Azerbaijan’s State Oil Company SOCAR bought five oil tankers belonging to the family of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan using offshore companies in the Republic of Malta, Craig Shaw from The Black Sea news portal reported.
SOCAR has neither commented on or made public the deal, potentially worth up to 100 million dollars and conducted through the oil giant’s trading arm, SOCAR Logistics, earlier this year. The Azeri state company now rents the ships to a fledgeling firm based in Moscow, called Frachtmortrans, whose directors and shareholders have ties to SOCAR and the business of UK oil giant BP in Azerbaijan, the report said.
HIGH-LEVEL LINKS ON MARITIME MEGA-DEAL
According to the report, On 7 September 2016, SOCAR Logistics DMCC, the company’s oil trading operation in a tax-free zone in Dubai, but headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, registered five companies in Malta through an Azeri called Ilham Gadim-Zada. These firms are named Milagress, Caminero, Prover, Blue Lake Star and Planeo.
Over December and January 2017, each of SOCAR’s five companies took ownership and lent their name to one of the Erdoğans’ former ships. Specifics on the deal - such as the value of the sale - are not available to the public. If the Azeri state company did make any payments to the Erdoğans, it was likely in cash, as none of the Malta businesses registered any loans, the report said.
Also unknown are the reasons why SOCAR chose to expand its fleet of 30 ships specifically with the Erdoğan family’s five tankers.
According to The Black Sea, in the same month of this undisclosed deal between the first family of Turkey and one of the nation’s largest foreign investors, SOCAR President Rovnag Abdullayev presented further investments in Turkey. The company also announced the transfer of its majority interest in the multi-billion dollar Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) project to SOCAR Turkey - the Azeri state’s main enterprise in the country.
Another direct connection between the multinational Azeri energy company and the Turkish first family involves the business dealings of Erdoğan's brother-in-law, Ziya Ilgen.
SOCAR Turkey holds a 70 per cent share in SOCAR Gas, while the other 30 per cent belonging to Arkgas - formerly known as Cig Enerji - owned by a group of Turkish businessmen with ties to Erdoğan. For a time in 2013, Ziya Ilgen held a six per cent interest in SOCAR Gaz though Arkgas. Ilgen is also a shareholder in BMZ, which sold the ships to SOCAR, the report added.
This chain of links also returns to Palmali Group, run by Mübariz Mansimov - the billionaire Azeri oil shipping tycoon who sold an oil tanker to the Erdoğan family's offshore company in 2008. Various Turkish trade media reported in March that that SOCAR had purchased seven oil tankers from Palmali Group to increase its maritime operations. SOCAR and Palmali remained silent about the deal, refusing to answer our questions on the value of the purchases or whether the Erdoğans’ five ships were among those sold, the report said.
According to the report, at the present time, SOCAR rents the ships to a Moscow-based firm called Frachtmortrans. SOCAR would not respond to inquiries about who owns Frachtmortrans. Two of the men listed on the company documents are in the oil business in Azerbaijan. The first is Namik Aladdin Ogly Kadyrov, more commonly known as Namik Gadirov, and formerly the head of operations at SOCAR Logistics in Dubai, but who now appears to run a small maritime operation in Switzerland opened in March this year. The second is Gashim Mirza Ogly Movsumzade - or Ashim Movsumzade - an Azeri who claims to be the long-time representative of BP International in Azerbaijan.
David H Nicholas, head of BP International’s press office in London, told The Black Sea that “[Movsumzade] has acted as an agent or representative for some of BP’s oil and petroleum trading activities in Azerbaijan and the Caspian region,” but that it was a “part time role for which, as an independent contractor, he was paid a retainer – he has never been an employee of BP.”
Nicholas stated that he could not find any “BP connection to or information on [Frachtmortrans], and so cannot comment on it”.
Neither Movsumzade nor Gadirov responded to The Black Sea’s attempts to contact them.