UK: Woman who spent $21m at luxury Harrods store fights wealth order

Woman fights UK wealth order after spending $21m at Harrods

The London house is just a few hundred yards from the Harrods store where Mrs Hajiyeva spent some £16 million over a decade, including £150,000 on a single day in jewellery, according to court documents.

Now a British court has demanded that Zamira Hajiyeva explain where she got her money from.

Hajiyeva's husband is Jahangir Hajiyev, the former head of the state bank of Azerbaijan who was sentenced to 15 years in jail after being convicted on fraud and embezzlement charges in 2016, the Associated Press reported.

LONDON-The wife of a jailed Azerbaijani banker has been ordered to explain how she and her husband could afford their multimillion-pound London mansion or face having it seized, in the first case using new United Kingdom investigative powers.

Her lawyers say Mrs Hajiyeva will comply with the order and put her case forward to the courts.

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. Hajiyeva also owns a golf course in Berkshire through a company she controls. He was also ordered to pay the bank $39 million.

"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".

"Unexplained wealth orders have the potential to significantly reduce the appeal of the United Kingdom as a destination for illicit income".

Campaigning group Transparency International said that it has identified property worth £4.4 billion in the United Kingdom purchased from suspicious wealth.

The most interesting aspect of last week's High Court ruling is the limited scope it provides for...

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.

Duncan Hames, director of policy at Transparency International UK, said the pressure group was "delighted" at the use of the Unexplained Wealth Order.

Jahangir Hajiyev denies defrauding his bank - but has unsuccessfully appealed against his conviction.

During her unsuccessful challenge to the Unexplained Wealth Order, Mrs Hajiyeva said her husband was a legitimate businessman who had become independently wealthy thanks to a string of successful businesses, before becoming a chairman at the bank.

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".

The unexplained wealth order is a new power given to law enforcement agencies this year to tackle suspected corruption.

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. If they cannot offer a reasonable explanation, the National Crime Agency can apply to the High Court to seize the property.

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