Friday, 8 September 2017

Armenian News... A Topalian... Boris Johnson

The last item on Boris Johnson provoked the following responses: 
From the USA 

In your message of today you had an item from “Times Diary” making fun of your current foreign minister, Boris Johnson. Unfortunately there is a factual error in the item about Ali Kemal, his great grandfather’s identity. Ali Kemal was one of the very few Turks who opposed the deportation and killings of Armenians (the Genocide) and that was one of the reasons that he was killed. Below I have the relevant parts from the Wikipedia article on Ali Kemal. 

It is also ironic that Zeki Kuneralp’s, his second son, wife and her brother were killed by ASALA in Spain in 1978 during the vengeance assassinations of Turkish diplomats. 

From the UK
And Armen Sarkissyan, if it was he replying to Boris, was ignorant to have said that, as Boris's grandfather was lynched by the Kemalists for speaking up for Armenians. Boris would have known very well that his grandfather's body was strung up with the name 'Artun Kemal' written across his chest as a final indignity. Point scoring of this type is pathetic.
“United Kingdom Is In Debt To Armenia”
June 2, 2017 

Vigen Avetisyan  
“United Kingdom Is In Debt To Armenia”Armenian geologist Suren Ayvazyan was certain that United Kingdom owed Armenia billion in unknown currency. According to some information and him particularly, in 1378 the king of Armenian Kingdom Cilicia Leo V (Levon V, occasionally Levon VI) transferred the treasury of the kingdom to the King of England Edward III for safekeeping.

Two monarchs signed an agreement according to which England was obliged to return the treasury as soon as Armenia regained its independent statehood.

Ayvazyan considered that for at least 600 years England and then United Kingdom have in any possible way prevented the recovery of Armenian sovereignty to avoid the repayment of kept wealth.

Professor then argued the reason of the choice of England’s king as the keeper of Armenian fortune. Based on his researches in fields of archeology, linguistics and history Ayvazyan concluded that Celtic Britons moved to British Isles from area named Angl-tun in the province Sophene of Armenian Kingdom in 15 th -10 th centuries BC. Angl-tun was located in hard-to-reach mountain regions and was used as a storage for the wealth of Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia. In his works Ayvazyan refers not only to Armenian but English sources as well.

In 2001 Suren Ayvazyan expressed his ideas and demands in a letter to the Queen of the United Kingdom Elizabeth II. He hoped as well that the descendant of the Lusignan dynasty Louie Lusinyan, who lived in London at that moment, would also be interested in the retrieval of Armenian wealth.

If the contract between monarchs existed and survived to the present day, Armenian side will have to face some juridical problems in the regard of retrieval of the treasury. A significant task would be to show the connection between Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia and today’s Republic of Armenia for the latter to be proven to be the actual assignee of the kingdom.

To tell the truth, even in that case it would be quite difficult to recover those resources as it would surely be disadvantageous for the government of the United Kingdom. The treasury must have really come in handy to them as some “free” resources, and it probably won’t be given back so easily.


dpa-AFX International ProFeed, Germany
September 3, 2017 Sunday 6:31 AM GMT
Colombian army condemns rebel killing of hostage

BOGOTA (dpa-AFX) - The Colombian army on Saturday condemned the
killing of a Russian-Armenian man who had been kidnapped by the ELN
rebel group in November. Media reports said Saturday that the National
Liberation Army (ELN) had confirmed the man had been shot dead while
attempting to escape in April. At the time, the ELN had only said he
had been seriously injured after grabbing a weapon from one of his
captors and shooting at them, injuring several. 'The ELN has confirmed
that it is a gang of murderers and kidnappers,' army spokesman General
Mauricio Mosquera told RCN radio. 'We will never stop looking for the
[Russian-Armenian] citizen and are ready to support the family in
whatever they need.' The man had reportedly been conducting research
on frogs in the Colombian jungle when he was kidnapped on November 5.
The ELN is currently holding peace talks with the government, which
hopes a deal similar to that reached with FARC rebels last year can be

[interesting article that explains the background to critical anti-Armenian 
resolutions passed by PAC]E

The Guardian, UK
Sept 4 2017
UK at centre of secret $3bn Azerbaijani money laundering and lobbying scheme
Exclusive: Leaked data reveals thousands of covert payments, including to European politicians and journalists
Luke Harding, Caelainn Barr and Dina Nagapetyants
Azerbaijan’s ruling elite operated a secret $2.9bn (£2.2bn) scheme to pay prominent Europeans, buy luxury goods and launder money through a network of opaque British companies, an investigation by the Guardian reveals. 

