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Hamza Karimov

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Hamza Karimov, since 2007 the head of SOCAR Petroleum Romania, received €125,800 ($159,750) in his Romanian account from Metastar Invest in August 2012 and April 2013.

In that same time period, his brother Tural Karimov, along with their cousin and an offshore company they control, received a combined total of €145,000 ($181,000) from Metastar. In fact, on a single day in August 2012, Hamza received €30,000, and his brother, Tural, €50,000.

Hamza Karimov told OCCRP that the information is inaccurate but would not specify what was wrong. “I, personally, do not know the company you mentioned. I do not remember the payment which you mentioned.” As foreigners, he noted, neither he nor his step-brother need to report such transactions. “We can receive any amount of money and don’t need to tell anybody what it represents,” Karimov said via text message.

Last year, Tural Karimov was charged by Romanian prosecutors for money laundering and defrauding the state budget in connection with the construction of several SOCAR gas stations. The investigation is still ongoing. Hamza Karimov told OCCRP that his brother is a “good man, who invested a lot in Romania” and the prosecutors filed “false charges against him.”

The story of the brothers Karimov and their partners began 10 years ago, when Hamza Karimov arrived in Bucharest. He was 23 years old and his mission was to run the city’s first SOCAR office. His stepbrother Tural came later, starting off in the real estate industry, while also working briefly in SOCAR’s economic department.

Their father, Tahir Karimov, was until recently the governor of the Azerbaijani district of Salyan and was an important political figure until he was removed from office in March 2016 by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.