New evidence of payments to 17 Black from Azerbaijani Laundromat

06 July 2021

New information suggests that payments transferred to 17 Black’s account at Noor Bank in Dubai originate from the “Azerbaijani Laundromat”, a network of shell companies used to embezzle public funds out of Azerbaijan and pay bribes around the world.

The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) just settled its prosecution for money laundering against Izzat Javadova, a cousin of Azerbaijan’s ruler Ilham Aliyev, and her husband Suleyman Javadov, son of Azerbaijan’s former deputy energy minister. As part of the settlement, the NCA seized £4 million the couple received from Azerbaijani Laundromat shell companies.

The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation obtained a registry filing of one of the shell companies cited in the NCA’s case. The filing for Hong Kong company Ago Limited states that, from 2015 onwards, the entity was owned, on paper, by Azeri national Rufat Baratzada, a security guard at a construction site in Baku.

Baratzada’s details on Ago Limited’s filing are identical to those on filings of Mayor Trans Ltd, a Seychelles shell company that sent €1.4 million from its account at ABLV Bank in Latvia to 17 Black’s account at Noor Bank in Dubai, held in Yorgen Fenech’s name.

Before making payments to 17 Black, Mayor Trans received payments from UAE-registered Lazr International Ltd’s account at Pilatus Bank, and from the accounts at ABLV Bank in Latvia of at least two other offshore companies. One of those companies is Solara Fashion Ltd, a Seychelles-registered shell company that the NCA included on its list of “Laundromat” companies that were used to launder payments to the Javadovs.

The mechanisms, facilitators, and frontman involved in the payments to the Javadovs in the UK case are the same as those involved in the payments to 17 Black. This warrants further investigation into whether 17 Black, first identified by Daphne Caruana Galizia, was a bridge between the Azerbaijani Laundromat and high-level officials in Malta.