Maltese investigative journalist Caruana Galizia, 53, who was killed in a car bomb explosion in Valletta on October 16, was on a trail that not only implicated Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, his wife, and top aides in a scandal partly exposed by the release of the Panama Papers, but one that extended from Azerbaijan to the Trump Organization in New York. Galizia, whose blog generated more interest than Malta’s newspapers, had implicated the Muscat government in the sale of Maltese passports and receiving illegal funds from the government of Azerbaijan.
The exposure of the Panama Papers from the Panamanian Mossack-Fonseca law firm spurred a number of international investigations that implicated several politicians around the world in the use of offshore companies and bank accounts for tax evasion, illegal campaign financing, and money laundering.
Azerbaijan’s oil wealth has made it a cash cow for foreign politicians looking for campaign funds and a magnet for international business people. The latter include Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka, both of whom were involved in the construction of the 33-story Trump International Hotel and Tower Baku in the Azerbaijani capital. Ivanka Trump was involved in every detail of the Baku tower project. [Ivanka Trump, pictured left, outfitted with hard hat and designer handbag at Baku construction site].
The New Yorker reported this past March that the tower project between the Trump Organization and the Mammadovs’ Baku Century XXI corporation involved “duffel bags of cash changing hands during construction.” There have been allegations that the Trump Organization paid bribes to the Mammadovs in violation of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), a law Trump says he hopes to see abolished because it ties the hands of U.S. companies doing business abroad. The FCPA makes illegal the payment of bribes to foreign officials for contracts.
The Trump Baku Tower, which was facilitated by unscrupulous local Trump Organization business partners, also involved key banks with a history of money laundering. Some of these banks were the focus of Galizia’s investigative reports. The chief Trump partner in Baku is the notoriously-corrupt Mammadov family. Azerbaijani Transportation Minister Ziya Mammadov and his family are known as the “Azerbaijani Trump,” a testament to both their wealth and corruption.
Another Azerbaijani billionaire who has been a Trump partner is Aras Agalarov. In 2013, Agalarov sponsored Trump’s Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. Agalarov was also Trump’s partner in the ill-fated plan to build a Trump tower in Moscow.
Agalarov’s son, Emin Agalarov, a well-known singer in Azerbaijan, was the impetus behind the notorious July 19, 2016, meeting at the Trump Tower between Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort, British music agent Rob Goldstone, Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin, translator Anatoli Samochornov, and Aras Agalarov’s Crocus Group real estate firm senior vice president Ike Kaveladze. The meeting discussed campaign dirt held by the Agalarov interlocutors on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. In 2014, Donald Trump appeared in a video shot for Emin Agalarov’s 35th birthday. In the video, Trump tells Agalarov, “You’re a winner, You’re a champ. You’re great at real estate. And, boy, can you entertain.”
Emin Agalarov was married to Leyla Aliyeva, the daughter of Azerbaijan’s dictator Ilham Aliyev. The couple later divorced. While engaged in the Baku Tower project, Ivanka Trump dealt directly with the son of Aliyev’s Transportation Minister, Anar Mammadov, a billionaire in his own right. One of the businesses identified in the Panama Papers is the UF Universe Foundation, a Panamanian trust that controls a majority of the shares of the Azerbaijani firm, Ata Holding. There is evidence in the Panama Papers that the actual owner of Ata Holding is Azerbaijan’s Tax Minister Fazil Mammadov. Money was allegedly laundered by the tax minister via FM Financial Management Holding (UK) Ltd., a shell corporation in England. That firm was linked to FM Management Holding Group SA, an offshore entity in Panama. The name Mammadov is quite common in Azerbaijan but the fact remains that Tax Minister Fazil Mammadov and Transportation Minister Ziya Mammadov, the father of Trump’s Baku interlocutor, serve in the same corrupt Cabinet.
Leyla and her sister Arzu are shareholders in a British Virgin Islands-based offshore company, Exaltation Limited, that acts as a holding company for real estate in the United Kingdom. Anong Leyla Aliyeva’s real estate holdings is a £17 million mansion on Hampstead Lane in north London. The Aliyev sisters’ offshore company was dislcosed in the Panama Papers, the main focus of Galizia’s investigation of public corruption in Malta. The Aliyev sisters are also connected to Ata Holding as major shareholders through the Panamanian offshore company Hughson Management Inc.
It was the interconnected web of companies of the Azerbaijani ruling family and Azerbaijani oligarchs like the Mammadovs and Agalarovs that may have led to Galizia’s identification of the Trump Organization as part of the Azerbaijani-Maltese network. Galizia’s probe into the Azerbaijanis and their connections to politicians in Malta, Britain, and the United States, including the Trumps, [Trump pictured right with Azerbaijani dictator Aliyev and his wife in New York] could have also resulted in her assassination.
Interestingly, the FBI has been dispatched to Malta, a sign that the bureau is either interested in pursuing Galizia’s assassins or is running interference for any links that could tie her murderers to Azerbaijani businessmen connected to Trump, his daughter Ivanka, or the Trump presidential campaign. Galizia’s assassin or assassins may have carried out the car bombing as a contracted hit on the journalist. Malta is a nexus for contract murders, especially those involving the use of car bombs.
Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.
Copyright © 2017 WayneMadenReport.com
Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).