Leaked data shows that the Azerbaijani leadership, accused of serial human rights abuses, systemic corruption and rigging elections, made more than 16,000 covert payments from 2012 to 2014.

Some of this money went to politicians and journalists, as part of an international lobbying operation to deflect criticism of Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, and to promote a positive image of his oil-rich country. There is no suggestion that all the recipients were aware of the original source of the money. It arrived via a disguised route.

But the revelations once again highlight the use of the lightly regulated British corporate landscape to move large sums of money around, beyond the purview of regulators and tax authorities. Seven million pounds was spent in Britain on luxury goods and private school fees.

The cash, contributed by an opaque array of paymasters in Azerbaijan and Russia, travelled to the British companies – all limited partnerships registered at Companies House in London – via the western financial system without raising red flags. One of Europe’s leading banks, Danske, processed the payments via its branch office in Estonia.

Danske Bank said “money laundering and other illegal practices” had taken place. It first noticed the irregular payments in 2014. Estonia’s financial regulator said systems designed to stop money laundering at the branch had failed.

The scheme has been nicknamed the Azerbaijani Laundromat. Confidential banking records were leaked to the Danish newspaper Berlingske and shared with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), the Guardian, and other media partners. The data covers a 30-month period. It may show the tip of an iceberg.

The politicians

The leaked bank records show multiple payments to several former members of the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly, Pace. One is Eduard Lintner, a German ex-MP and member of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democrats. Another is the Italian former chair of the centre-right group in Pace, Luca Volontè.

The payments came at a time when Azerbaijan was under fire for arresting human rights activists and journalists, and for holding rigged elections. The regime sought to blunt criticism from Europe and the US by allegedly bribing delegates in what has been called “caviar diplomacy”.

This intensive lobbying operation was so successful that Council of Europe members voted against a 2013 report critical of Azerbaijan.
Lintner stood down as an MP in 2010, but remained a firm supporter of Azerbaijan. He founded the Society for the Promotion of German-Azerbaijani Relations in Berlin, which received €819,500 (£755,000). One €61,000 payment was made two weeks after Lintner returned to Berlin from a trip to Azerbaijan where he monitored the country’s 2013 presidential election. He said the poll was up to “German standards” – in direct contrast to official election observers who found “significant problems”.

Lintner says he received the money for his society, did not personally benefit, and was not an MP or Council of Europe member at the time. An Azerbaijani NGO paid for his election trip, he says. He says he has no knowledge of the original source of the payments received.

Details of cash given to Volontè emerged in 2016 and caused outrage. He received more than €2m in instalments via his Italian-based Novae Terrae foundation. Prosecutors in Milan have indicted him for money laundering and corruption. Volontè denies wrongdoing. He is seeking to have the case thrown out..

The data also shows money being paid via the British companies to Kalin Mitrev, a Bulgarian appointed last year to the board of the London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Mitrev received at least €425,000 for private consulting work from a local Azeri company, Avuar Co. He acknowledges the payments and says they were for legitimate business consultancy. He denies all knowledge of the conduit used to execute them or the original source of the funds.

“All the income, generated by activities in different countries, was duly reported and taxed in my country of residence, Bulgaria,” Mitrev said. His consultancy work stopped when he joined the London bank, he said.

