Egrant inquiry raised red flag on money laundering by Azeri rulers inside Pilatus

Azerbaijani ruling family used Pilatus for suspicious million-dollar transactions, forensic accountants in Egrant inquiry found 

The Aliyev sisters made extensive use of Ali Sadr Hasheminejad's Pilatus Bank
The Aliyev sisters made extensive use of Ali Sadr Hasheminejad's Pilatus Bank

Transactions at Pilatus Bank involving the daughters of Azerbaijan ruler Ilham Aliyev and the sons of  his minister for emergency situations Kamaleddin Heydarov, show “commonly accepted red flags for money laundering”, a forensic review included in the Egrant magisterial inquiry concludes.

On the basis of this suspicion that the now-shuttered bank was used for money laundering, the report calls for “international cooperation” to address this problem.

The report even lists the countries which should be rolled in this investigation namely; the United Arab Emirates, New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, China and Turkey.

This international cooperation is also deemed essential to determine whether Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) from Malta are involved in “acts of corruption, money laundering or suspicious transactions” with PEPs from Azerbaijan.

READ MORE • Heydarov business director Robert Baker set up numerous Malta companies at Pilatus Banks

The report acknowledges that no transactions had passed through the bank accounts of Maltese PEPs (politically-exposed people) at Pilatus Bank.

But “there was not enough evidence that transactions did not pass through hub accounts abroad.”

The report identifies a number of suspicious transactions from companies owned by the Aliyev daughters and the Heydarovs to a Dubai-based company called Palma Management Consulting. The company is described as a “payment hub which should be checked with the UAE’s Financial Intelligence Unit.”

Palma Management Consulting is also mentioned as a correspondence address for Sahra FZCO in its Pilatus bank account.

The report identifies 117 payments made to Palma Management Consultancy by nine different companies, including Sahra FZCO, whose directors are Aliyev’s daughters Leyla and Arzu. The Aliyevas are also involved in seven other companies, three established in UAE, two in Azerbaijan and one in the British Virgin Islands (Roundtree Ventures).

One of these companies, Raphael Investment Limited, had received a $73 million loan from Pilatus Bank to buy a property in Moscow which possesses land. Money transfers passed through several layers, all with accounts in Pilatus Bank, starting from Raphael Investments, passing through several non-resident accounts in Pilatus Bank, and finally ending in the Cyprus bank account of Edinklar Developments Limited.

The sisters transferred €14.9 million from their Pilatus Bank account for Sahra FZCO, to Palma Management Consultancy in three separate transactions between September 2015 and March 2016.

Sahra FZCO is a UAE-based holding company set up to hold the real estate assets of its beneficial owners, with the Sofitel Dubai Palm Resort and Spa and Yassat Gloria Hotel Apartments listed as the source of the company’s wealth.

The details emerge from a magisterial inquiry launched into allegations by journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who claimed a $1 million transaction from a Pilatus account held by ‘Al Sahra FZCO’ belonging to Leyla Aliyeva, was made to Egrant Inc in the name of the prime minister’s spouse. The allegations were disproved by the inquiry.

Egrant’s mystery stemmed from the fact that it was seemingly set up together with two other offshore companies owned by the prime minister’s former chief of staff Keith Schembri and former energy minister Konrad Mizzi.

But the magisterial inquiry found no evidence of Aliyeva cash going to Egrant, which had no bank account at Pilatus, and could not be traced to Muscat.