The famous British businessman, philanthropist, and Conservative Party donor Javad Marandi, 55, was found to have received tens of millions of dollars from dubious funds in foreign countries, revealed by official information.
Marandi has long protested that revealing his identity would damage his reputation, and his move was successful. So, his identity appears only as “MNL” in the court documents.
Today, it has been more than a year since the ongoing court cases and appeals have lifted restrictions on media coverage of his name.
The court case regarding the disclosure of Marandi’s name to the public was filed by BBC and Evening Standard media organizations. His requests for anonymity have been overturned by Westminster Magistrates’ Court, the High Court, and a number of appeals courts.
The transactions were uncovered as part of another investigation and no criminal charges have been brought against Marandi.
In response to requests for comment, the law firm representing him said it “strongly denies any wrongdoing” and is “deeply disappointed by the court’s decision to lift restrictions on news production, aware of the damage it may cause to its reputation.”
As a child, Marandi, who ran away from revolutionary Iran to London, grew up as a successful entrepreneur. It has invested in a group of private members’ clubs called Soho House, as well as luxury fashion and design brands such as Emilia Wickstead, Anya Hindmarch, and Conran Shop.
He owns more than 20 McDonald’s restaurants in Azerbaijan and a cigarette company that distributes many international brands. According to the information provided by the British law firm, the cigarette business is considered to be his main source of income.
In addition, he was a management employee of Pasha Construction, a huge real estate company in Azerbaijan owned by the ruling Aliyev family.
However, according to the National Crime Agency (NCA), Marandi received more than $230 million in suspicious amounts from offshore companies that received funds from Azerbaijan’s Laundering Machine, a money-laundering scheme uncovered by the OCCRP in 2017. Marandi received $71 million directly, and the rest was sent to an offshore company he controlled.
The Azerbaijani Money Laundering Machine was a system of interconnected offshore companies that transferred currency by conducting fraudulent transactions to hide the origin of the money. Because of this, it was often impossible to identify the source of the millions of dollars transferred through that system. However, journalists who obtained bank statements from Estonia were able to piece together information about where some of the funds were sent. Among the buyers are well-known members of Azerbaijan’s ruling elite, including members of the Aliyev family and people connected to them.
The NCA’s investigation is not related to Marandi but to influential Azerbaijani politician Javanshir Feyziyev and his family. The agency was able to get a judge’s approval to seize millions of pounds belonging to members of the Feyziyev family because the money was sent through a money laundering machine.
However, while investigating Feyziyev, the agency also found information about Marandi. During the trial, when asked whether he was involved in the investigation or not, the representative of NCA said that he “cannot deny or confirm” it.
NCA also found that Marandi Feyziyev and Mirjalal Pashayev, a relative of President Aliyev’s wife, were partners in a large pharmaceutical company in Azerbaijan that obtained millions of funds from a “money laundering machine”.
The former Avromed company was previously known only as Feyziyev’s company. He was one of the founders of the company, but in 2015, after being elected as a deputy to the Parliament of Azerbaijan, he gave up his shares. Avromed does not disclose the identity of its shareholders, and Marandi and Pashayev were among them.
In addition to his commercial success, Marandi co-founded a charity to support underprivileged children and gained prominence in the UK by writing an op-ed in The Telegraph demanding a pay rise.
He donated more than £750,000 to the Conservative Party between May 2014 and November 2020. This covers the period when the funds, which the NCA considers questionable, were received by Marandi.
The spokesperson of the family spoke about the NCA confiscation of millions of pounds belonging to members of the Feyziyev family and said:
“Because they are happy to be successful in most of the cases and neither Javanshir Feyziyev nor other respondents have been confirmed by the court as not involved in corruption.”