The revelation that her husband consulted for an Azeri company might prove awkward for Mitrev’s wife, Irina Bokova, who is the director general of Unesco. Bokova has bestowed one of Unesco’s highest honours, the Mozart Medal on Azerbaijan’s first lady and vice-president, Mehriban Aliyeva. She also hosted a photo exhibition at Unesco’s headquarters in Paris, entitled Azerbaijan – A Land of Tolerance. The Heydar Aliyev foundation organised the event.

The Azerbaijani Laundromat sent billions of dollars through four UK companies

Asked by the Guardian whether there was a conflict between her husband’s work and her UN role, she strongly denied this, saying she had no knowledge of her husband’s business affairs. “As a director general of a UN agency, my duty is to develop sound working relations with all members of the organisation in conformity with the policies set by member states. Azerbaijan is not an exception in this respect.”

“I am immensely proud of my determined pursuit of the mandate of Unesco, including in the area of human rights, freedom of _expression_ and the safety of journalists.”

The lobbyists

Large sums from the scheme were spent on lobbying. In 2014 Eckart Sager, a former CNN producer based in London, received nearly €2m from the British companies. His PR company is linked to articles that promote the Azerbaijani government and its views. One piece denies wrongdoing by Baku in the Volontè case. Sager did not comment.

Another beneficiary is a London-based Azeri, Jovdat Guliyev, who received 25 payments totalling almost £400,000. Guliyev is a member of the Anglo-Azerbaijani Society, a lobby group co-chaired by the Liberal Democrat peer Lord German. Guliyev did not respond to repeated messages asking him for a comment.

The British connection

The four firms at the centre of the Azerbaijani Laundromat were all limited partnerships registered in the UK. They were: Metastar Invest, based at a service address in Birmingham; Hilux Services and Polux Management, set up in Glasgow; and LCM Alliance, from Potters Bar, Hertfordshire. Their corporate “partners” are anonymous tax haven entities based in the British Virgin Islands, Seychelles and Belize.

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Glasgow, where two of the four firms at the centre of the Azerbaijani Laundromat were set up. Photograph: Mark Liddell#118848/Flickr Vision

L Burke Files, an international financial investigator, said these company structures were “purposefully opaque”. Foreign criminals used Scottish limited partnerships, or SLPs, he said. In June the government announced SLPs would have to name their significant owners, or pay fines, amid evidence of growing fraud.

“No one suspects Scotland. It’s never been on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) list of non-compliant countries,” Files said. “If you are going to launder money it’s probably best not to run it between Russia, Malta and the Cayman Islands. Does Scotland raise a red flag in your mind? No.”

All four British companies are named as payment channels in the Italian prosecution case against Volontè. They have since been dissolved.

Luxury services

The banking data shows that the Azerbaijani fund was used for a wide variety of purposes. More than $2.9bn went to companies, with about $50m paid out to individuals. Many beneficiaries were retail and service firms in western Europe. In all probability, they would have been unaware of the origins of the payments they were receiving.

Some of the 200 money transfers to the UK concerned education. In 2014 £89,800 was transferred to Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate, a private boarding school in York. The school would not identify the pupil or pupils involved or comment.

There were payments to the tuition college Bellerbys and to the ICS international school in London. Bellerbys said it was investigating. The data suggests there were a number of relatively modest bursaries to regime-connected Azerbaijani students studying in Britain, as well as rental deposits on upmarket London flats. Other purchases included designer dresses, luxury cars and legal fees. There is no suggestion the UK recipients should have known about the provenance of the money.

Azerbaijan’s ruling family is not directly named. But the evidence of a connection is overwhelming. Large sums come via the state-owned International Bank of Azerbaijan. This is the largest bank in an oil-wealthy country, and yet earlier this summer it filed for bankruptcy protection in New York. The defence and emergency situations ministries in Baku all chip in cash.

The scheme was used to pay for the government’s incidental expenses including the medical bills of Yaqub Eyyubov, Azerbaijan’s first deputy prime minister. There were separate payments to Eyyubov’s son Emin, Azerbaijan’s EU ambassador, and to the president’s press secretary, Azer Gasimov.

Business partners of the US president, Donald Trump, in a project to build a luxury Trump Tower in Baku also appear in the Laundromat scheme.

