Monday, October 16, 2017

Assassinated Journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and Malta-Azerbaijan Links She Investigated

Malta’s leading investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed in a bomb blast on October 16, 2017. Caruana Galizia was known for her exposures of the governing Labour Party of Malta and its leader, prime minister Joseph Muscat. Muscat has strongly condemned the assassination and pledged to bring perpetrators to justice.

Earlier this year, Caruana Galizia’s investigations focused on Muscat’s connections to the Ilham Aliyev regime in Azerbaijan. 

Below is a rundown of known Malta-Azerbaijan connections, including those investigated by Daphne Caruana Galizia (DCG):

In 2004-8 Muscat, then the Maltese member of the European Parliament, becomes member of the EP-Azerbaijan relations committee; around this time a former senior Maltese official Dennis Sammut became involved in the EU-funded Karabakh Track II programs. Both Muscat and Sammut have regular contacts with Azerbaijani officials.

In 2007, Azerbaijan’s state oil and gas company SOCAR – through mediation of Valery Golovushkin of Russia’s Lukoil - buys Malta-based Supra Holdings Ltd. Renamed SOCAR Trading Holding Ltd. it becomes parent company for SOCAR international trading operations. Link

In 2009, after Azerbaijan’s lobbying, Maltese MP Joseph Debono Grech from Muscat’s party becomes PACE co-rapporteur on human rights in Azerbaijan. Subsequently, Debono Grech is suspected of receiving gifts while travelling to Azerbaijan. Link

In May 2011, May 2012 and May 2013 Eurovision song contests Malta gives Azerbaijan the highest score (12 points); Azerbaijan reciprocates in May 2013.

In March 2013, Muscat becomes prime minister of Malta after his Labour Party’s victory in elections.

In October 2013, chair of Malta parliament Angelo Farrugia (also from Muscat’s party) "monitors" the presidential elections in Azerbaijan, describing them as “fair, democratic and transparent.”

In February 2014, Muscat’s wife Michelle hosts Ilham Aliyev’s daughter Leyla Aliyeva in Malta for a Heydar Aliyev Foundation event.

In December 2014, Malta PM Muscat visits Azerbaijan; documents signed for Azerbaijan’s SOCAR launch of construction of an LNG facility in Malta.

In January 2015, companies associated with Azerbaijan's emergencies minister Kamaleddin Heydarov open in Malta, formally led by Dubai-based dual Iranian-Azerbaijani national Manuchehr Ahadpur Khangah. All these companies were shut down by December 2015, after spending around 600,000 Euros. Link. Another link. In 2010, the U.S. embassy in Azerbaijan prepared a background on Heydarov that mentions Khangah as Heydarov's frontman. 

In April 2015, Malta PM Muscat makes another trip to Azerbaijan, this time to speak at the 3rd Global Forum in Baku.

In August 2015, Pilatus Bank is licensed in Malta. Bank owner is Seyed Ali Sadr Hashemenijad, an Iranian who uses passport issued by St Kitts and Nevis. Hashemenijad applied for the license in December 2013.

In November 2015, Farrugia, Debono Grech, Labour MP Joseph M. Sammut and Nationalist MP Frederick Azzopardi "monitor" Azerbaijani parliamentary elections and praise their conduct in meeting with Aliyev.

In March 2016, in a widely read blog post DCG exposes Dennis Sammut’s political past in Malta.

In September 2016, Farrugia heads “European Academy of Elections Observation” during constitutional referendum in Azerbaijan.

In April 2017, DCG reveals that 60% of Pilatus Bank deposits are from Azerbaijani officials (with less than 100 clients overall). The bank's largest client is emergencies minister Kamaladdin Heydarov. Second and third largest clients are Ilham Aliyev's children: Heydar Aliyev Jr. (who first applied to Bank of Valetta, but refused because of his political exposure) and Leyla Aliyeva (via Dubai-based Al Sahra FZCO). Bank also had accounts of Maltese officials (including PM’s chief of staff, energy minister and former Maltese EU commissioner), as well as the son of Angola leader Eduardo Dos Santos (who, incidentally, studied in Baku in Soviet times). On 4/19/2017 DCG reveals more than $1mln in money transfers from Leyla Aliyev to Michelle Muscat. On 4/20/2017 bank CEO Hashemenijad arrived in Malta to remove documents and/or cash from the bank to be flown to Baku and from there to Dubai. DCG alleges Maltese government cover-up.

The revelations came just days before Azerbaijan’s SOCAR inaugurated its LNG facility in Malta on April 24, 2017 with SOCAR president Rovnag Abdullayev and foreign minister Elmar Mamedyarov in attendance.

Following DCG's revelations, Muscat calls an early election for June 3. Muscat's party retains majority in Maltese parliament and Muscat is re-appointed as prime minister.

On September 5, DCG posts about a March 2017 report titled "European Values Bought and Sold" by the Freedom Files Analytical Centre that documents Azerbaijan's extensive "outreach" to Maltese politicians. The report cites a Baku-based source interviewed in 2016 as suggesting that Azerbaijani leaders are treating Malta as their overseas "province."

On October 16, 2017, Daphne Caruana Galizia is killed when her car explodes near hear house in Malta. Earlier this month she reportedly filed a police report citing threats against her. Link Both CNN & BBC noted the Azerbaijan investigations in their coverage of the assassination. 

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