London -- one of world's most expensive cities. Owning property here can be a profitable investment -- especially when it's located in one of the city's most exclusive neighborhoods.
New investigations by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reveal that Leyla and Arzu Aliyeva -- the daughters of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev -- own at least three properties in some of the priciest parts of London.
The investigations, aided by the Panama Papers link, show how the Aliyev family used offshore companies in Panama and the Virgin Islands to hide their ownership of the London real estate, which is estimated to have cost a total of at least 60 million dollars.
The properties include a luxury penthouse in an apartment complex in London's elegant Knightsbridge neighborhood. Some apartments in the building are valued at as much as 25 million dollars, with their market value expected to grow. The Aliyev daughters' apartment was officially purchased by Capper Marketing, a company registered on the British Virgin Islands.
A second property traced to the daughters of the Azerbaijani president is a mansion with more than 10,000-square-feet, near the historic area of Hampstead Heath in north London.
Now valued at 25 million dollars, the mansion was purchased in 1998, when Aliyev had yet to become the head of Azerbaijan and was still serving as vice president at the country's state oil company SOCAR. The house's official owner is Beckforth Services, a company registered on the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea. Beckforth's company registration refers to SOCAR's street address in the Azerbaijani capital, Baku.
London's fabled Hyde Park Speakers' Corner -- an historic symbol of free-speech rights -- provides the setting for the Aliyevs' third London property: an 8-million-dollar apartment overlooking the famous area. All three properties have been transferred to presidential daughters Leyla and Arzu Aliyeva.
There's reason to believe the two sisters were looking to purchase even more London property. In January 2015, a new company, Exaltation Limited, was registered in the Virgin Islands, with both Leyla and Arzu listed as shareholders.
According to information leaked in the Panama Papers, Exaltation was in the process of negotiating another property deal in London. Investigators, however, have been unable to reveal whether the company had completed any other real estate purchases.
In Baku, Ilham Aliyev has remained silent about revelations about his daughters' London properties. But in an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, lawmaker Yevda Abramov defended the purchases, saying there was nothing wrong with the president's children owning real estate:
"We should be uniting around our president rather than bickering. Who cares what's been revealed about the president? The president has the right to own a house, a mansion, or a castle. The president is no ordinary man. He's no Yevda who has to live off the salary he withdraws from the ATM. He has a ton of problems; what does he need to do to solve them?. All he does is try to please one country or another, and try to protect public security".
In the meantime, London media says that corruption-driven property purchases have made it virtually impossible for ordinary Londoners to buy property themselves. The Mail on Sunday newspaper reports that in total, the British property market has profited by as much as 26 billion dollars in corrupt earnings abroad.
In a single year, between 2013 and 2014, prices for the London property market rose by 26 percent.
London isn't the only city where Ilham Aliyev's family owns real estate wealth. Previous investigations have already revealed that in addition to London, the president's family owns property in Moscow, Dubai, and Karlovy Vary. The total estimates of the family's real-estate wealth are estimated to be around 140 million dollars.