UK law firm accused of failings over Azerbaijan leader’s daughters’ offshore assets

A firm of London solicitors that set up an offshore company for the daughters of Azerbaijan’s president has been referred to a disciplinary tribunal after being accused of multiple failings. They include not detecting “a significant risk of money-laundering,” The Guardian reports.

Leyla and Arzu Aliyeva – the daughters of President Ilham Aliyev – set up a secret offshore company to help manage their multimillion-pound property portfolio in Britain. The firm, Exaltation Limited, was based in the tax haven of the British Virgin Islands.

Details of the offshore company emerged in April 2016 as part of a leak of records from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, known as the Panama Papers.

The London law firm that set up Exaltation, Child & Child, claimed – wrongly – that the two women had no political connections. The business interests and property portfolios of the Aliyev family have been the subject of extensive reporting, amid allegations of massive corruption.

In a notice published on Monday, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) said it had referred Child & Child’s senior partner, Khalid Sharif, to the solicitors disciplinary tribunal.

The allegations are subject to a hearing due later this year at which Sharif is entitled to present his own evidence. They are as yet unproven. If found guilty, he could be struck off.

Exaltation Limited was set up in 2015. The notice also refers to an earlier gift made between November 2013 and March 2014 which Sharif allegedly failed to monitor. The transaction had “a significant risk that money laundering was taking place”. There were no further details.

The Guardian reminds that President Aliyev has ruled Azerbaijan since 2003. During this time, his daughters have reportedly amassed vast personal business empires. They own luxury apartments in the UAE, as well as interests in telecommunications and gold mining.

Leyla Aliyeva’s assets include a £17m mansion on Hampstead Lane in north London, next door to Kenwood House and overlooking Hampstead Heath. She is an artist and socialite, with friends said to include Prince Andrew, Lord Mandelson and Elisabeth Murdoch.

The Panama papers showed that she set up a new offshore firm at the time of her 2015 divorce from Emin Agalarov, an ethnic Azerbaijani businessman and pop star. The couple lived in Moscow and also reportedly owned a luxury penthouse overlooking Hyde Park. Neither daughter has commented.

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