Azerbaijan has found itself at the centre of a huge money laundering scheme, and at the helm of this operation is the country’s ruling elite.

Dubbed the “Azerbaijani Laundromat” an estimated $2.9 billion has been laundered through UK companies. The leaked data shows that some of the money laundered went to European figureheads such as politicians and journalists in order to divert criticism of the country’s president, Ilham Aliyev and promote a better image of his country.

Laundered money was also used to buy luxury goods and services such as cars, interior designs, dentistry and pay for private school fees.

The four British businesses named in the leaked data are Metastar Invest in Birmingham, LCM Alliance from Hertfordshire and Hilux Services and Ploux management, which were both set up in Glasgow.

Each of these organisations have unknown corporate partners based in low tax destinations such as Belize, the British Virgin Island and Seychelles.

The Scottish Limited Partnership (SLP) structure has a degree of privacy not seen in other structures, and there are concerns they can be used as a vehicle for money launderers. Scottish SLPs were also used during the Russian Global Laundromat, which was revealed this year.

International financial investigator, L Burke Files said “No one suspects Scotland. It’s never been on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) list of non-compliant countries,” Files said. “If you are going to launder money it’s probably best not to run it between Russia, Malta and the Cayman Islands. Does Scotland raise a red flag in your mind? No.”

Read the full story on the Guardian website:

UK at centre of secret $3bn Azerbaijani money laundering and lobbying scheme

Azerbaijan's ruling elite operated a secret $2.9bn (£2.2bn) scheme to pay prominent Europeans, buy luxury goods and launder money through a network of opaque British companies, an investigation by the Guardian reveals. Leaked data shows that the Azerbaijani leadership, accused of serial human rights abuses, systemic corruption and rigging elections, made more than 16,000 covert payments from 2012 to 2014.

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