London couple at the heart of a secret justice case involving the “Azerbaijan laundromat” received payments from £500 million-worth of off-shore transactions based on false invoices for steel, a court has been told.
The pair, who can be identified only as X and Y, are alleged by the National Crime Agency to have brought at least £14 million of illicit funds into Britain and face having millions of pounds in their bank accounts seized.
They deny the money laundering allegations and have been fighting to avoid their names being made public on the grounds that this would harm their reputation and business interests.
The Evening Standard has already obtained court papers which accuse the couple — who own several mortgage-free London properties worth millions — of using a complex web of “brass plate” companies to channel corrupt funds into British bank accounts at Coutts, Barclays, Lloyds, Santander and Metro Bank.
But new details of the alleged money laundering have now emerged at a hearing at Westminster magistrates’ court to consider an application by this newspaper to remove anonymity.
Andrew Bird QC, for the National Crime Agency, told the court that part of the law enforcers’ case was that the couple had received money “through the laundromat” from the proceeds of “very big” cash transfers totalling around £500 million carried out between three companies, Baktelekom, Hilux and Polux, via Denmark’s Danske Bank.
He said invoices showed the money transfers related to steel exports, but the NCA wanted to bring expert evidence to show that it was “very, very unlikely” that this was true and that “false information” had been given to the bank to justify the transfers.
Mr Bird added that some of the money had “made its way through the laundromat to X and Y in London”.
The court had earlier been told by the couple’s barrister, Edward Henry QC, who was only appointed hours before the hearing after what he claimed was a “breakdown of trust” and “dissatisfaction” with their previous solicitors, that Mrs Y was in London but unwell and unable to attend the hearing.
He said the cause was surgery in the US last month “carried out in a crass manner” and that she had been to Harley Street this week for further treatment.
Mr Henry said that Mr X is in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, and that he wanted to travel there to obtain evidence from him in the couple’s defence and that a decision should be postponed until a further hearing in May.
District Judge Vanessa Baraitser expressed dissatisfaction with the failure of X and Y to provide any argument in favour of continued anonymity.
But she ruled that it was necessary for the court to be “very cautious” and that there would be no harm in adjourning a decision on identification until May.