Friday, 16 November, 2018

Zamira Hajiyeva first person to be subjected to unexplained wealth order

A sale sign is seen at dawn on the outside of the Harrods store in Knightsbridge in London A sale sign is seen at dawn on the outside of the Harrods store in Knightsbridge in London
Frederick Owens | 13 October, 2018, 03:33

Hajiyeva's United Kingdom properties are a 170-acre Mill Ride Golf & Country Club in Ascot and a home in the capital's Knightsbridge area.

Her identity can now be published after an anonymity order was lifted by a judge, who ruled no good case had been made for its extension.

It can now be revealed that Zamira is the wife of Jahangir Hajiyev, the former chairman of the state-owned International Bank of Azerbaijan, who was sentenced to 15 years in jail for defrauding the bank out of 5bn manat (£2.2bn).

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.

The failure of her attempt to throw out the case in the courts last week was hailed as a significant victory for the authorities who have vowed to expand the use of the tactic.

Mrs Hajiyeva's lawyers said the UWO "does not and should not be taken to imply any wrong-doing", by her or her husband. The family deny the allegations.

She owns an £11m house and a golf course, and spent over £16m at Harrods.

A Harrods department store in London.

At an earlier court hearing, a lawyer for Britain's National Crime Agency gave details of her spending at Harrods, a large chunk of it using 35 credit cards issued by her husband's bank.

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The next day, the court heard, she topped up the wine cellar by spending £1,800.

A UWO is a new power handed to enforcement agencies including the NCA and Serious Fraud Office that allow them to challenge owners of assets worth more than £50,000 to explain how they afforded them if their income appears too low.

Under the newly-introduced UWOs, people with "suspicious" wealth - such as those with suspected links to organised crime or corruption - are required to prove the origin of their money. Failing to explain the providence of her wealth could result in the confiscation of assets, including a £15m residence in Knightsbridge, London.

'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.

Zamira husband's official salary at the bank between 2001 and 2008 was a maximum of £54,000. Supperstone's written ruling made reference to a document prepared by Werner Capital from 2011 which stated his net worth to be about $72 million. From 1993 to 2015 Mr Hajiyev was a state employee and his wealth is not justified by his income.

"The NCA [National Crime Agency] fully supports an open and transparent justice system that helps demonstrate our determination to ensure that the United Kingdom is not seen as a soft target for the investment of illicit finance".

"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", NCA economic crime head, Donald Toon, said in a statement.

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.

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