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Azerbaijan touches back over ‘scandalous’ money laundering allegations

Baku criticizes Guardian reporting as smear as National Crime Agency looks at prove and believes investigation

The government of Azerbaijan has responded angrily to discoveries that it guided a secret $2.9 bn( PS2. 2bn) store which was used to pay prominent Europeans, extend lobbying operations, and launder coin via groupings of opaque British companies.

Azerbaijan’s deputy president, Ali Hasanov, said the stories by the Guardian and other media partners were a smear. In the first official reaction from Baku, Hasanov said the regime was the victim of a “scandalous” safarus are governed by British ability, the Armenian diaspora and the US.

” When did the Guardian write about the truth about Azerbaijan? This newspaper has been known for decades for being against Azerbaijan ,” Hasanov told the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet . The reports were” biased, groundless and provocative ,” he said.

On Tuesday, the authorities blocked access from within Azerbaijan to the website of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project ( OCCRP ). The OCCRP published details of the scheme, nicknamed the Azerbaijani Laundromat, following a leak of data to the Danish newspaper Berlingske.

The use of British companionships in the Laundromat has induced calls for Theresa May to investigate. This is the second meter this year that British corporate entities have been found to be at the heart of a large-scale coin laundering procedure run from a former Soviet district. In March, a similar scheme run away from Moscow, the $20 bn Global Laundromat, was exposed.

Opposition politicians advocated the government to act to prevent the misuse of companionship vehicles. Four offshore-owned British corporations- based in Glasgow, Birmingham, and Potters Bar in Hertfordshire- has enabled us to pour coin into the western fiscal system. It ran via the Estonian diverge of a Danish bank, Danske.

Tim Farron, the former Liberal Democrat leader, produced calls for an inquiry, saying this was what happened” when the corporate scenery is too gently regulated “.

” Thanks to the Guardian investigation we learn of something called the Azerbaijani Laundromat ,” he said.” But now is the time to clean some reasonably dirty laundry in public and find out precisely who paid coin to whom and why.

” We necessity a full investigation to see that dirty money has not been used to buy influence in the UK. The Azerbaijani government is guilty of methodical human rights abuses and it appears to have been the regime has been moving pays on an industrial scale .”

Margaret Hodge, the chair of the all-party parliamentary radical for responsible taxation who uncovered the use of tax sanctuaries as chair of the public accounts committee, added to calls for more transparency.

” Yet again a whistleblower has lifted the eyelid on some unconscionably horrid action ,” she said.” It would seem that Britain and British overseas territories are facilitating suspect debases rules by refusing to introduce the full transparency the Conservative promised but failed to deliver.

” Until we know who owns companies and properties in Britain and in the tax oasis we control, such undesirable patterns will continue and Britain will be reprehensible because of the government’s failure to act .”

Peter Dowd, Labour’s shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said:” Money cleaning suffers our economy, steals from others and infects our society. The fiscal plan should effectively and efficiently provide investment that helps the whole economy , not boost the offshore bank balances of plutocrats and offenders here and abroad.

” We have understood too many of these sickening scandals in recent years because the Tories are incapable of taking on the manipulate organization, which pains the many to support the very few .”

Molly Scott Cato, a Light-green MEP who sits on the European parliament’s economics and monetary affairs committee and inquest into the Panama Papers, said the revelations were scandalizing and reveal” once again that British claims to be a leader in transparency disguise a far grubbier reality “.

” The relationship between UK companies and our murky offshore levy sanctuaries countenance the world’s corrupted elite to revel their extravagant lives at public overhead ,” she said.” They then use these ill-gotten incomes to buy political force that prevented from being held to account for human rights abuses and bad government .”

The four houses at the centre of the Azerbaijani Laundromat were all limited partnerships registered in the UK. They were: Metastar Invest, Hilux Services, Polux Management, and LCM Alliance. Their corporate “partners” are anonymous entities based in the British Virgin Islands, Seychelles and Belize.

Some of the currency from the PS2. 2bn store was used to pay for luxuries such as vehicles, interior design and dentistry, while other summing-ups was just going European politicians and foremost chassis linked to the promotion of Azerbaijan. Seven million pounds was wasted directly in the UK, including on private school fees.

Azerbaijan’s ruling family is not instantly mentioned in the leaked records. But evidence of a communication was overwhelming. Large summarizes came via the state-owned International Bank of Azerbaijan, which is the largest bank in an oil-wealthy country, and yet earlier the summer months it filed for bankruptcy protection in New York. The apology and emergency situations ministries in Baku all lent cash.

The scheme was used to pay for the government’s incidental expenses including the medical invoices of Yaqub Eyyubov, Azerbaijan’s first deputy prime minister. There were separate payments to Eyyubov’s son Emin, Azerbaijan’s EU ambassador, and to the president’s press secretary, Azer Gasimov.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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