Woman fights United Kingdom wealth order after spending $21m at Harrods

Aubrey Yates
October 11, 2018

On another occasion she spent £100,000 on Cartier jewellery and £20,000 on luxury men's goods.

All this as the unemployed wife of a banker whose income was reported as US$70,650 in 2008.

A woman from Azerbaijan who spent about $21m at luxury London department store Harrods over the course of a decade has become the first target of a British power to seize money from people suspected of getting their wealth through corruption.

Zamira Hajiyeva was the subject of Britain's first Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs) - dubbed McMafia laws - against two properties worth a total of £22 million.

Under the new powers, the NCA may seize assets if officials believe the owner is a politically exposed person (PEP) - someone from outside the European Economic Area in a position of power that makes them liable to bribery or corruption - or someone with suspected links to serious or organised crime, and they are unable explain the source of their wealth.

Investigators from the National Crime Agency believe there are billions of pounds of dirty money invested in British property, reported the BBC, but it is nearly impossible to charge the owners with a crime or seize the assets because of a lack of evidence.

"Unexplained wealth orders have the potential to significantly reduce the appeal of the United Kingdom as a destination for illicit income".

But she also has a husband, Jahangir Hajiyev, who is serving 15 years in prison after being convicted of fraud and embezzlement in his capacity as chairman of the International Bank of Azerbaijan.

The former chairman denied the charges and lawyers for his wife branded the case as unjust. He said the Unexplained Wealth Orders are the start of a crackdown on money laundering in the United Kingdom.

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Zamira Hajiyeva, the wife of a jailed banker from Azerbaijan, is being asked to explain her "unexplained wealth" thanks to a new anti-corruption enforcement scheme created to target organized crime figures and others with foreign government ties.

The judge extended the anonymity order until noon on Wednesday pending an appeal against his ruling.

Britain's National Crime Agency (NCA) successfully applied for an UWO in February against Hajiyeva after demanding she reveal the source of her wealth or risk losing the properties.

Hajiyeva faces an Unexplained Wealth Order relating to her $20 million, five-bedroomed home in the tony neighbourhood of Knightsbridge and the $18 million Mill Ride Golf Club near Ascot.

Last week, a High Court judge dismissed Ms Hajiyev's application to drop the UWO, but discharged an order to keep her identity anonymous.

"He was very well-off when we married in 1997 and had accumulated capital and wealth since the early 1990s".

The order requested by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and upheld by the courts will require her to explain how she came to have such enormous wealth.

Her lawyers added that the order "is part of an investigative process, not a criminal procedure, and it does not involve the finding of any criminal offense", according to the AP.

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