Our Society 10 march — 14:55

Return of ‘Hafka’ the oligarch (War continues)

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BY YUSIF ALIYEV

A few days ago a well-known Azerbaijani tycoon, owner of the club ‘Lens’ and a shareholder of Madrid ‘Atletico’ Hafiz Mammadov made a sensational statement. He urged other Azerbaijani oligarch, owner of the group of companies ‘Palmali’ Mubariz Mansimov, who controls ship-building business in Turkey and part of its maritime transport, to pay him back. This loud statement Mammadov made after the meeting of the Executive Committee of AFFA.

One gets an impression that not only Mammadov, but Mubariz Mansimov too is faced with serious financial problems. A few weeks ago, the world's leading media reported about arrest of oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. The tankers belonged to Mansimov. And here's the second scandal – this time Mansimov owes Hafiz Mammadov 8 million USD.

According to some sources, the point is about fulfilment of obligations under the contract for the purchase of a private Falcon business-jet. Mansimov bought the plane from Mammadov. Under the agreement, Mansimov had to cover the loan of Mammadov – 5 million and in addition 4 million of interest. Palmali didn’t pay Mammadov’s credit. Apparently, the onset of the financial crisis hit the positions of the main shipping magnate. Thus, with this loud statement Hafiz Mammadov reasserted himself in the business community of Azerbaijan.

‘Hafka is returning,’ people began to talk in whispers, because no one expected such a strong offensive from the tycoon, who a few months ago faced a real risk of losing FC ‘Lens’. We’d like to remind our readers that in late December Azeridaily.com already told how the son of the Azerbaijani Minister of Transport, Anar Mammadov on behalf of Hafiz Mammadov through an offshore company ‘Point to Point’ transmitted to the club 2.5 million euro for it to participate in the January transfer window. Club President Gervais Martel then warned that if by 31 December 2014, Hafiz Mammadov didn’t repay his debt to Anar Mammadov, then the later would become the owner of two thirds of the shares of the club.

In other words, son of Transport Minister Ziya Mammadov for just 2.5 million euro could become the happy owner of a famous French football club, which at the time cost Mammadov 20 million euro. However, the loud statement of Hafiz Mammadov, which excited the public opinion not only in Azerbaijan, but also in France – because in this case it was not just about nepotism, but also a crime, falsification of oligarch’s signature that spoiled the plans of the shadow groups, determined under a veil of an offshore Point to Point company to pocket the French club. And this is obviously subject to investigation by the French police.

And Gervais Martel was forced back to the negotiating table with the true owner of the club ‘Lens’. That is, with Hafiz Mammadov. All parties, including Martel himself, somehow quickly forgot about falsified documents. As if there had been no fraud with facsimiles. However, the sudden amnesia of the authors of the falsified document still does not help ‘Lens’ from a financial collapse. Until 20 March, Hafiz Mammadov, i.e. leadership of the Azerbaijani sporting community, because in this case it is not so much about the reputation of Mammadov, but rather of Azerbaijani government, has to pay for ‘Lens’ 14 million euro. Otherwise, the Commission to oversee the professional football clubs (DSNJ) will simply disqualify the French football club. It is ironic, but it's not just about the political reputation of the country – Azerbaijan may lose the elite French club worth 110 million euro.

If the club before Hafiz Mammadov cost only 13 million euro (according to the French experts), now the club can be sold for more than 100 million euro. Firstly, Mammadov himself in recent years spent on ‘Lens’ about 24 million euro, including the construction of a new stadium. Secondly, ‘Lens’ was transformed from a second-rate club into a successful football team, which broke into the top division of French football. Moreover, there is in the issue of Lens a purely political aspect – the owner of the public TV of the region Lens is also Hafiz Mammadov. Azerbaijan may suffer unimaginable image losses with the loss of property rights on the French club.

So, in just a few days Hafiz Mammadov will have to pay another 14 million. Otherwise – disqualification!

At stake is not only the fate of the ‘Lens’, but the future of a purely Azeri brand – Land of Fire – the official slogan of one of world football leaders – Madrid ‘Atletico’. The contract with the ‘Atletico’, which in every game promotes Azerbaijan (by the way, ‘Atletico’ actively participated in the campaign to inform the world of the Khojaly genocide), ends in October 2015. Mammadov was paying annually for the brand 5 million euro.

This year, ‘Atletico’, which is among the world's leaders (after all, it is no longer experiencing the financial crisis of a few years ago), has requested 15 million euro! And until May Azerbaijan or Hafiz Mammadov has to make an appropriate application for a contract extension. If not, then the club’s stars Arda Turan, Fernando Torres and others will take to the football field with other slogans on t-shirts. And who can guarantee that instead of Azerbaijan’s brand image an image of Ararat would not appear?! After all, he who pays the piper calls the slogan!

But the problems of Azerbaijani propaganda in the West do not end with problems of ‘Lens’ and ‘Atletico’. Remains mysterious the future of an English club ‘Sheffield Wednesday’ – one of the oldest British clubs, founded in 1889. Last year Hafiz Mammadov in literally 1 hour managed to buy the club, which essentially is a British national treasure.

And the most curious thing is that the British agreed to give Mammadov ownership of the club as if upfront. It was enough to make inquiries about the Azerbaijani oligarch, his high-profile projects with ‘Lens’ and ‘Atletico’ to take him at his word. Furthermore, the determining factor in the deal was that there was a recommendation of Prince Albert of Monaco – a great friend of Azerbaijan. Now blot lies not only on the reputation of Mammadov, but the Prince. After all Mammadov was completely puzzled with salvation of ‘Lens’ and ‘Atletico’. So he didn’t pay the necessary sum for the English club and the deal was off. These are the issues that Azerbaijani ‘sport’ had to deal with in the failed 2014. It all started with the collapse of oil prices. As the saying goes, misfortunes never come alone.

But it seems that Hafiz Mammadov is resisting with his last strength. Evidenced by the sensational news of the return of the oligarch as head of the Azerbaijani bank ‘Bank of Azerbaijan’. Last year, the banking lobby has been swept by the information about the resignation of Hafiz Mammadov and his sons – the main shareholders of the bank. The Bank has been transferred to new owners. So what? As shown by the recent sensational materials of haqqin.az about the bankruptcy of the bank, the new leadership made a proper mess of it by giving large loans to insolvent clients. The six-month rule of the new leadership turned financial collapse, and the bank had to return to oligarch Hafka. Now he comes not only for the salvation of Azerbaijani assets in the world famous football clubs, but also a well-known Azerbaijani bank. To date, the authorised capital of the bank makes about $ 50 million.

Astray in a dark labyrinth Azerbaijani oligarch feverishly is looking for ways to escape. Not for his own salvation, because most likely he has enough for a comfortable existence. It's about saving football clubs, and with them the reputation of Azerbaijan. Will next year ‘Atletico’ enter the stadiums with the logo of Ararat? So hard to confidently answer this question. For the oligarch is still not out of the maze...

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