Jet-Setting DJ — and Cousin of Azerbaijan’s President Aliyev — Accused of Receiving Millions In Suspicious Funds

Mikaela Jav” made a name for her­self as a DJ, spin­ning infec­tious elec­tron­ic beats on the Spanish island of Ibiza, long famed for its fer­vent nightlife. The host of “Mikaela & Friends” par­ties, which kicked off on Saturday nights in the sum­mer of 2015, also had an active pres­ence on Facebook, where she post­ed sul­try, jet-set­ting pho­tos in Greece, Thailand, and Las Vegas.

In Spanish press inter­views, DJ Mikaela gushed about her love for Ibiza, her musi­cal inspi­ra­tion, and her life in Russia, which she described as her home. An adver­tise­ment for one of “Mikaela Jav”’s par­ties in Ibiza.

In fact, OCCRP can reveal in this joint inves­ti­ga­tion with Transparency International’s U.K. chap­ter, “Mikaela Jav” is Izzat Khanim Javadova, a cousin of Azerbaijani pres­i­dent Ilham Aliyev. (Javadova’s stage name, Mikaela, is the name of her 22-year-old daughter).

Over the past few years, she and her hus­band, Suleyman Javadov, have been the tar­gets of a UK inves­ti­ga­tion into mil­lions of pounds that the country’s National Crime Agency (NCA) sus­pects are the pro­ceeds of “cor­rup­tion, theft or embezzlement.”

The exis­tence of this inves­ti­ga­tion was revealed last year by the Evening Standard, and the newspaper’s report­ing led to the release of doc­u­ments show­ing that an “Azerbaijani cou­ple” had received £13.9 mil­lion (near­ly US$19.6 mil­lion) from ques­tion­able origins.

OCCRP ear­li­er dis­cov­ered that the Ibiza-lov­ing DJ and her hus­band were the cou­ple in ques­tion, but were unable to reveal their names until today, when the Evening Standard won a legal appeal to lift the court’s anonymi­ty order.

The Javadovs used a net­work of 20 opaque com­pa­nies based in most­ly off­shore juris­dic­tions to receive the funds in their UK accounts, accord­ing to the NCA. As a result, the agency argued, the mon­ey flowed in a way that “would not nec­es­sar­i­ly involve an auditable trail of bank­ing transactions.”

NCA inves­ti­ga­tors iden­ti­fied six of these com­pa­nies as being part of the Azerbaijani Laundromat, an all-pur­pose finan­cial vehi­cle revealed by OCCRP in 2017. The sys­tem allowed the country’s rul­ing elite to embez­zle funds, avoid tax­es, laun­der mon­ey, fun­nel bribes to European par­lia­men­tar­i­ans, and move illic­it funds out of Azerbaijan to the West, where it was used to pur­chase prop­er­ties and fund lux­u­ri­ous lifestyles.

Leaked bank records show that the six com­pa­nies from which the Javadovs received the mil­lions — as well as a sev­enth iden­ti­fied by OCCRP but missed by inves­ti­ga­tors — were also involved in oth­er ques­tion­able Laundromat transactions.

While pre­vi­ous inves­ti­ga­tions showed that many high-lev­el Azerbaijanis used the Laundromat, Javadova is the first mem­ber of the rul­ing Aliyev fam­i­ly known to have done so.

President Ilham Aliyev has ruled the oil-rich Caucasian coun­try with an iron fist for near­ly two decades, and his tenure has been marked by mas­sive vio­la­tions of press free­doms and human rights. The Aliyev fam­i­ly has also attained enor­mous wealth dur­ing his rule.

Unconvincing Explanations

While Izzat Khanim Javadova and Suleyman Javadov are not high-pro­file fig­ures in Azerbaijan, her late father served as a mem­ber of par­lia­ment, and his father was a deputy ener­gy min­is­ter until last year.

His father’s posi­tion made Javadov a “polit­i­cal­ly exposed per­son,” or PEP, which should have sub­ject­ed him to extra scruti­ny under anti-mon­ey laun­der­ing reg­u­la­tions. But Javadov told the U.K. bank Coutts, where he opened an account, that he “was not relat­ed to the Deputy Minister of Energy, and that he was sim­ply a name­sake,” accord­ing to the NCA investigation.

