Azerbaijani Laundromat

What is the Azerbaijani Laundromat?

A scheme to curry influence, pay lobbyists, apologists and European politicians and to launder cash. The $2.9bn (£2.2bn) operation ran between 2012 and 2014 – meaning that on average $3m was channelled out of Azerbaijan every day. The source of money isn’t always clear, but it comes from companies linked to Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, state ministries and the International Bank of Azerbaijan, the country’s largest bank, which recently filed for bankruptcy protection. The cash was transferred into four offshore-managed UK companies. From there, it was spent in various countries, including Germany, the UK, France, Turkey, Iran and Kazakhstan.

How was it done?

By clever use of the west’s financial system. Danske, Denmark’s largest bank, handled the payments via a small branch office in Estonia. It noticed nothing amiss. The organisers of the scheme exploited Britain’s weakly regulated company system. They registered four firms at Companies House in London. These were Hilux Services, Polux Management, Metastar Invest and LCM Alliance. The first two were incorporated in Glasgow, the third in Birmingham and the fourth in Hertfordshire. The beneficial owner of the firms is a secret.

— source | Luke Harding, Caelainn Barr and Dina Nagapetyants | 17 Aug 2022

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#ParadisePapers: residency for sale to the rich and famous

Among the scandals exposed by the Paradise Papers is that of residency for sale, something I covered just last month (along with passports for sale) as a special feature in our monthly podcast and radio show, the Taxcast, which you can listen to below.

The name Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll showed up in leaked Paradise Papers documents. Like many other famous names exposed, the pop star Shakira appears to have used a series of structures and mechanisms to manage her wealth and assets, in her case via Malta and Luxembourg.

The Guardian newspaper also reports that although she now lives in Barcelona, Spain, she’s listed as resident of the Bahamas:

Asked about her listed residence in the Bahamas, the lawyer added that as an international artist Shakira had lived in a variety of places “throughout her professional career and, in every case, has fully met the laws of all the jurisdictions where she has resided”.”

No doubt she has. And it appears she once lived in the Bahamas a number of years ago. But why would a person continue to be listed as resident in such a location, yet not really

— source | Naomi Fowler | 10 Nov 2017

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#ParadisePapers and the Big Four: in the words of a former insider

Although just nine years since the last Global Financial Crisis, it would seem that world has a suppressed what it means to be on the edge of economic cataclysm. A new generation of predominantly anaemic elected representatives in the guise of “lawmakers” cavort on their electoral success in our halls of power and indeed the leadership apex of most of the Western economies. Short political lifetimes and even shorter political terms together with the style of the new generation of political aspirants of everyone “being different” to captivate social media and the all important “patronage” of the “rich folk” has largely resulted in politicians incapable of independently identifying current risk areas for a potential global financial crisis, let alone either independently or dependently developing prevention strategies or total solutions for such an event. If you don’t believe me, just ask your elected representative what the “top four” risks are for a GFC and what are his and her broad plans for addressing them.

Even those who remain from those treacherous times, few apart from perhaps German leader Angela Merkel can claim both leadership and a meaningful contribution to their nation’s handling of the GFC. So consign to oblivion President Trump for a moment and consider the political emergence in 2020 of a more alluring and unquestionably more female conscious President Kim Kardashian. To whet the line of questioning on the GFC risk issue (and you will now know why from your first attempt), you may wish to suggest that the top 4 risks

— source | Naomi Fowler | 15 Nov 2017

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Adani Group Situation Is India’s ‘Possible Enron Moment’

Former US treasury secretary and former Harvard University president Larry Summers has compared the recent allegations in the Hindenburg Research report on the Adani group to Enron scandal in the US. This, the economist claimed, could be India’s “possible Enron moment”.

During Bloomberg’s Wall Street Week last Friday, Summers was asked what he was looking for from the G20 meetings. He didn’t name Adani, but said, “We haven’t talked about it on the show but there’s been a kind of possible Enron moment in India…”

“And I imagine with India emerging as the world’s largest country and the meeting taking place in India, there’s going to be a lot of curiosity from all present about how that’s going to play through and what – if any – larger systemic implications that’s going to have for India,” he continued.

Summers was likening the situation in India now to the accounting scandal involving the Enron Corporation, a US-based energy company, that was exposed in 2001. Executives of the

— source | 23/Feb/2023

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Rs 9.5 Cr of Taxpayer Money Spent on Commission, Printing of Electoral Bonds

The Centre has spent around Rs 9.5 crore of taxpayer money on commission and printing costs of opaque electoral bonds (EBs) issued to fund political parties.

