United Kingdom targets London properties of jailed Azeri banker

Zamira Hajiyeva
Handout

Zamira Hajiyeva Handout

During the course of the investigation, it was revealed Ms Hajiyeva racked up a staggering $30million bill between 2006 and 2016 thanks to regular shopping sprees at high-end United Kingdom department store Harrods, located near the woman's $21.4million home.

Last week, Zamira Hajiyeva, the wife of the former chairman of Azerbaijan's largest bank, lost an appeal at the High Court against an attempt by the British authorities to seize two properties worth about 22 million pounds using a new Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO).

Hajiyev's husband Jahangir is now serving a 15-year sentence in Azerbaijan for defrauding the country's state-owned national bank, where he served as chairman between 2001 and 2015.

He emphasized that the Unexplained Wealth Orders could significantly reduce the appeal of the United Kingdom as a destination for illicit income and enable the country to more effectively target money laundering through prime real estate in London and across the UK.

Hajiyeva has denied any wrongdoing and is working to overturn the two Unexplained Wealth Orders, the AP reported. Failing to explain the providence of her wealth could result in the confiscation of assets, including a £15m residence in Knightsbridge, London.

Examples of her big spending, revealed to the court, included £150,000 spent on a single day on Boucheron - a luxury jewellery, perfume and watches brand.

Until now the woman had been referred to only as "Mrs A" and strict reporting restrictions prevented her name, her country of origin and her husband's name from being reported. He was also ordered to pay the bank $39 million.

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Hames also called for those who provide luxury goods and services to individuals to ask questions if they are known to be public servants on state salaries and to file reports of suspicious activity with the police. "Unexplained wealth orders have the potential to significantly reduce the appeal of the U.K.as a destination for illicit income".

'UWOs should now be used more widely to pursue more of the £4.4 billion worth of suspicious wealth we have identified across the United Kingdom'.

Lawyers for Mrs Hajieyva told the High Court that she and her husband are suffering a massive injustice.

The NCA alleges that this money - and the money used to acquire the properties - was cash that her husband embezzled when he was employed by the bank.

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. His lawyers say that he fell out with Azerbaijan's corrupt ruling family and paid the price.

Britain's National Crime Agency (NCA), which is responsible for tackling global corruption, has said that £90 billion is likely to be a significant underestimate of the sums of corrupt and criminal cash flowing through Britain every year.

Jonathan Hall QC, who is representing the NCA, said: "as a state employee between 1993 and 2015, it is very unlikely that such a position would have generated sufficient income to fund the acquisition of the property".

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