The expla­na­tion of the sources of their income that the Javadovs gave the bank also did not match what they told the NCA. Investigators found that Izzat Khanim had told the bank she would receive rental income from an Azerbaijani prop­er­ty company.

But court doc­u­ments indi­cate that the amount the Javadovs received is “well over dou­ble the turnover of their rental income,” as was declared to their U.K. bank.

The cou­ple pro­duced 250 rental agree­ments as doc­u­men­ta­tion, and man­age­ment con­tracts to jus­ti­fy the mon­ey trans­fers from two of the 20 com­pa­nies. Together these two trans­ferred $2.4 mil­lion between 2015 and 2018, court doc­u­ments claim.

But the NCA point­ed out to the court that the dates of the agree­ments don’t line up with the trans­fers, with one man­age­ment agree­ment dat­ed after the trans­ac­tions took place. Moreover, pros­e­cu­tors ques­tioned the valid­i­ty of Javadov’s sig­na­ture on that con­tract, as well as the pur­pose of using off­shore companies.

No expla­na­tion has been prof­fered as to why a Scottish or Irish LP or a Seychelles com­pa­ny should be used to man­age prop­er­ty in Azerbaijan using a bank account in Estonia (or Latvia),” they wrote to the court, refer­ring to the var­i­ous com­pa­nies the cou­ple used.

NCA inves­ti­ga­tors also not­ed that none of the 20 com­pa­nies in ques­tion are based in Azerbaijan, and would there­fore be unlike­ly to be ten­ants at the Javadovs’ prop­er­ties. Moreover, none of the pay­ments appeared to have come direct­ly from Azerbaijan.

According to the NCA, the Javadovs “knew that what they were receiv­ing did not come from their ten­ants but from an unlaw­ful inter­me­di­ary organ­i­sa­tion designed to laun­der money.”

The amounts received appear, on the evi­dence, to be great­ly in excess of the rentals like­ly to have been gen­er­at­ed (in Manats) by their port­fo­lio of prop­er­ties in Azerbaijan,” they stat­ed in court doc­u­ments. “It is more prob­a­ble that they are sim­ply the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of pay­ments made by or on behalf of their pow­er­ful rela­tions in Azerbaijan.”

NCA inves­ti­ga­tors say that one of the com­pa­nies the Javadovs used was an inter­me­di­ary for pay­ments that had noth­ing to do with prop­er­ty man­age­ment — or the Javadovs.

For exam­ple, they say it made a pay­ment to anoth­er com­pa­ny that had sup­plied fiber-optic cables to Azerbaijan. The con­tact per­son on the invoice was an employ­ee at Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Youth and Sport.

This is con­sis­tent with the Laundromat being an alter­na­tive remit­tance sys­tem used to make pay­ments of (oth­er­wise) legit­i­mate trade invoic­es,” inves­ti­ga­tors wrote. “In this case it appears to have been used to make advance pay­ment for goods sup­plied to an Azerbaijani state enti­ty,” they added.More

The Javadovs also pro­vid­ed no expla­na­tion for the oth­er 18 com­pa­nies, and denied know­ing about them. This appears con­tra­dic­to­ry, con­sid­er­ing that Suleyman Javadov indi­cat­ed to a bank in 2012 and 2013 that three of the com­pa­nies were bro­ker­age firms he did busi­ness with, accord­ing to doc­u­ments obtained by the NCA.

UK inves­ti­ga­tors didn’t look into whether the Javadovs had legit­i­mate sources of income in Azerbaijan, say­ing it was beyond the scope of their inves­ti­ga­tion. But while it “seems prob­a­ble that they do have rental income” and “access to sig­nif­i­cant wealth,” inves­ti­ga­tors said, the funds trans­ferred into the Javadovs’ UK accounts were unlike­ly to have been prop­er­ty earnings.

The ques­tion for the court is whether the funds received in the UK come from some oth­er (more imme­di­ate) source and have been obtained through unlaw­ful con­duct,” the inves­ti­ga­tors argued.

The call will be made by a judge, who will deter­mine how to han­dle £6.5 mil­lion ($9.2 mil­lion) that remained in the Javadovs’ bank accounts and has been frozen by the NCA. Hearings on the case begin in July.

OCCRP.Org by  Kelly Bloss, Ben Cowdock, and Kira Zalan 

Related Posts