The wife of a “fat cat international banker” has lost her challenge over the UK’s first unexplained wealth order (UWO) at the Court of Appeal.
Zamira Hajiyeva, 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, which was purchased for £11.5m in 2009 by a company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands.
Her husband, Jahangir Hajiyev, was the chair 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.
Zamira Hajiyeva, 56, 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.
Just some of the spending by Zamira Hajiyeva
- £4 million at luxury jewellers Boucheron;
- £1.75 million at Cartier, famous for its watches and jewellery;
- £1 million in the Harrods toy department, including a single purchase of £790,000;
- £600,000 in a single day;
- £250,000 in the store’s perfumery;
- Hundreds of thousands of pounds on designer fashion brands, including £131,300 at Dennis Basso, £144,000 at Celine, £136,000 at Fendi and £143,000 at Christian Dior in single visits.
- £30,000 in one payment to gourmet Belgian chocolate chain Godiva.
- £2,400 on wine and spirits in a single purchase.
But giving judgment in London on Wednesday, Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, sitting with Lord Justice Davis and Lord Justice Simon, dismissed the appeal.
Zamira 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.
A UWO allows the NCA to seize someone’s assets if they believe the owner is a “politically exposed person” – someone from outside the European Economic Area in a position of power that makes them liable to bribery or corruption – and they are unable to explain the source of their wealth.
In a High Court ruling in October 2018, dismissing Zamira Hajiyeva’s initial attempt to overturn the UWO, Mr Justice Supperstone said that “three separate loyalty cards were issued to Mrs Hajiyeva” by Harrods, where she spent more than £16m between September 2006 and June 2016.
Court documents later released to the media revealed that Mrs Hajiyeva blew £600,000 in a single day during a decade-long spending spree.
The NCA subsequently seized jewellery worth more than £400,000 from Christie’s over suspicions about how the items were purchased while the auction house was valuing the jewellery for the Hajiyevas’ daughter.
In September, the defendant 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.