A jailed banker’s wife has lost her challenge over the UK’s first unexplained wealth order (UWO) at the Court of Appeal.
Zamira Hajiyeva, 56, who spent more than £16m at Harrods in a decade, attempted to overturn a UWO obtained by the National Crime Agency (NCA) against a property in Knightsbridge, central London.
UWOs allow the NCA to seize assets if they believe the owner is a “politically exposed person” – someone from outside the EEA in a position of power that makes them liable to bribery or corruption – and they are unable to explain the source of their wealth.
The house was purchased for £11.5m in 2009 by a company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands.
Mrs Hajiyeva’s husband Jahangir Hajiyev was the chairman of the state-controlled International Bank of Azerbaijan from 2001 until his resignation in 2015, and was later sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment for fraud and embezzlement.
Mrs Hajiyeva was the first person to be made subject to a UWO, a new power brought into force in January 2018 under so-called McMafia laws – named after the BBC organised crime drama and the book that inspired it.
How Zamira Hajiyeva spent £16 million in Harrods
High Court documents show Mrs Hajiyeva spent:
£4m at Boucheron luxury jewellers.
£1.75m at Cartier, which specialises in watches and jewellery.
A total of £1m at Harrods toy department, including a £790,000 on a single purchase.
£250,000 in Harrod’s perfumery.
£143,000 at Christian Dior and £136,000 at Fendi.
£30,000 in a single purchase at Belgian chocolate chain Godiva
£2,400 buying wines and spirits in one transaction.
Mrs Hajiyeva argued that her husband’s conviction, which she says was “the central feature” of the NCA’s application for the UWO, was the result of a “grossly unfair trial” and should be discharged.
Giving judgment in London on Wednesday, Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, sitting with Lord Justice Davis and Lord Justice Simon, dismissed Mrs Hajiyeva’s appeal.
Lord Burnett added that Mrs Hajiyeva’s application for permission to appeal against the court’s judgment had been refused.
In a High Court ruling in October 2018 dismissing Mrs Hajiyeva’s initial attempt to overturn the UWO, Mr Justice Supperstone said “three separate loyalty cards were issued to Mrs Hajiyeva” by Harrods, where she spent more than £16m between September 2006 and June 2016.
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Court documents later released to the media revealed that Mrs Hajiyeva blew £600,000 in a single day as part of her decade-long spending spree.
The NCA subsequently seized jewellery worth more than £400,000 from Christie’s while the auction house was valuing the jewellery for Mrs Hajiyeva’s daughter, over suspicions about how the items were purchased.
In September, Mrs Hajiyeva fought off an attempt to extradite her to Azerbaijan to face fraud and embezzlement charges, on the grounds that she would not get a fair trial.