Pandora Papers: Leak reveals firms linked to Aliyev family have traded nearly £400m of UK property

The secret wealth and dealings of world leaders, politicians and billionaires has been exposed in one of the biggest leaks of financial documents, the BBC reports.

Some 35 current and former leaders and more than 300 public officials are featured in the files from offshore companies, dubbed the Pandora Papers.

The leak reveals that the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his family, who have been accused of looting their own country, are one example.

The investigation found the Aliyevs and their close associates have secretly been involved in property deals in the UK worth more than £400m.

According to The Guardian, the Queen’s crown estate has launched an internal review over a £67m London property it appears to have bought from Azerbaijan’s multimillionaire ruling family – which has repeatedly been accused of corruption.

A spokesperson for the estate, which manages £15bn of property assets, said: “Before our purchase of [the building] we conducted checks including those required by UK law. At the time we did not establish any reason why the transaction should not proceed. Given the potential concerns raised, we are looking into the matter.”

In August 2018, the crown estate paid £66.5m for 56-60 Conduit Street, an eight-storey office and retailing property in London’s Mayfair, which it bought from a British Virgin Islands-based company called Hiniz Trade & Investment.

Hiniz had acquired the building for £35.5m in 2009, and the Pandora papers show how the ownership of the company was passed from the president’s daughter, Arzu Aliyeva, to her grandfather Arif Pashayev, who then placed the company into a trust in 2015.

The leaked files do not show the source of the funds originally injected into Hiniz, but disclosure of the company’s shareholders – and the manner in which ownership was switched between members of Azerbaijan’s first family – raises fresh questions about whether the transaction should be investigated on money-laundering concerns.

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