A right-to-information (RTI) application filed by transparency activist Commodore (Retd.) filed by Lokesh K Batra has revealed that almost Rs 10,791.50 crore has been collected by political parties through EBs from anonymous donors in 22 phases since the Electoral Bond Scheme was launched in 2018.

According to the reply of the department of economic affairs, Ministry of Finance, 93.67% of the EBs are of Rs 1 crore denomination each—leaving no doubt that big corporate entities are purchasing them to donate to political parties.

The Rs 9.5 crore comprises a commission of Rs 7.63 crore and Rs 1.90 crore (both inclusive of Goods and Services Tax) as charges for the printing of EBs, the RTI reply says.

Ironically, donors who buy EBs are not required to pay any service charge (commission) to the State Bank of India (SBI)—the only bank authorised to issue EBs—and even the

— source | 28 Nov 2022

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Electoral Bonds Donations Cross Rs 10,000-Crore Mark

Even as the Supreme Court is yet to take up for hearing a pending plea challenging the electoral bond scheme, latest data from the department of economic affairs (DEA) under the Union finance ministry has revealed that the sale of bonds has now crossed Rs 10,000 crore.

Several transparency activists, organisations and political parties have over the years expressed concern about the “opacity” around these bonds, as the identity of donors purchasing them remains a secret.

Donations touch Rs 10,246 crore

According to Right to Information (RTI) activist Commodore Lokesh Batra (retired), who has been tracking the sale of these bonds and their redemption by designated branches of the State Bank of India, the sale of these bonds reached the milestone of Rs 10,000 crore during the 21st Phase under which they were sold from July 1 to July 10.

— source | Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar | 29/Jul/2022

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Pharma Company Distributed Rs 1,000 Crore Freebies to Prescribe Dolo 650 Mg Tablets

The Supreme Court Thursday, August 18 was told by an NGO that the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has accused the pharma company manufacturing paracetamol drug ‘Dolo’ of distributing Rs 1,000 crore freebies to doctors for prescribing a dosage of its 650 mg tablets.

The petition was filed by the Federation of Medical and Sales Representatives Association of India.

Senior advocate Sanjay Parikh and advocate Aparna Bhat, appearing for the petitioner, told the apex court that the market price of any tablet up to 500 mg is regulated under price control mechanism of the government. However, the price of the drug above 500 mg can be fixed by the pharma company concerned.

Parikh alleged that to ensure a higher profit margin, the company manufacturing Dolo tablets distributed freebies to doctors to prescribe the 650 mg drug. The advocate also said

— source | 18/Aug/2022

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Billionaire Barre Seid Gave Record $1.6 Billion to Dark Money Group Pushing Right-Wing Courts

A conservative, dark money group that’s pushed a far-right agenda in the U.S. judiciary received $1.6 billion in funding last year from an obscure Republican donor — the largest known donation to a political advocacy group in U.S. history. That’s according to The New York Times, as well as a joint investigation by ProPublica and The Lever. The donor is Barre Seid, a 90-year-old conservative industrialist from Chicago. Over the past two years, Seid funneled hundreds of millions of dollars through secretive transactions to a nonprofit led by Leonard Leo, the co-chair of the far-right Federalist Society who’s known as Donald Trump’s “Supreme Court whisperer.” Leonard Leo has been instrumental in the rollback of federal voting rights and reproductive rights. Leo also directly helped select judges to be nominated to the Supreme Court, including Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, and organized massive media campaigns to see them confirmed.

— source | Aug 23, 2022

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7 Electoral Trusts got Rs 258Cr Corporate Donations in Lockdown Year; BJP got 82% Money

Seven electoral trusts received a total amount of Rs 258.49 crore from corporates and individuals, and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) bagged more than 82%, poll rights body ADR said.

Electoral trusts are non-profit organisation formed in India for orderly receiving of contributions from corporate entities and individuals to political parties. The trusts are aimed at improving transparency in the usage of funds for election-related expenses.

The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), in a new report, said 16 out of the 23 electoral trusts submitted details of their contribution for the financial year 2020-21 to the Election Commission of India (ECI), of which only seven declared to have received donations.

“Seven electoral trusts which have declared receiving contributions during FY 2020-21, have received a total amount of Rs 258.4915 crore from corporates and individuals and distributed Rs 258.4301 cr (99.98 per cent) to various political parties,” it said.

The BJP received Rs 212.05 crore or 82.05% of these donations, while the Janata Dl (United) secured Rs 27 crore or 10.45% of the amount.

— source | 21 Apr 2022

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