Azeri Couple Surrenders Millions to Settle Money Laundering Case in the UK
An Azerbaijani couple close to Baku’s political elite agreed on Monday to hand over 4 million pounds ($5.5 million) to British authorities and this way settle an inquiry into the origin of their wealth, which is believed to have entered the U.K. through a money laundering system known as the Azerbaijani Laundromat.
The massive underground money movement system used by Azerbaijan’s elite was exposed by the OCCRP and partner organizations in 2017.
The scheme consists of shell companies that facilitated the laundering of money embezzled by Azerbaijan’s ruling elite and often used to purchase properties and fund luxurious living. It was also used for laundering bribes paid by Baku to European parliamentarians, journalists and businessmen to promote the Azerbaijani government’s views and stay quiet on corruption and human rights abuses inside the country.
The Javadovs are known for their extravagant lifestyle which includes hosting parties at their many houses across the U.K. and the Spanish island of Ibiza, where Javadova often entertains guests as a DJ.
The National Crime Agency, NCA, launched an investigation into the couple’s wealth two years ago and froze ten of their accounts. On Monday Javadov settled the case in order to avoid a costly trial. The couple admitted no wrongdoing and managed to keep 2 million pounds ($2.7 million) from the targeted accounts.
NCA’s Johnathan Hall said that after a risk-benefit analysis, the organization decided that the extra 2 million—even though likely of fraudulent origin—was not worth pursuing.
The existence of the NCA investigation was revealed last year by the Evening Standard. The paper wrote that the NCA originally accused the Javadovs of holding 13.9 million pounds (over $19 million) worth of laundered funds.
However, none of this money was suspect in Monday’s court action and remains in the couple’s possession. The Javadovs insist that their money is clean and comes from renting houses in Azerbaijan.
The Javadovs are the first in the presidential family revealed to have concrete ties with the Azerbaijan Laundromat.