December 21, 2018 - 12:57 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - The daughters of Azerbaijan’s president agreed to buy a £60m London property using a secret offshore company, in a case potentially carrying “a significant risk of money laundering”, a tribunal has heard, The Guardian reports.
Leyla and Arzu Aliyeva sought to purchase two luxury Knightsbridge flats for £59.5m, including £3m to convert them into a single home. The deal in 2015 was intended to be the latest addition to a multi-million pound property portfolio in Britain acquired by president Ilham Aliyev’s family.
Details emerged in a disciplinary tribunal into the solicitor who carried out the transaction, Khalid Sharif. Sharif – a senior partner with the London firm Child & Child – admitted failing to carry out money-laundering checks and breaching his professional code.
A close associate of the president, Javad Marandi, introduced the Aliyeva sisters to Child & Child, the tribunal was told. Sharif then set up a British Virgin Islands company, Exaltation Ltd, on their behalf, bought from Mossack Fonseca. Its purpose was “holding UK property”.
The women – who have cultivated high profiles inside and outside their home country – should have been classified as politically exposed persons or ‘PEPs’. This status triggers extensive banking checks.
However, Sharif “didn’t consider” any such steps or apply the necessary enhanced due diligence checks, the tribunal heard. Asked if his new clients were PEPs, he instructed a para-legal to tick a box marked “no”.
The luxury flats due to be bought from a developer were “close” to Child & Child’s London office, which overlooks the garden of Buckingham Palace. After exchanging contracts, the Aliyev sisters started to pay the purchase price in instalments, transferring more than £10m. The deal “unravelled” in 2016 after their ownership was exposed.