21 Dec 2020
A woman who spent £16 million in Harrods has lost her legal battle against the UK’s first Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO).
Zamira Hajiyeva, the wife of an Azerbaijani banker, was targeted by the National Crime Agency (NCA) in 2018 after details of her lavish spending habits were revealed and it emerged she owned properties in Britain worth £22 million.
The 57-year-old was the first person in the UK to be hit with a so-called ‘McMafia order’, which allows the NCA to seize assets if the subject cannot explain how they were lawfully obtained.
But Mrs Hajiyeva went to court to challenge the UWO, with lawyers arguing that she was being unfairly singled out.
Earlier this year the Court of Appeal and the High Court both ruled against her and now the Supreme Court – which was the final legal route available – has also rejected her challenge.
Mrs Hajiyeva must now explain how she came by the money to buy the properties or face having them seized by the NCA.
Graeme Biggar, director general of the National Economic Crime Centre at the NCA, welcomed the Supreme Court decision.
He said: ”This is a significant result which is important in establishing Unexplained Wealth Orders as a powerful tool for financial investigations.
“This was the first UWO secured and the NCA has been determined throughout the many legal challenges faced over the last two years. This case will set a helpful precedent for future UWO cases.
“There are no further routes for Mrs Hajiyeva to appeal against the order.
“She will now be required to provide the NCA with the information we are seeking in connection with these assets.”
Mrs Hajiyev’s husband, Jahangir, is the former chairman of the state-owned International Bank of Azerbaijan.
Despite the lavish spending habits of his wife, he was reported to earn a relatively modest salary of £55,000 during his time at the bank and had no other obvious legitimate source of wealth.
By Martin Evans, The Telegraph, 21 December 2020
Read more at The Telegraph
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