Apartment in London for £17.3 million of the son of the former head of the Azerbaijani SOCAR Rashad
© OCCRP, 01/31/2023, The son of the ex-head of an Azerbaijani oil company owns an apartment in London worth over $20 million, Photo: via OCCRP, azerbaycansaati.tv, Illustration: OCCRP
Kelly Bloss, Ilya Lozovsky
For the first time, OCCRP journalists managed to find an object of luxury real estate, which belongs to a family member of Rovnag Abdullayev, the ex-president of the State Oil Company of the Republic of Azerbaijan (SOCAR).
The huge state-owned enterprise headed by Abdullayev until last year has been criticized for its lack of transparency and for enriching Azerbaijani elites, including likely relatives of the company’s ex-president.
Rovnag Abdullayev, Azerbaijan’s current deputy economy minister, has no known sources of income other than his official salary.
However, from corporate documents that have come to us, it follows that his 28-year-old son Rashad owns an elite apartment at number 20 Grosvenor Square, a well-known building in one of the most expensive areas of London. He bought the property in 2019 for £17.3 million ($22.4 million) through an offshore company.
However, the fact that the four-bedroom apartment located on the third floor belongs to Rashad Abdullayev has become known only now. It is issued to a company registered on the Island of Guernsey with a closed register of beneficiaries.
Last year, the UK adopted the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act, which required all foreign companies with real estate in the country to provide information about the beneficiaries by the end of January 2023.
A Guernsey-based firm, Mount Street Investments PCC, filed a return just over a week ago. According to the documents, Rashad Abdullayev became its owner in June 2019. According to the UK Land Registry, Mount Street Investments bought the London flat in December of that year.
“Thanks to the new rules in the area of transparency, it appears that politically connected foreigners own a lot of real estate in the UK through offshore companies,” said Ben Cowdock, senior research expert at the UK branch of Transparency International. “If the value of an asset significantly exceeds the known income of the owner, especially if it is at high risk of corruption, then the authorities should investigate.”
“Even if Rashad Abdullayev bought the aforementioned apartment,” he wrote, “I sincerely believe that he did not make any illegal transactions, that he has all the necessary documents in this regard and that they all comply with the requirements of the law.”
According to SOCAR’s annual reports, the annual salary and bonuses of the president and about a dozen vice-presidents amount to less than $800,000, which means that London real estate could not be purchased only with Abdullayev Sr.’s official earnings.
According to Rashad’s LinkedIn profile (the page is currently unavailable), he got a job at SOCAR Trading, SOCAR’s marketing and development division, at the age of 16. He was a “specialist in trade and business development”. Rovnag Abdullayev called incorrect information from his son’s LinkedIn page and said that Rashad did not work for SOCAR Trading, but was an intern at another company associated with SOCAR.
Just three years later, while living in Turkey, Rashad founded a real estate investment and management company, as well as providing consulting services. Rashad Abdullayev also owned a restaurant in Bodrum for several years and was a co-owner of a network of gas stations in Georgia.
It is not known what he is doing now and how much he earns.
OCCRP, 06.12.2014, “The son of the head of SOCAR is a benefactor at the expense of the state”: It is worth mentioning that Rashad Abdullayev is also the owner of several commercial structures related to SOCAR:
• The Alpha Roger Project (www.alpharoger.com.tr) deals with luxury real estate. Other companies where he is listed as the owner operate in such areas as construction, air and sea transportation, personnel management consulting, and the sale of lubricating oils.
• According to official information, Rashad Abdullayev purchased an Internet portal for a structure called Alpha Roger Insan Kaynaklari Hizmetleri ve Danismanlik Anonim Sirketi, a recently established consulting company. The company has already registered its division in Azerbaijan at the address where the building owned by Adem Aliyev, Rashad Abdullayev’s maternal grandfather, is located. Aliyev, 68, is linked to SOCAR through firms registered in the British Virgin Islands.
• In November 2013, in an interview with the Turkish edition of Quality magazine, Rashad Abdullayev said that he also worked at Petkim Petrokimya (SOCAR Turkey Petrokimya A.Ş owns 51 percent of shares in this company), but did not specify what position he held there. Petkim Petrokimya itself refused to respond to a request regarding Abdullayev’s work experience in the company.
It is known that in addition to this, the younger Abdullayev is engaged in at least one business, which, apparently, has nothing to do with SOCAR. In an interview with Quality, he stated that he owns the B-LONG restaurant in the Turkish resort town of Bodrum. OCCRP was unable to locate documents that would confirm its owner status. In this interview, Abdullayev also spoke about his plans to open hotels in Istanbul and other cities in the future. His activities in the field of charity are as active as his commercial activities, and in this area his ties with SOCAR seem to be no less strong. — Inset K.ru
Public activists have repeatedly accused SOCAR, which controls most of Azerbaijan’s oil wealth, of extreme secrecy, lack of transparency and financial relations with non-public persons. OCCRP has previously reported on attempts by two of the state company’s subsidiaries to withdraw $1.7 billion from a major gas project, as well as likely schemes to enrich insiders, including Rovnag Abdullayev’s father-in-law.
