Brutal Kazakh official linked to £147m London property empire.

Big chunks of Baker Street are owned by a mys­te­ri­ous fig­ure with close ties to a for­mer Kazakh secret police chief accused of mur­der and money-laundering.

The mys­tery own­er of a £147 mil­lion London prop­er­ty empire which includ­ed the Elvis and Beatles’ Stores can be linked to a for­mer Kazakh secret police chief accused of mur­der, tor­ture and mon­ey-laun­der­ing, this report shows. The prop­er­ty includes 221 Baker Street — where Sherlock Homes would have lived had he and his fic­tion­al apart­ment 221b real­ly existed.

In 2009, an unknown indi­vid­ual acquired a net­work of off­shore-owned com­pa­nies which in turn invest­ed in £147 mil­lion worth of prime prop­er­ty in some of the capital’s most famous address­es. Documents seen by Global Witness reveal how the man­agers of these com­pa­nies are linked to Rakhat Aliyev, the for­mer Kazakh secret police chief found hanged in an Austrian prison in February 2015 while await­ing tri­al for the mur­der of two bankers in his home country.

Aliyev had pre­vi­ous­ly been con­vict­ed of the bankers’ kid­nap­ping in Kazakhstan, and since 2005 faced mon­ey-laun­der­ing inves­ti­ga­tions in sev­er­al European coun­tries includ­ing Germany, Austria and Malta.

However, this is the first time that the links between Aliyev and London prop­er­ties have been revealed. The London prop­er­ty trans­ac­tions went through at the same time as Aliyev’s busi­ness inter­ests were being inves­ti­gat­ed by EU author­i­ties and Interpol. Aliyev died before he could face tri­al for the crimes of which he was accused.

Chido Dunn, Senior Campaigner at Global Witness, was fea­tured on Channel 4 News dis­cussing David Cameron’s announce­ment to crack down on “dodgy cash” enter­ing Britain’s prop­er­ty market.

Increasingly, London’s high-end prop­er­ty mar­ket is one of the go-to des­ti­na­tions to give ques­tion­able funds a veneer of respectabil­i­ty. This kind of access to the finan­cial sys­tem entrench­es the cor­rup­tion that keeps cit­i­zens in poor coun­tries poor and threat­ens glob­al stability.

rakhat aliyevIt is far too easy for the crim­i­nal and cor­rupt to laun­der mon­ey through lux­u­ry prop­er­ty, hid­ing the real own­ers behind anony­mous com­pa­nies, often reg­is­tered in secre­cy juris­dic­tions like the BVI and hid­den behind “nom­i­nee” directors.

At least £122bn worth of prop­er­ty in England and Wales is now owned by com­pa­nies reg­is­tered off­shore, and 75% of prop­er­ties whose own­ers are under inves­ti­ga­tion for cor­rup­tion made use of this kind of secrecy.

Global Witness is call­ing for all com­pa­nies that own UK prop­er­ty to be required to tell the Land Registry who their ben­e­fi­cial own­ers are, and for the UK to con­vince the British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies to cre­ate their own pub­lic reg­is­ters of ben­e­fi­cial own­er­ship. Global Witness is call­ing for an inves­ti­ga­tion into these com­pa­nies, the prop­er­ties they own, and real per­son behind them. Systemic changes are also need­ed, fol­low­ing the UK’s recent com­mit­ment to cre­at­ing a pub­lic reg­istry of the real own­ers of UK companies.

The com­pa­nies that own these prop­er­ties and the peo­ple that man­age them have cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly denied that Rakhat Aliyev is or was the true own­er, but have refused to iden­ti­fy that own­er, cit­ing rea­sons of con­fi­den­tial­i­ty. Global Witness does not allege that the var­i­ous com­pa­nies in this prop­er­ty empire or the indi­vid­u­als that man­age them have been know­ing­ly involved in mon­ey laun­der­ing.  However, that Aliyev can even be linked to expen­sive prop­er­ty in such a recog­nis­able address is wor­thy of investigation.


Oliver Courtney, Communications Manager

+44 (0)7912 517147
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