News 31 july — 09:13

Two mansions of Zamira Hajiyeva in London

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The wife of a criminal ‘fat cat banker’ who spent over £16m in luxury department store Harrods is fighting to keep ownership of her London mansion after a new legal power to tackle international corruption was used for the first time in the UK, says an article in the Daily Mail.

The National Crime Agency has said that the woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, should lose her British properties unless she discloses the source of her wealth.

Yesterday’s High Court hearing is the first time that the agency has used an ‘Unexplained Wealth Order’ - which was introduced this year to help investigators identify and seize British property suspected of being bought by dirty money laundered by corrupt foreign politicians and officials.

The woman is fighting her case in London's High Court

The NCA believed that two luxury homes worth £22m were purchased with money stolen by the woman’s husband while he was working for a state bank in their native country, the BBC reported.

If the woman, who lived ‘an extravagant lifestyle’ and spent thousands of pounds a week on luxury goods, fails to overturn the court order or prove she is legitimately wealthy then the NCA will demand the courts seize her homes.

The High Court saii that ‘Mrs A’ is the wife of a state banker from a ‘non-EEA country’ who also cannot be named for legal reasons.

Mr A, who together with his wife boasts an estimated wealth of more than £55m, applied to live in the UK under a visa scheme for wealthy investors around 10 years ago.

He was jailed overseas after being convicted of major fraud after purchasing their first London property.

Jonathan Hall QC, for the NCA, told the court that Mrs A, who is also wanted for trial, had spent £16m in Harrods over a 10 year span - and would make weekly trips to high-end department stores where she’d splash thousands of pounds each week on a range of luxury goods.

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons is believed to have spent more than £16 million in Harrods

Mrs A claims in court papers that she gets her money from her husband’s successful overseas enterprises.

But the claim is unsupported in confidential papers or online profiles of her husband - with the NCA saying her husband’s alleged business ventures aren’t traceable online.

Mr Hall said: ‘It’s an astonishing omission that if he were a titan of business, that there is no reference (on websites) to his successful business.’ Mrs A’s lawyer James Lewis said the NCA’s demand that she account for her wealth was unjustified and accused the agency of misrepresenting her husband’s career.

Far from being a modestly paid banker, Mr Lewish said that Mr A had been a stereotypical ‘fat cat international banker’ like many others in the private sector, adding that his client had been a victim of an unfair trial and a major miscarriage of justice.

He said: ‘The reality is [the NCA] have to wait years for him to come out of prison. They cannot [seek to seize the homes] when he is unable to participate. She can’t call the witness she needs.’ If the UWO against Mrs A stands it’s likely to lead to more orders of this type against suspects, including Russian oligarchs and corrupt foreign politicians who own British property.

According to the information received by Azeri Daily, the article is about the former head of the International Bank of Azerbaijan, Jahangir Hajiyev and his wife Zamira Hajiyeva.

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