|Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, the Establishing New Authorities for Business Laundering and Enabling Risks to Security (ENABLERS) Act was introduced by Representatives Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL), Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Joe Wilson (R-SC) as a response to the Pandora Papers revelations about the monumental corruption of autocratic leaders, including Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, reported the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly).|
“Given Azerbaijan’s nearly $3 billion laundromat scheme aimed at whitewashing its egregious human rights record, as well as the recent revelations that the Aliyev family purchased hundreds of millions of dollars worth of luxury property in London using offshore accounts, the Assembly welcomes this bipartisan anti-money laundering bill,” stated Executive Director Bryan Ardouny.
The Assembly-backed bill emerged in the aftermath of the Pandora Papers leak, recently released to the public by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), and over 150 global media outlets, which consists of nearly 12 million documents that uncovered the hidden wealth, tax avoidance, and money laundering schemes used by ruling authorities to hide their wealth in offshore accounts.
The Pandora Papers made it clear how global power players took advantage of U.S. bank laws by easily flowing foreign assets into the U.S. By updating the 51-year-old Bank Secrecy Act, the Treasury Department will now create new due diligence rules and more detailed investigations into its clients, their sources of wealth, and all intermediaries involved in transactions.
In particular, the Pandora Papers’ trove of financial records uncover the scale of the Aliyev regime’s corruption, and exposes the depth of involvement by his family and close associates. The documents revealhow Ilham Aliyev and his family have been systematically robbing their own country’s wealth since his first term in office in 2003. With striking granularity, the documents expose the methods undertaken by the Aliyevs and two trusted associates in acquiring approximately $700 million worth of real estate in the United Kingdom alone, in addition to registering scores of offshore companies and running a $2.9 billion money laundering scheme, known as the Azerbaijani Laundromat. It was also specified that the Crown Estate, which owns and manages property on behalf of the Queen of England, bought a £66.5 million ($91 million) property from the Aliyev family in 2018, in which they made a £31 million ($42 million) profit.
The OCCRP reports: “Aliyev’s two daughters, his son, his father-in-law [Arif Pashayev], and two of the family’s close business associates have held, at their peak, a staggering £429 million ($694 million) in London real estate — including prominent historical buildings, commercial developments, and luxury apartments in prestigious neighborhoods. Their ownership of this property empire has been systematically hidden for years behind offshore companies with generic names like Sheldrake Six and Fliptag Investments.”
The report continues: “In total, OCCRP found 84 previously unknown offshore companies, registered in the British Virgin Islands, that the Aliyevs and their associates have owned since 2006. The companies appear to be managed as a closely knit system: Again and again, the leaked records show, groups of them filed paperwork or changed directors on the very same day. Their owners and directorships were also frequently shuffled among the same small group of people.”
OCCRP cites the span and scale of Aliyev’s corruption, continuing for over two decades, as he leads “an increasingly autocratic regime built on the jailing of journalists, lawyers, and activists, fraudulent elections, and massive corruption.”
According to the ICIJ, if the ENABLERS Act is passed, “the law would give the U.S. Treasury Department until December 2023 to create anti-money laundering rules for the gatekeeper industries. A new national security task force would oversee the effort.”
The legislation would “amend the Bank Secrecy Act to expand the scope and authorities of anti-money laundering safeguards under such Act, and for other purposes,” and “develop an ambitious, comprehensive, and multi-year United States Government strategy to impose anti-money laundering safeguards on all necessary gatekeeper professions.”