Ilham Aliyev’s family owns a 10,500-square-foot London mansion worth more than US$ 25 million.
The house is on Hampstead Lane, in a leafy corner of North London – a
cool oasis from the bustle of the central tourist zone. The red-brick
building stands behind an imposing security gate, hidden from prying
eyes by thick hedges. The curtains in its large windows are drawn, and
the driveway stands empty save for a couple of service personnel who
come and go in a battered Fiat Punto.
It is an old neighborhood, and a rich one.
Just across the street stands the baronial Kenwood House, an enormous
wedding-cake-style structure built in the 17th century, which was once
owned by William Murray, first Earl of Mansfield.
It overlooks the rugged green expanse of Hampstead Heath, a kind of wild
urban park whose landscapes inspired the great English Romantic poet
Nearby, the quaint villages of Belsize Park and Hampstead are home to
the great and good of the British liberal cultural scene such as Liam
Gallagher and Benedict Cumberbatch. In recent years, to the chagrin of
long-time residents, oligarchs have bought up expensive properties in
the area. In the booming real estate market of London, where house
prices leapt by nearly 26 percent between 2013 and 2014 alone, these
houses are fantastic investments for the super-rich.
The house was purchased in 1998 when Aliyev was a vice-president of
Azerbaijan’s State Owned Oil Company (SOCAR). It’s unknown how much the
purchase price was, or how much he was getting paid back then.
Land Registry records for the Hampstead Lane house, dubbed the “Mansion
on the Heath” by its architects, show that it is owned by Beckforth
Services Limited, a company in turn owned by the Aliyevs and registered
in the Isle of Man, an offshore tax haven.
Today Ilham Aliyev is the President of Azerbaijan, and the Mansion on
the Heath is just one of multiple pied-a-terres used by the Aliyev
family, which also maintains domiciles in Moscow and Baku.
Today as president, Aliyev’s salary is about US$ 230,000 per year,
raising an interesting question: how can he possibly afford such a large
house in one of London’s most expensive neighborhoods?
President Aliyev can rightly say that the Mansion on the Heath is no
longer his house as documents for Beckforth Services Limited reveal that
he and his wife, Mehriban, transferred their shares in 2010 to their
eldest daughter, Leyla Aliyeva, who is now the sole shareholder.
There is no indication in the paperwork of any money changing hands in
But the Beckforth records do show another interesting anomaly: the elder
Aliyevs used the
of the Azerbaijani State Owned Oil Company (SOCAR) as their personal
Nice as the London neighborhood and house may be, they apparently
weren’t quite nice enough. According to the website of high-end
architects SHH, the firm was retained to enlarge and redecorate the
property, although it had just been refurbished prior to the sale.
The architects claim that their client, “a central Asian diplomatic
family”, asked for “a sense of
especially in the entrance area”. The Aliyevs are said to have
insisted on a design that made “particular reference to French
influences and interiors from the Cote d’Azur region.”
Planning permission records from the London borough of Haringey reveal
that the Aliyevs’ Beckforth Services Limited commissioned SHH to engage
in “architectural refurbishment” on the Hampstead house. This included
enlarging the master suite
and building underground parking lifts.
The Aliyevs’ neighborhood is one of London’s wealthiest. One of the
owners of the Arsenal football club, Alisher Usmanov, owns a
down the block, which he bought in 2008 for £50 million (US$76
Although the exact value of the Aliyevs’ London property is not clear,
their next door neighbor’s house was worth more than US$ 26
two years ago. The Hampstead mansion is likely to be worth significantly
more after the work performed by SHH, whose clients include wealthy
Saudis and fashion
designer Tom Ford.
The Isle of Man Company
The Aliyevs did not directly buy the Hampstead mansion in 1998, but used
Beckforth Services Limited to acquire
Wealthy individuals sometimes use such companies to buy property to
ensure their names do not appear on the property records. However, the
documents for Beckforth Services spell out that its true owners are the
Aliyevs, and that the Azerbaijani president and his wife listed the
at 73 Neftchilar Avenue in Baku as their personal address.
Beckforth Services Limited is an interesting company. It is run with the
help of SMP Partners Limited, a company that handles a large portion of
the registrations for gambling
in the Isle of Man and offers yacht and aircraft management to wealthy
Beckforth Services Limited may have also used “nominee” directors,
figureheads who appear in official paperwork to run the company but are
not really involved with the business. One of Beckforth’s directors was
based on the Island of Nevis in the British West Indies.
His wife and business partner , Sarah, was described as a “sham
in 2012 by the Guardian. Just a few weeks after the story on Sarah
Petre-Mears appeared, Edward resigned as director from the Aliyevs’
company and was replaced by Annette
a client services manager at SMP Partners.
“High Net-Worth Family”
One of the first directors of the Aliyevs’
was an accountant named Joel Steinhart, whose LinkedIn
that he offers “client driven solutions for high net-worth families” and
provides services to “a small number of high net-worth individual
SMP Partners, who set up and manages Beckforth Services Limited, also
offers services to “private clients wishing to protect family assets…
and optimise wealth” and “manages in excess of $6 billion of trust
assets for clients”.
The link between Beckforth Services and wealth management is
problematic, given that the president and his wife are not meant to be
“high net-worth” individuals or entrepreneurs. As noted above, Ilham
Aliyev earns a US $230,000 annual salary, and he and Mehriban are
forbidden from running businesses under Azerbaijani law.
However, in this London example alone, their ownership of a hugely
expensive property and use of a luxury architectural firm suggests the
president’s family is spending far more than their visible means of
income would support.
Ilham Aliyev’s Family Mansion Photo Gallery