That was the urgent subject before the board of a company based in the tax haven of Guernsey in September 2015. For years, Hajiyev, then chairman of the International Bank of Azerbaijan, had used a chain of trusts and shell companies stretching from Cyprus to the Channel Islands to move tens of millions of dollars out of the state-owned lender, according to allegations in U.K. court filings.
The scheme financed a life of luxury for a man who investigators said earned a salary of $70,650 in 2008: four mansions in the English countryside, a $42.5 million Gulfstream jet, a $13 million golf club outside London and a villa in Sardinia. Hajiyev’s wife, Zamira, ensconced in adjoining Knightsbridge townhouses, splurged on $20 million of diamonds, designer handbags and other baubles at nearby Harrods. Even as the couple burned through cash, they borrowed millions more.
When the directors of Lumea 2014 PTC jumped on a conference call that September, they grappled with a new reality. The company was cratering and its creditors, including a Swiss bank, were circling, according to internal minutes of its board meetings seen by Bloomberg News. That wasn’t good because Lumea, which had consolidated control of Hajiyev’s assets, was the cog that kept his wealth machine spinning, the records show.