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As part of ‘The Daphne Project’, The Guardian reveals that Azerbaijan’s ruling families are the alleged beneficiaries of dozens of anonymously owned companies that have been used to invest in property, hotels and businesses in Europe, according to an investigation by the Daphne Project.

Over the past three years, several networks of companies appear to have used a private bank in Malta for secret investments in the UK, Spain, France, Georgia and Montenegro, research by the project found.

Many of the companies were allegedly operated for the benefit of the children of Ilham Aliyev, Azerbaijan’s president, and the sons of his minister for emergency situations, Kamaladdin Heydarov, according to three sources with knowledge of the transactions.

Their claims are supported by information in the public domain, and a leak from Dubai residency records. Aliyev’s daughters, Leyla and Arzu Aliyeva, did not respond to a request for comment. Lawyers for Heydarov’s sons, Nijat and Tale, said: “Our clients are the beneficial owners of companies … which have entirely legitimate and lawful business.”

Although there is no suggestion of wrongdoing, the disclosures are likely to raise new questions for Azerbaijan’s ruling elites, who have been widely criticised for a lack of transparency since Aliyev took power in 2003.

The Guardian puts this investigation in the context of previously unreported investments owned by some of the elite, and how Malta has been used as a gateway for them to buy and manage assets across Europe and the rest of the world.

At the heart of the network are companies that were clients of Pilatus bank, whose headquarters are in Malta and assets are frozen pending the outcome of an investigation initiated by the country’s banking regulator last month. 

Source: The Guardian

Read full report here.