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Kalin Mitrev received €345,000 ($468,000) in Bulgarian and Swiss accounts from Hilux, Polux and Metastar between October 2012 and February 2014 for supervision services. An additional €40,000 did not arrive in his account after two attempts to make the transaction were rejected by Deutsche Bank “due to sensitivities.” Under current anti-money laundering legislation, banks must reject suspicious transactions.
Bulgaria-born Mitrev is the husband of Irina Bokova, the general director of UNESCO. In 2010, Bokova bestowed UNESCO’s Mozart Medal on Mehriban Aliyeva, Azerbaijan’s first lady and now also the country’s vice president. In July 2013, UNESCO announced that Azerbaijan would donate US$ 5 million to the organization, as part of a cooperation agreement signed by Bokova in the presence of Aliyeva.
On Oct. 22, 2013, UNESCO hosted a photo exhibition called “Azerbaijan – Land of Tolerance” at its Paris headquarters at the request of a foundation chaired by Aliyeva. Three days later, the bank records show Mitrev was paid €20,000. The following month, Bokova joined Aliyeva at the same exhibition’s opening at the Azerbaijani Cultural Center in Paris.
Mitrev told OCCRP that the payments were for consultancy work from May 2011 to April 2014 with Avuar-Co LLC, a Baku-based company, which “was working with the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Azerbaijan on a major government program for the mitigation and prevention of the disastrous floodings in the Kura-Aras river basin.”
He said he does not know why he was paid via Metastar, Hilux and Polux but referred reporters to a representative of Avuar-Co., who said via email that the three offshores had debts to his company and that he used these debts to pay Mitrev for his services. The representative, Agaselim Seidov, was later contacted by OCCRP at his home outside of Baku. He denied any knowledge of the flood project and said he did not send the emails.
Mitrev did not answer the question whether his wife knew about these payments, but added that all the income generated was reported and taxed in Bulgaria.
In an answer to OCCRP’s partner Berlingske, Irina Bokova stated: “I am not privy to the details of my husband’s consulting business and equally, your questions about my opinion on Azerbaijan and its leadership are wholly misplaced … I most vehemently deny any wrongdoing and will consider defamatory any publication of these totally unfounded conjectures on your part.”