The case marks Britain's first use of Unexplained Wealth Orders
11 October, 2018, 23:09
A woman from Azerbaijan who spent 16 million pounds ($21 million) on jewellery, wine and other goods at luxury London department store Harrods over the course of a decade has become the first target of a new British rule allowing officials to seize money from people suspected of getting their wealth through corruption.
Hajiyeva's husband, Jahangir Hajiyev, was sentenced to 15 years in jail in 2016 over an alleged scheme to remove billions of dollars from the bank.
One property, worth around £11.5 million, is in the rich London neighborhood of Knightsbridge, where Harrods is located.
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.
However, a judge agreed to the anonymity order pending an appeal against the ruling.
Mr Toon added that other eight people now being pursued by the agency under the Unexplained Wealth Order powers came from Africa, South Asia, states with in the former Soviet Union and Russian Federation.
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.
Last week, a High Court judge dismissed Ms Hajiyev's application to drop the UWO, but discharged an order to keep her identity anonymous.
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However, it was Hajiyeva's spending and the court case against her husband that alerted Britain's National Crime Agency who began to investigate.
Investigators from the National Crime Agency believe there are billions of pounds of dirty money invested in British property - but it is nearly impossible to charge the owners with a crime or seize the assets because of a lack of evidence.
Lawyers for Mrs Hajiyeva said in a statement: "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".
Hajiyeva used 35 credit cards linked to her husband's employer, the Bank of Azerbaijan, to finance her lifestyle, the AP reported.
How much money did the couple bring to the UK?
An earlier court hearing heard how she splashed out 150,000 pounds on jewelry in a day.
"Where we can not 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", said Donald Toon, Britain's National Crime Agency (NCA) director for economic crime.
In 2013, another company controlled by Mrs Hajiyeva spent more than £10m buying Mill Ride Golf Club in Berkshire, a plush course and estate near Ascot.
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