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Woman who spent £16m at Harrods revealed in court case

Wife of jailed Azerbaijani banker in fight to prove wealth is legitimate to avoid losing £11.5m London home

Tom Barnes
Wednesday 10 October 2018 14:22 BST
Zamira Hajiyeva’s £11.5m Knightsbridge home is subject to the first Unexplained Wealth Order
Zamira Hajiyeva’s £11.5m Knightsbridge home is subject to the first Unexplained Wealth Order (Reuters)

The wife of a jailed banker has been ordered to prove the source of her wealth is legitimate or risk losing her £11.5m Knightsbridge home under new anti-corruption laws.

Zamira Hajiyeva was named as the first person subject to Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs) by the National Crime Agency (NCA) after the High Court lifted an anonymity order preventing reporting of the case.

The court heard Azerbaijani national Ms Hajiyeva spent more than £16m at department store Harrods over the course of a decade, as well as purchasing two properties worth a combined £22m.

She unsuccessfully attempted to overturn a UWO made against her £11.5m west London home, which was purchased in 2009 by a company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands.

Her husband, Jahangir Hajiyev, was chairman of the state-owned International Bank of Azerbaijan from 2001 until his resignation in 2015, but was subsequently jailed to 15 years for fraud and embezzlement.

Ms Hajiyeva has denied any wrongdoing and is fighting to hold onto the properties covered by the order.

Mr Justice Supperstone last week discharged an anonymity order, preventing identification of Ms Hajiyeva and her husband, their country of origin, the bank Mr Hajiyev worked for and the two properties under question.

On Tuesday, Lord Justice Sales dismissed an application to extend the anonymity order, ruling that “no good case” had been made for its extension.

In a statement, lawyers for Mrs Hajiyeva said: “The decision of the High Court upholding the grant of an Unexplained Wealth Order against Zamira Hajiyeva does not and should not be taken to imply any wrong-doing, whether on her part or that of her husband.

“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.

“On Mrs Hajiyeva's behalf, an application for permission to appeal against the order of Mr Justice Supperstone was filed on 8 October 2018.

“Mrs Hajiyeva has made clear her intention to engage fully in the judicial process and will present her case to the court as appropriate through her lawyers. She will, therefore, make no further comment at this time.”

The case marks the first use of UWOs, introduced this year in a bid to curb London's status as a haven for ill-gotten gains.

The orders allow authorities to seize assets over £50,000 from people suspected of corruption or links to organised crime until the owners can account for how they were acquired.

Donald Toon, director for economic crime at the NCA, said: “Where we cannot determine a legitimate source for the funds used to purchase assets and prime property it is absolutely right that we ask probing questions to uncover their origin.

“Unexplained Wealth Orders have the potential to significantly reduce the appeal of the UK as a destination for illicit income.

“They enable the UK to more effectively target the problem of money-laundering through prime real estate in London and across the UK, and we will now seek to move further cases to the High Court.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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