was owned, on paper, by Azeri national Rufat Baratzada, a security guard at a construction site in Baku.
Baratzada’s details on Ago Limited’s filing are identical to those on filings of Mayor Trans Ltd, a Seychelles shell company that sent €1.4 million from its account at ABLV Bank in Latvia to 17 Black’s account at Noor Bank in Dubai, held in Yorgen Fenech’s name.
“The mechanisms, facilitators, and frontman involved in the payments to the Javadovs in the UK case are the same as those involved in the payments to 17 Black. This warrants further investigation into whether 17 Black, first identified by Daphne Caruana Galizia, was a bridge between the Azerbaijani Laundromat and high level officials in Malta,” the Foundation said.