Eminent private client outfit remains tightlipped over dealings with Azerbaijan president’s daughters
A prominent London law firm has been left exposed after leaked Mossack Fonseca documents revealed how it had helped set up a secret offshore company for the daughters of the Azerbaijan president.
Child & Child — a long-established private client law firm based in Knightsbridge — appears to be the latest victim of what is now being dubbed the ‘Panama Papers’.
For those who have been living in a cave for the past four days, Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca was the subject of a mass data breach over the weekend with millions of sensitive files being leaked to the press. The documents show how Mossack Fonseca — among other things — helped clients avoid tax.
In the wake of the mass leak, a document (embedded below) has emerged purporting to show how lawyers at Child & Child helped Leyla and Arzu Aliyeva (pictured above left and right) — daughters of Azerbaijan president Ilham Aliyev — set up a holding company called Exaltation Limited.
Company formation documents (embedded below) completed by the firm’s lawyers earlier this year show how it stated their clients were not “politically exposed persons” (PEPs). Under British rules anyone with a close association or connection with a senior political figure would be considered a PEP. So despite their clients having a president as a father, Child & Child ticked the box marked “no”.
Incorporated in March 2015, the documents further reveal how Exaltation Limited was set up for the purpose of “holding UK property”. With the firm’s exact value unclear, the document claims assets are in excess of $1million (£709,000), from what is described as “personal savings”.
According to The Guardian, PEPs are well within their rights to own a business offshore, however they should — due to the nature of their ownership — be subject to “greater scrutiny and due diligence checks by banks”.
The Aliyev sisters were both educated at £15,000-per-year Queen’s College in Harley Street, London. They are believed to share a property portfolio in excess of £50 million, with extensive interests in Dubai, Paris and London, according to estimates arrived at four years ago.
Leyla owns a £17 million property overlooking Hampstead Heath, is founder and editor-in-chief of Baku magazine, has her own YouTube channel, and until 2015 was married to Emin Agalarov, a property tycoon — turned pop star — who provided the half-time entertainment at the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest.
Remaining close-mouthed, Child & Child would not respond to Legal Cheek’s request for comment.
However, Mossack Fonseca’s founding partner Ramon Fonseca has broken his silence for the first time since the leak. Claiming the firm’s operations were entirely legal, he suggested Mossack Fonseca had been the victim of a “witch-hunt”.