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Azerbaijan hits back over ‘scandalous’ money laundering claims

Baku criticizes Guardian reporting as smear as National Crime Agency looks at evidence and deems investigation

The government of Azerbaijan has responded angrily to revelations that it ran a secret $2.9 bn( PS2. 2bn) store which was used to pay prominent Europeans, range lobbying operations, and launder money via a group of opaque British companies.

Azerbaijan’s deputy president, Ali Hasanov, said the narratives by the Guardian and other media partners were a smear. In the first official action from Baku, Hasanov said the regime was the victim of a “scandalous” safarus are governed by British knowledge, 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 provoking ,” he said.

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

The use of British firms in the Laundromat has motivated calls for Theresa May to investigate. This is the second period this year that British corporate entities have been found to be at the heart of a large-scale coin laundering enterprise run from a former Soviet territory. In March, a same programme run from Moscow, the $20 bn Global Laundromat, was exposed.

Opposition politicians advised the government to act to prevent the misuse of firm vehicles. Four offshore-owned British fellowships- based in Glasgow, Birmingham, and Potters Bar in Hertfordshire- were used to funnel coin into the western fiscal plan. It croaked via the Estonian chapter of a Danish bank, Danske.

Tim Farron, the former Liberal Democrat leader, conducted calls for an inquiry, saying this was what happened” when the corporate landscape is too delicately governed “.

” Thanks to the Guardian investigation we learn of something “ve called the” Azerbaijani Laundromat ,” he said.” But now is the time to soak some fairly dirty linen in public and find out exactly who paid fund to whom and why.

” We necessitate 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 would appear the regime has been building remittances 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 reports committee, added to calls for enhanced transparency.

” Yet again a whistleblower has face-lift the eyelid on some unconscionably dreadful practice ,” she said.” It seems that Britain and British overseas territories are promoting alleged infects rehearses by refusing to introduce the total transparency the Conservative promised but failed to deliver.

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

Peter Dowd, Labour’s shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said:” Money laundering pains their own economies, steals from other persons and debases our society. The fiscal system should effectively and efficiently provide investment that benefits the whole economy , not boost the offshore bank offsets of plutocrats and criminals here and abroad.

” We have recognized too many of these shocking gossips in recent years because the Tories are incapable of taking on the rig organisation, which hurts the many to support the very few .”

Molly Scott Cato, a Dark-green MEP who sits on the European parliament’s economics and monetary affairs committee and research into the Panama Papers, said the revelations were sickening and reveal” once again that British claims to be a leader in opennes secrete a far grubbier actuality “.

” The relationship between UK companies and our murky offshore charge oasis tolerate the world’s corrupt nobility to gratify their extravagant life-styles at public overhead ,” she said.” They then use these ill-gotten increases to buy political affect that prevented from being held to account for human rights abuses and bad authority .”

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

Some of the money from the PS2. 2bn store was used to pay for luxuries such as vehicles, interior design and dentistry, while other summarizes went to European political leaders and foremost digits 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 directly identified in the leaked reports. But evidence of a bond was overwhelming. Big summing-ups came via the state-owned International Bank of Azerbaijan, which is the largest bank in an oil-wealthy country, and hitherto earlier the summer months it filed for bankruptcy protection in New York. The explanation and emergency situations ministries in Baku all lent cash.

The scheme was used to pay for the government’s incidental expenses including the medical bills of Yaqub Eyyubov, Azerbaijan’s firstly deputy prime minister. There were separate remittances 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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