US$1.017 million in single transaction from Azerbaijan-owned company to Egrant Inc

Published: April 20, 2017 at 4:41pm

In March last year, Al Sahra FZCO – a company incorporated in Dubai’s free zone – made a single payment transaction of US$1.017 million to Egrant Inc, a company incorporated in Panama in 2013.

The transaction, which was described as a “loan payment”, was made from Al Sahra’s account at Pilatus Bank in Malta, to an account which Egrant Inc holds with a bank in Dubai. This was not the only “loan payment” which Egrant Inc received from Al Sahra FZCO, but it was the largest single transaction. Other “loan payments” were of around US$100,000 each and made twice a week over several weeks in January, February and March last year.

The bank account opening form for Al Sahra FZCO at Pilatus Bank gives Leyla Aliyeva, daughter of Ilham Aliyev, ruler of Azerbaijan, as the ultimate beneficial owner of the company. Payment instructions for Al Sahra were given by Farnoush Farsian.

Egrant Inc also has an account at Pilatus Bank in Malta, but the money was – significantly – not paid into that account. It was moved out of the country.

The transaction was so large and raised so many questions that Pilatus Bank’s US correspondent bank (it was a dollar transaction, and at the time the bank had two US correspondent banks) stopped it. After several days of negotiations, it went through.

Until the payment was released, an employee at Nexia BT – which made the arrangements to set up Egrant Inc in Panama with Mossack Fonseca in 2013 – rang Pilatus Bank several times a day, every day, to check on progress and to chase it up.

This website has the name of the employee, who left Nexia BT for other employment when the Panama Papers scandal broke worldwide the following month, but has not spoken to him.

The Nexia BT employee who followed up on this banking transaction is the same one who submitted to Pilatus Bank the bank account opening forms for Egrant Inc and for Tillgate Inc (UBO Keith Schembri) and Hearnville Inc (UBO Konrad Mizzi), which also have accounts at Pilatus Bank in Malta.

Like Egrant Inc, the other two companies have accounts at a bank in Dubai, too.

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