The hotel’s local developer was Anar Mammadov, the billionaire son of Azerbaijan’s ex-transport minister Ziya Mammadov. At the time the scheme operated, the Mammadovs were one of the country’s most powerful and wealthy families. The Mammadovs’ Baghlan holding company is linked to Laundromat transactions.

In 2012 the Trump Organisation signed a deal with the Mammadovs to build a 33-floor, 130-metre-high “ultra-modern” skyscraper. In October 2014 Ivanka Trump toured Trump Tower Baku, posting photos of the unfinished building on her Instagram account. The hotel never opened. Trump has since cut his connection with the project. The Laundromat scheme does not link to Trump but raises questions about his choice of business partners.

The paymasters

It is not entirely clear where the money used in the scheme comes from. The Russian government paid $29.4m into the Laundromat via its main weapons company, Rosoboronexport. Several transactions link to another $20bn money-laundering scheme, which operated out of Moscow between 2010 and 2014. The scheme, the Global Laundromat, was exposed in March by the OCCRP, Novaya Gazeta and the Guardian.

A mysterious private firm in Baku, Baktelekom MMC, pays in more than $1.4bn. The firm is what fraud experts call a doppelganger entity. It sounds like the state telecoms firm with the same name but bears no relation to it. It doesn’t have a website. Its function is unclear. According to the OCCRP, Baktelekom MMC is linked to Mehriban Aliyeva. In January the company was let off a $17.4m tax bill.

The Danish bank Danske said it had not been good enough at monitoring suspicious transactions at its Estonian branch. The bank has since “tightened procedures and controls” and “terminated relationships” with some customers.

“We will not accept Danske being exploited for money laundering or other criminal purposes. We will do everything to prevent it from happening again,” it said.

Madis Reimand, the head of Estonia’s financial intelligence unit, said his office had come across the suspicious Azerbaijani cash flows in 2013 while analysing a separate case. “From there we followed the tracks,” he said. “We tried to cooperate with the source country in order to ascertain where the money came from. This, however, didn’t work out.”

Reimand said Estonia’s financial supervisory authority had identified what had gone wrong and taken steps to prevent similar fraud in the future.

The Guardian, UK
Sept 4 2017
Everything you need to know about the Azerbaijani Laundromat
How did the scheme work, who benefited, and how did it come to light?
Luke Harding , Caelainn Barr and Dina Nagapetyants
What is the Azerbaijani Laundromat?

A scheme to curry influence, pay lobbyists, apologists and European politicians and to launder cash. The $2.9bn (£2.2bn) operation ran between 2012 and 2014 – meaning that on average $3m was channelled out of Azerbaijan every day. The source of money isn’t always clear, but it comes from companies linked to Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, state ministries and the International Bank of Azerbaijan , the country’s largest bank, which recently filed for bankruptcy protection. The cash was transferred into four offshore-managed UK companies. From there, it was spent in various countries, including Germany, the UK, France, Turkey, Iran and Kazakhstan.

UK at centre of secret $3bn Azerbaijani money laundering and lobbying scheme

By clever use of the west’s financial system. Danske, Denmark’s largest bank, handled the payments via a small branch office in Estonia. It noticed nothing amiss. The organisers of the scheme exploited Britain’s weakly regulated company system. They registered four firms at Companies House in London . These were Hilux Services , Polux Management , Metastar Invest and LCM Alliance . The first two were incorporated in Glasgow, the third in Birmingham and the fourth in Hertfordshire. The beneficial owner of the firms is a secret. Why Scotland?

Two of the firms used in the Azerbaijani Laundromat were Scottish limited partnerships, known as SLPs. There is evidence that money launderers are using SLPs for international fraud . The companies have all the advantages of a regular firm: they have a “legal personality” and can open bank accounts. They are also entirely non-transparent. If they do their business abroad they don’t have to file returns or pay UK tax. No names of real people appear on the Companies House record. Instead, shadowy offshore agents in the British Virgin Islands “manage” Hilux and Polux. Is the government doing anything about this?

