Maltese PM calls snap election over Azerbaijan corruption claims

By bne IntelliNews May 2, 2017

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has called a snap general election as a vote of confidence after his wife was accused of receiving dubious payments from Azerbaijan.  

"Everybody knows about the attacks made in the past few days on me and my family. I have nothing to fear because truth is on my side and I am clean," Muscat said of the allegations, according to Reuters.

Egrant Inc, a company owned by Michelle Muscat, the premier's wife, allegedly received a $1mn payment from a Dubai-based bank owned by Leyla Aliyeva, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's daughter. After the first large transfer, Egrant Inc allegedly continued to received "loan payments" of $100,000 biweekly over the course of January-March 2016, according to a blog by Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana.

Her investigation was an offshoot of the Panama Papers document cache. In addition to  the suspect payments, she also revealed that Kemalladin Heydarov, Azerbaijan's Emergency Situations Minister and a famous oligarch, is the largest customer of an embattled Maltese bank, Pilatus. The second and third largest clients of the bank are Aliyeva and Heydar Aliyev, her younger brother, whose purchase of $44mn dollar worth of real estate in Dubai back in 2010, when he was only 11, made him infamous.

According to Malta Today, the same night that the report about the payments came out, a private plane flew out of Malta to Azerbaijan under suspicious circumstances. The chairman and risk manager at Pliatus Bank were reportedly caught on camera boarding the plane carrying two large suitcases.

News of the Azerbaijani government's alleged bribing of foreign officials has been making the headlines recently. Currently, a Milan court is deciding on the fate of Luca Volonte, an Italian politician who allegedly received over $2.4mn from the Azerbaijani government to advocate for Baku at the Council of Europe.

 

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