“SOCAR is the leading corrupt state company in Azerbaijan,” says Gubad Ibadoglu, an Azerbaijani economist and senior visiting fellow at the London School of Economics. “They don’t tell anything: they don’t report how much money they receive, how much taxes they pay.”
The same year his company bought the Grosvenor Square apartment, Rashad Abdullayev, then 25, had an incident that also shed light on his family’s vast fortune. OCCRP journalists confirmed that a $1.35 million wristwatch was stolen from Rashad in Ibiza, although this was denied by a SOCAR spokesman. It appears that Abdullaev wanted to hide his ownership of the expensive watch: OCCRP obtained a police report that was amended to indicate that the watch did not belong to Rashad.
OCCRP, 09.07.2019, “New story of $1.35 million watch theft from Azerbaijani oil worker’s son”: $1.35 million worth of watch recently stolen in Spain, scandal over it in Azerbaijan: all sorts of conjectures and allegations . A robber took a Richard Mille watch from an Azerbaijani citizen, of which there are only 75 in the world. This is one of the most expensive watches in history. Apparently, they were taken from 25-year-old Rashad Abdullayev, the son of the president of the State Oil Company of the Republic of Azerbaijan (SOCAR), a giant in the local oil and gas industry. […] Although SOCAR initially denied everything, Rashad Abdullayev himself seems to no longer dispute at least part of the scandalous situation. OCCRP journalists were able to see the edits to the original statement to the police, which were made by his lawyer. Abdullayev admitted that he was in Ibiza, that he had a watch, and confirms its value.
At the same time, in his edits, the lawyer is trying to downplay Abdullayev’s connection with the Richard Mille watch – it is, they say, not his at all, but a certain Seymour Mehdiyev, from whom his client borrowed them. The address of the “real owner” of the clock is also given here – a house on Tverskaya Street, in the very center of Moscow. […]
If Abdullaev really owned the ill-fated watch, then it seems that this is not his first expensive chronometer. In 2017, at a meeting of the Sabail football club, of which he was president, he was photographed wearing a watch that experts identified as a Roger Dubuis Excalibur Quatuor model worth over a million dollars. Rashad Abdullayev’s father, Rovnag Abdullayev, was also photographed wearing expensive watches, but their cost is not even close to those worn by his son. — Inset K.ru
According to some reports, Abdullayev was seen in London driving a rare Mercedes model worth over $300,000.
Last year the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev removed Abdullayev Sr. from the post of head of SOCAR and gave him a less influential post – deputy minister of economy. In April, Aliyev gave a speech and praised “active reforms” and “new management” that would help SOCAR become a “transparent international energy company,” perhaps hinting that he was aware of corruption at the state oil company.
When asked about alleged corruption in SOCAR, Rovnag Abdullayev answered reporters as follows: “I have no information and no interest in connection with the assumptions from your letter. The accusations against me are not true.”
The concierge service at Grosvenor Square confirmed that Rashad Abdullayev had an apartment there and promised to deliver the letter to his assistant.
Finchatton, the company that renovated the building, did not respond to requests for comment.
azerbaycansaati.tv, 06/27/2019, “Melisa” Rashad Abdullayev”: The son of Rovnag Abdullayev is well known among the people. Insolent, uneducated, without manners of communication, depraved and very, very rich. This is the image created by the son of an oilman number 1. In an independent an investigation by a consortium of journalists says that at this age, his peers are happy when they succeed in their first steps in the professional field, and Abdullayev already boasts an impressive list of companies to which he is most directly related. by spending the people’s millions on his ultra-luxury yacht “Melisa”. On this yacht, Rashad Abdullayev invited everyone to hang out for the people’s money. It should be noted that they communicate with Rashad Abdullayev solely because of his millions, since the oil offspring cannot tie together two sentences without errors.
Any Bodrum taxi driver can tell about the antics of Rashad Abdullayev at Rovnag Beach on Palmarina (this is how the locals sarcastically called the beach that once belonged to Rashad Abdullayev). Expensive prostitutes drank super-expensive champagne that flowed like a stream.
Moreover, Rashad earned himself the laurels of a personal benefactor of Azerbaijani singers and singers. However, for this, he had at his disposal not his own money, but the financial capabilities of the State Oil Company of the Republic of Azerbaijan (SOCAR), which is headed by his father. In simple terms, Rashad Abdullayev knows how to splurge on people’s money. — Inset K.ru
Journalists from iFact Georgia also worked on the material.