The chair of an influential parliamentary committee is demanding answers from The Crown Estate over the details of a property deal that have come to light in the Pandora Papers.
The Crown Estate said this week that it had launched an internal review following the revelation that it appeared to have bought an asset from the Azerbaijani ruling family, which has faced criticism for its links to human rights abuses and corruption.
Clive Betts, chair of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, told Property Week The Crown Estate had questions to answer over the deal.
“It is a public body and it has to make sure when it does purchases that not merely are they legally correct but that they withstand a transparency test,” he said.
“Will the public believe they’ve acted in a proper open way? I think there are questions about that.”
The Crown Estate is reported to have snapped up an eight-storey office and retail block in Mayfair for almost £67m in August 2018 from a British Virgin Islands-based company called Hiniz Trade & Investment.
According to The Guardian, the Pandora Papers show how the ownership of the company was passed from the Azerbaijani president’s daughter, Arzu Aliyeva, to her grandfather Arif Pashayev, who then placed the company into a trust in 2015.
A spokesperson for The Crown Estate said: “Before our purchase of 56-60 Conduit Street, we conducted checks including those required by UK law. At the time we did not establish any reason why the transaction should not proceed. Given the potential concerns raised, we are looking into the matter.”
The current Azerbaijani president has ruled the country since succeeding his father in 2003.