Pilatus Bank, Nexia, an Azerbaijani millionaire and a €627,000 loss

The presence of Azerbaijani oligarchs opening and closing a company in under a year raises questions on the Maltese world of finance

Manuchehr Ahadpur Khangah
Manuchehr Ahadpur Khangah

In January 2015, the audit firm Nexia BT – the agents for Mossack Fonseca in Malta who serviced the Prime Minister’s chief of staff and energy minister to open offshore companies in Panama – enrolled a host of new companies.

They belonged to a man called Manuchehr Ahadpur Khangah, an Azerbaijani national who hails from Iran, with address in Dubai.

MaltaToday had already written about the businessman: the polo enthusiast and poker player, 63, was the chairman of the AZ Group of Companies, which has interests in the food, plastics, wood, and construction industries. Khangah is a millionaire who is close to the Aliyev family, the ruling dynasty of Azerbaijan.

Particularly close is his relation to the powerful Azerbaijani minister for emergency situations Kamaladdin Heydarov, according to US embassy cables published in Wikileaks.

According to these same cables, in which the US embassy in Baku profiled the most powerful families in Azerbaijan back in 2010, Khangah was said to be in business with the children of Heydarov. The US cable claimed that Khangah was the CEO or “front man” of a substantial portion of the Heydarov family conglomerate.

The cable states that in one example, Kamaladdin Heydarov’s two sons Nijat and Tale wanted to buy two Gulfstream jets, valued at $20 million each. Ownership of the Gulfstreams was to be shared between a Dubai-registered company Shams al Sahra, owned by the Heydarovs, and Khangah.

The company Shams al Sahra has a familiar ring: Daphne Caruana Galizia claims the Al Sahra FZCO of Dubai was used in a money transfer from Leyla Aliyeva to Egrant; and the questions from the Times that the PM’s chief of staff Keith Schembri published on Facebook last week, referred to “Heydarov’s front man” – which Schembri claimed he did not know, when asked whether he had introduced him to Nexia BT.

The activities of Khangah in Malta, gleaned from MFSA records, no doubt raise questions.

In January 2015, Nexia BT opened up Mulsanne Investments for Khangah, together with six subsidiaries under a familiar musical nomenclature – the Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Puccini, Verdi, and Vivaldi investment holding companies. All of them are registered in Malta.

Their company-in-formation account was opened at Pilatus Bank, as public MFSA records show.

Additionally, the companies opened in January 2015 and closed down officially on 15 December, exactly short of the 12 months that would have required the companies to present a statutory audit.

Instead, all that was required were just liquidation accounts. Mulsanne Investments recorded no cash at bank or in hand, but accumulated losses of €627,198, which were offset by a shareholders’ loan from Khangah of a roughly equal amount of €627,717.

These accounts do not break down the expenses incurred, except for the declaration of solvency for Mulsanne Investments listed the total liabilities as being mainly the accumulated loss of €627,198.

Mulsanne’s six subsidiaries each incurred accumulated losses of €8,273 – roughly the expenses incurred in setup and incorporation fees for the year – and also paid off by a shareholders’ loan.

When MaltaToday asked Brian Tonna about the fact that Khangah, named in the US embassy cables as being a front man for Kamaladdin Heydarov, had been his client and whether he would explain the expenses incurred for these companies, Tonna said he could not give information about his clients.

“This includes providing information about who may or may not be a client, so please do not take this as a confirmation that any of the persons mentioned [Khangah and Heydarov] are clients. To be clear, we do not confirm or deny anything. We simply do not answer because we are legally bound so to do,” Tonna said.

MaltaToday cannot suggest there is a smoking gun of impropriety, although the presence of Azerbaijani oligarchs opening and closing a company in under a year, that strikes off “accumulated losses” with a shareholder’s loan, raises questions on the Maltese world of finance and its connection with a country noted for its caviar diplomacy... most recently illustrated with the bribery case of an Italian MP in the Council of Europe parliamentary assembly.

It is not know whether Khangah is himself a lover of classical music, enough to have named Mulsanne’s subsidiaries after the composers Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Puccini, Verdi and Vivaldi.

But his association with Kamaladdin Heydarov does bring to attention the fact that the Azerbaijani minister for emergency situations happens to be a composer of some famous hits in Azerbaijan, with songs performed by famous singers of his country.