A joint investigation by several international media outlets including the Guardian, along with SRT grantee the Organized Crime and Corruption reporting Project (OCCRP), has uncovered a huge money-laundering operation centring on Azerbaijan.
The scheme, known as the ‘Azerbaijani Laundromat’, handled US$ 2.9 billion over a two-year period through four shell companies registered in the UK. Between 2012 and 2014, Azerbaijan’s ruling elites channelled the money through the companies’ Estonian bank accounts. The companies’ true owners were hidden behind unknown offshore shareholders.
Yaqub Eyyubov, one of the country’s most powerful politicians, got millions of dollars through the system in the accounts of a company his family controlled in Hungary, and also used it to pay his family’s medical expenses. Others used millions to purchase football clubs, high-end travel agencies, and luxury cars. Significant amounts were funnelled to prominent Europeans who then worked to improve Azerbaijan’s image abroad.
Reporters for OCCRP previously exposed the Russian Laundromat, a fraudulent scheme that moved more than $20 billion out of the Russian Federation, and other, smaller, laundromats operating in Ukraine. The two laundromats are connected. Some 33 companies in the Azerbaijani Laundromat also appear in the Russian version.
OCCRP said, ‘Experts believe there are $2 trillion in global illicit flows that must be laundered each year. Laundromats like this one are likely springing up all the time in every major developing economy. Setting up and servicing these financial fraud vehicles is itself a billion-dollar business. And national law enforcement doesn’t have the tools to unmask these global schemes. It looks like Laundromats are here to stay.’
Full report from OCCRP website:
Guardian article about the Laundromat: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/04/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-azerbaijani-laundromat
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