Baku/19.06.20/Turan:  Latvian law enforcement agencies are investigating 50 criminal cases involving the use of ABLV Bank accounts to conceal criminally acquired funds, most of the processes related to the unlawful actions of foreign bank customers from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Azerbaijan.

According to the investigation, "an organized group of people from several states in the period from 2015 to 2018 was engaged in the legalization of criminally obtained funds through this bank."

The investigation began in February 2018.

On February 13, 2018, the US Treasury Department for Financial Crimes (FinCEN) made a statement on the website, according to which, in particular, it was established: “Illegal financial activities in ABLV Bank include transactions for parties, some of which are involved in the procurement or export of ballistic missiles by North Korea. In addition, ABLV Bank facilitated billions of dollars in transactions and secured asset transfers through shell companies’ accounts. So, large-scale illegal activities were revealed in ABLV, related to Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and the Russian Federation. For example, in 2014, Ukrainian tycoon Sergey Kurchenko sent billions of dollars to the accounts of at least 9 shell companies through ABLV. In 2015, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) established that Kurchenko was responsible, involved (directly or indirectly) in the appropriation of state assets of Ukraine ... In another case, an Azerbaijani politically significant person (name is not known) engaged in large-scale corruption and money laundering, used an account with ABLV to make payments to a shell company.”

This FinCEN statement was made pursuant to Section 311 of the United States Rallying and Strengthening Act by Providing the Appropriate Tools Required to Suppress and Prevent Terrorism (USA PATRIOT Act).

Immediately after that, the European Central Bank revoked its license from ABLV and declared ABLV “a financial institution that is experiencing or may be experiencing difficulties (failing or likely to fail)”.

On February 26, 2018, this Latvian bank itself announced the beginning of the self-liquidation process, for which it received “approval” from the regulator in Latvia in the summer of 2018.

The liquidation of the bank has been going on for 2 years and the duration of this process is connected not only with the large financial claims of the bank's customers (several billion euros), but also with the presence of criminal cases, some of which are international in nature.

Latvian law enforcement authorities repeatedly searched the bank and its branches, and the last such raid was on June 13, 2020.

At the same time, sources in several European media reported that these June searches, in which up to 300 police officers participated (unprecedented for Latvia), were associated with increased pressure from the EU and the Council of Europe on Latvia in connection with the Maltese case - the murder in 2017 of the well-known journalist Daphne Caruana Galicia, which investigated several criminal money laundering schemes through European banks, including through ABLV, Pilatus Bank, and Danske Bank.

“Funds were transferred from ABLV to accounts at Noor Bank of the 17 Black criminal group in Dubai, owned by Jorgen Fenech, who was arrested at the end of 2019 in the case of Daphne’s murder,” a law enforcement source in Latvia told Reuters.

Prior to his arrest, Fenech headed the consortium Electrogas Malta, in which 33% of the shares belong to SOCAR.

17 Black was named the “target customer” for Panamanian companies owned by former Malta Minister of Tourism Conrad Mizzi and former chief of staff Keith Chambry.

It is noteworthy that in 2017, lawyer Martins Bankus, who dealt with ABLV Bank assets, was killed in Riga.

Last weekend, the family of the murdered Daphne Caruana Galicia wrote a letter to Europol and the Latvian authorities “to take into account all the evidence regarding ABLV Bank and create a Joint Investigation Team, taking into account the availability of documents in Malta, Latvia, and the “Panama Documents” by Daphne Caruana Galicia, to investigate the glaring facts of corruption, murder and sabotage in favor of justice.”

A letter from the family of the late Maltese journalist read: “Payments to the secret account of Fenech 17 Black Ltd at Noor Bank in Dubai in the amount of € 1.1 million were made in 2015 from an account with ABLV Bank opened by an Azerbaijani citizen Rufat Baratzadeh. These payments coincide in time with the signing of key transactions between the Government of Malta, SOCAR and Electrogas.”

51-year-old Baratzadeh is listed as Seychelles-registered consulting company Mayor Trans Ltd, which through ABLV Bank made several large payments to the 17 Black account.

It is curious that according to the US public regulatory documents regarding Mayor Trans Ltd, the address indicated by this company turned out to be a modest small house in Baku (the correspondent Turan visited it in 2018).

At the same time, Baratzadeh’s neighbors said that he worked in the subway, and then became a security guard at one of the construction sites.

The Reuters agency a year ago tried to reach Rufat Baratzadeh by telephone and when asked if he owns Mayor Trans Ltd, he answered rather strangely: “If it’s me, then it’s me”, and then refused to speak further.

The fate of this man, who can be called a “front man”, is currently unknown.

It is possible that he appears in criminal cases initiated by Latvian law enforcement agencies around ABLV Bank.

There are a lot of questions around Baratzadeh and deals of the “Azerbaijani politically significant person” using the Latvian bank. It remains to wait for the results of the investigation.


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