Woman fights United Kingdom wealth order after spending $21m at Harrods

Zamira Hajiyeva spent a huge amount thanks to regular shopping sprees at Harrods

Under the new powers, the NCA may seize assets if officials believe the owner is a politically exposed person (PEP) - someone from outside the European Economic Area in a position of power that makes them liable to bribery or corruption - or someone with suspected links to serious or organised crime, and they are unable explain the source of their wealth.

A court has ordered Zamira Hajiyeva, 55, to explain where she got the money to also buy an 11.5 million pound ($15-million) London home close to Harrods and a golf course outside the city worth 10.5 million pounds ($14 million).

Jahangir Hajiyev is the former chairman of the International Bank of Azerbaijan.

The High Court order dismissing her attempt to throw out the NCA case and maintain her anonymity was made last week, when Hajiyeva was named only as "Mrs A", but her lawyers were given a week to appeal. He said the Unexplained Wealth Orders are the start of a crackdown on money laundering in the United Kingdom.

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.

The Harrods name is illuminated in lights on the front of the department store in Knightsbridge on November 29, 2017, in London.

Mrs. Hajiyeva told the United Kingdom court her husband was a man "of substantial means" at the time of the purchase of the house but records in the court case showed his bank salary was around $70,000. Between 2006 and 2016, Hajiyeva spent more than £16 million including £1,800 (£3,000) on wine and spirits in one day.

Jahangir Hajiyev was handed a 15-year jail term
Jahangir Hajiyev was handed a 15-year jail term

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.

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

"UWOs should now be used more widely to pursue more of the £4.4 billion worth of suspicious wealth we have identified across the United Kingdom", he said.

In a statement they added: "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 wrongdoing, whether on her part or that of her husband". However, documents submitted to the court showed IBA was established as a state-owned bank and the finance ministry's stake was above 50% during Mr. Hajiyev's tenure.

UWOs, which came into effect earlier this year, have been dubbed "McMafia" powers following the popular BBC global crime drama.

The U.K. National Crime Agency, which brought the action against Mrs. Hajiyeva, estimates hundreds of billions of pounds of ill-gotten funds flow through the country and its banks each year.

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

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