LONDON — Zamira Hajiyeva certainly knew how to live the good life.

There was the £16 million ($28 million) spent at the luxury London department store Harrods. There was a £11.5 million ($20 million) London home close to Harrods and a golf course outside the city worth £10.5 million ($18 million).

Then there was the Gulfstream G550 jet ($53 million) and the jewellery — she spent £150,000 ($258,000) in a single day on Boucheron luxury goods and on another occasion £100,000 ($172,000) on Cartier products.

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

Now she has become the first target of a British rule allowing officials to seize money from people suspected of getting their wealth through corruption.

Zamira Hajiyeva

A civil case against Hajiyeva, 55, marks Britain’s first use of Unexplained Wealth Orders, introduced this year to curb London’s status as a haven for ill-gotten gains. The orders allow authorities to seize assets over £50,000 ($86,000) from people suspected of corruption or links to organized crime until the owners account for how they were acquired.

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 almost impossible to charge the owners with a crime or seize the assets because of a lack of evidence.

The new Unexplained Wealth Orders are an attempt to force the owners to disclose their wealth.

Hajiyeva, originally from Azerbaijan, is the wife of Jahangir Hajiyev, the former chairman of the International Bank of Azerbaijan.

He was sentenced to 15 years in jail in his home country in 2016 for fraud and embezzlement. It was alleged he had defrauded the bank out of $3.8 billion.

The former chairman denied the charges and lawyers for his wife branded the case as unjust.

However, it was Hajiyeva’s spending and the court case against her husband that alerted Britain’s National Crime Agency who began to investigate.

During previous court hearings Hajiyeva was identified only as Mrs. A, but a court order granting her anonymity was lifted Wednesday.

At an earlier court hearing, a lawyer for the NCA gave details of her spending at Harrods, a large chunk of it using 35 credit cards issued by her husband’s bank. Between 2006 and 2016, Hajiyeva spent more than £16 million including £1,800 (£3,000) on wine and spirits in one day.

The crime agency argued the lavish spending was a sign the money was ill-gotten.

“The NCA’s enquiries have not identified evidence which otherwise suggests (that Hajiyev) has been a succcessful businesswoman or entrepreneur in her own right or that she has received significant income from other sources,” according to documents lodged at the court.

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.

Hajiyeva denied wrongdoing and is fighting to overturn the order and hang onto her properties.

The Guardian newspaper quoted her witness statement in which Hajiyeva described her husband as “a man of …read more

Source:: Nationalpost


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Banker’s wife ordered to explain lavish lifestyle as U.K. deploys ‘unexplained wealth’ legislation

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