Top officials of Azerbaijan may be involved in a major case of embezzlement and dubious deals of the Shipbuilding Bank.
We are talking about the daughters of President Ilham Aliyev, who own several offshore companies, which appeared in the so-called Panama Papers. Through these companies, they at one time well subdued the main business, and the state, of course, gave them the "green light", providing all possible preferences.
It is possible that before the revocation of the license, Azerbaijani billions were stuck in the Shipbuilding Bank, which the mentioned persons clearly did not want to lose. There is an assumption that the money was withdrawn due to schemes with promissory notes of JSC Military-Industrial Bank, and the co-owner of the Shipbuilding Bank Andrey Vovchenko, who now fled to Canada, supervised the deals.
Eight men on a dead man's chest
Recall that the Shipbuilding Bank lost its license in 2015 and was declared bankrupt. Consequently, the Bank's bankruptcy manager was appointed to be the Deposit Insurance Agency, which filed a claim in court to the former owners to compensate for the "losses". The ex-management of the Bank issued loans to technical legal entities, replaced liquid assets with illiquid ones, and did not take measures to prevent the bankruptcy of the credit institution.
Besides, there were very suspicious deals made by the Bank before the revocation of the license, among them, for example, several large ones made on market conditions, without affecting the Bank, which were subject to judicial acts, applications for invalidation of deals were refused, or the application of consequences was refused. These are deals with Factorstudio LLC, Akvenga LLC, and Sai Gon LLC.
The process in the Arbitration court has been going on for five years. And in early October of this year, a decree was issued to bring eight former managers and owners of the Shipbuilding Bank to subsidiary liability in the amount of 27.3 billion rubles.
In parallel, the lawsuit is investigating a criminal case of embezzlement of funds, which was initiated in 2019. According to one of the episodes, the person involved may be a former shareholder of the Bank — Andrey Vovchenko, who now lives in Canada. According to the investigation, it was on his instructions on the eve of revoking the Bank's license that fictitious deals were carried out to alienate the assets of the Shipbuilding Bank. In total, the credit institution's debt to customers is more than 35 billion rubles, as Kommersant wrote.
Mom — she is wearing a Panama hat
But going back to the decree. It contains information that Andrey Vovchenko "… sought out the largest, in his opinion, borrowers… and offered the "negotiator" from "unidentified extortionists" that he would pay them with these Bank assets and promissory notes of JSC Military-Industrial Bank received under the assignment of claims".
As the journalist of Novaya Gazeta notes in the investigation, these unidentified extortionists could be representatives from the Cyprus offshore company Pratlex Holdings Limited, which represented the interests of four offshore companies — Gladwyn Management Inc, Hughson Management Inc, Grinnell Management Inc and Blownhil Consulting Corp. These companies have about 5 billion rubles "frozen" in the Shipbuilding Bank.
The essence of the scheme was as follows: the Bank, under cession agreements, ceded the right to claim large loans to Sai Gon LLC and Factorstudio LLC in Moscow, and they settled with the Shipbuilding Bank with promissory notes of the Military-Industrial Bank and securities of a number of other companies. And with these promissory notes, the Shipbuilding Bank bought out its securities that were at the disposal of offshore companies whose interests were represented by Pratlex Holdings Limited.
The above mentioned offshore companies — Gladwyn Management Inc, Hughson Management Inc and Grinnell Management Inc. appeared in the Panama Papers.
According to Mossack Fonseca documents, Arzu Aliyeva was the President of Hughson Management Inc. and Gladvyn Management Inc., while Leyla Aliyeva was the President of Grinnel Management Inc., as, for example, was written by the Russian ВВС (a foreign agent). They both are Ilham Aliyev’s daughters. Their business partner was his spouse, Mehriban Aliyeva.
And even earlier, in 2011, all three companies were involved in the investigation of the Azerbaijani editorial Board Radio Svoboda (foreign agent), where it was said that the Panamanian offshore companies were part of the constituent structure of the Telecom operator Azerfon LLC. The Azerbaijani leadership concealed the owners of Azerfon LLC, and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies of Azerbaijan named the German Siemens AG as the founders. The operator was given great privileges, but all this is strongly reminiscent of the corruption scheme.
All the President's men
There is another company that was mentioned in Azerbaijan — Ata Holding. It began its rapid growth after Ilham Aliyev had taken office as President in 2003. It includes 17 of the country's largest companies in banking, construction, telecommunications, oil and gas, gold mining, tourism and other industries.
A number of publications wrote that money is being withdrawn from the country to offshore companies. And some journalists were even expected to be punished for telling the truth. Thus, PASMI wrote that in 2017, journalist Daphne Galizia was killed in Malta — criminals blew up her car with a remote-detonator bomb. Shortly before her death, Daphne was investigating the connections of Maltese government officials with members of the Azerbaijani President's family — the former received huge sums from the latter and brought them out of the country through offshore companies.
The scheme was that the Azerbaijani oil company Socar purchased liquefied gas from Shell Corporation, and then resells it to Malta through the joint company Electro Gas at prices 30-40% higher than market prices. The approximate amount that the Maltese-Azerbaijani partners "earned" on these frauds is estimated at least a billion dollars. The presence of Leyla Aliyeva and Arza Aliyeva was also mentioned in this scheme.
It is possible, taking into account the scale of their influence, that the Aliyevs could have kept their billions in a Shipbuilding Bank and could have pulled off their schemes. However, only bank clerks appear as defendants for dubious schemes…
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