High-spending banker's wife targeted by wealth order

Tanya Simon
October 13, 2018

At a hearing in July, the court was told by lawyers for the NCA that Mrs. Hajiyeva had a lavish lifestyle while in London, spending more than £16 million at Harrods department store between 2006 and 2016.

Her lawyers, the outlet reported, said that the order "does not and should not be taken to imply any wrongdoing", by her or Hajiyev.

Mrs Hajiyeva's former husband was the chairman of the International Bank of Azerbaijan, convicted of embezzlement and fraud in 2016.

The case marks Britain's first use of Unexplained Wealth Orders, introduced this year to curb London's status as a haven for ill-gotten gains.

In this case, Hajiyeva, 55, must explain how she paid for the two aforementioned properties, per CNN, which include a home in London and golf course estate in Berkshire.

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. Failure to do so, the BBC reported, would result in her losing her properties. He was also ordered to pay the bank $39 million. She also had bills of £20,000 on luxury men's goods, £100,000 on jewellery.

Zamira's lawyers had convinced a judge to impose reporting restrictions, which prevented the woman, her husband, his bank or their nationality from being reported.

Official records reveal the couple also own two dedicated bays within the private Harrods auto park and Mrs Hajiyeva also bought a $42m Gulfstream G550 jet.

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Duncan Hames, director of policy at Transparency International UK, said: "We are delighted that this first case is progressing in court, underlining the effectiveness of Unexplained Wealth Orders in targeting suspicious wealth".

In a ruling upholding the Unexplained Wealth Order, Mr Justice Supperstone said: "I agree with the NCA that this evidence is significant in the light of the reports of Mr A's trial that allegations made against him included abuse of his position at the Bank by issuing credit cards in the names of family members, through which large debts were run up against the Bank".

Transparency International says it has identified £4.4 billion ($5.8 billion) in United Kingdom property bought with suspicious wealth, while other anticorruption campaigners have sought to highlight the problem by taking journalists on "kleptocracy tours" around London's swankiest streets. She has made an application to discharge the UWO but was unsuccessful.

The Azeri finance ministry said about $3 billion could have been misappropriated by Hajiyev, who denied the charges.

"The NCA's case is that the UWO is part of an investigative process, not a criminal procedure, and it does not involve the finding of any criminal offence".

Asked who would then have a right to claim that wealth, he said: "Ultimately, that becomes a political and global issue".

Azerbaijan-born Zamira Hajiyeva, who lived in a luxurious property in the wealthy London suburb of Knightsbridge, is being investigated by the UK's National Crime Agency (NCA). From 1993 to 2015 Mr Hajiyev was a state employee and his wealth is not justified by his income.

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