Yes, belatedly. In June the government brought in new laws forcing SLPs to reveal their real or beneficial owners or pay daily fines of up to £500. The move followed concerns that overseas criminals were piling into SLPs for the purposes of money laundering. According to Transparency International , between 2007 and 2016 the number of SLPs grew more than fourfold. They appear to be part of an offshore criminal network. Who were the beneficiaries?

Several prominent Europeans. One of them is Luca Volontè, the Italian former chair of the centre-right European People’s party group in the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe (Pace). Volontè was among Pace delegates who controversially voted against a 2013 report criticising Azerbaijan’s human rights record . The leaked data shows he received more than €2m (£1.8m). He has been indicted in Italy for money laundering and corruption amid an investigation of what has been dubbed “caviar diplomacy”. He denies wrongdoing.

Other high-profile beneficiaries include Eduard Lintner, a former German MP with the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democrats. Between 2012 and 2014, when he was no longer an MP, his foundation received €819,500. The cash included a €61,000 payment made two weeks after Lintner visited Azerbaijan as an election observer. He praised the poll as up to “German standards”. He says the payments were for legitimate work, and that he did not personally benefit from the money or know about the original source of funds.

Cash was also sent to Bulgarian and Swiss bank accounts belonging to Kalin Mitrev , who was then a private consultant, but now works for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in London. Mitrev says the money was private income from legitimate consultancy work and that he was not aware of the original source of the funds. He denies doing anything wrong.

What about Azerbaijanis?

Most of the beneficiaries are from Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital. They include a diplomat at the Azerbaijani embassy in London, Orkhan Sultanov, who has reportedly been named as the country’s foreign intelligence chief , and Jovdat Guliyev, a leading figure in the Anglo-Azerbaijani Society . There is no suggestion they were aware of the original source of the money. There are payments to well-connected regime children studying in Britain or taking English language courses. One of Baku’s most powerful political families is linked to the fund via a French company, RCL Holding. Ziya Mammadov, an ex-transport minister, his son Anar, and other relatives have a multibillion-dollar fortune in Azerbaijan. It includes construction, hotels and insurance companies. The Mammadovs were once investors in Trump Tower in Baku , a development that was never finished. There are payments in the data to entities related to the Mammadovs’ Baghlan Group . The scheme doesn’t link to Trump but does raise questions about the president’s choice of business partners.

The Trump Tower in Baku

How do we know if this is money laundering?

Danske admits that controls at its Estonian branch to detect and stop money laundering were not good enough. It discovered the scheme in 2014. The bank says it has reported suspicious transactions to the authorities, and it is up to them to determine whether and to what extent these were made for illegal purposes.

Additionally, the suspicious nature of some of the source transactions rings alarm bells. One firm – Baktelekom MMC – paid more than $1.4bn into the bank accounts. The company has the same name as Azerbaijan’s telecoms provider but is unrelated. It makes enormous transfers two or three times a day, with money funnelled back and forth between companies. Offshore experts say this pattern combined with the sheer “velocity” of the transactions should have raised red flags. 

Where does the data come from?

An anonymous source leaked the data to the Danish newspaper Berlingske in Copenhagen . The paper shared it with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) , the Guardian, and other media partners. There are details of more than 16,000 transactions, including names of beneficiaries, bank payment details, and amounts in various currencies.

Panorama, Armenia
Sept 4 2017
Tobacco production on the rise in Armenia
In January-July 2017, the tobacco production volumes increased by 24% in Armenia compared to the same period of 2016, according to the data released by the National Statistical Service (NSS) of Armenia.

As was informed from the NSS, in the indicated period of 2016, 11 million 514.5 thousand units of cigarettes were produced in Armenia, whereas 14 million 283.5 thousand units of cigarettes were produced in the country in January-July of the current year.

The tobacco production share in the general production sphere in Armenia has made up 15% due to the registered increase.

To note, surveys indicate that more than 50 percent of Armenia men above 16 and almost 4 percent of women smoke.

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