Azeri suspect named in UK wealth probe
A suspect from Azerbaijan has been targeted in the UK’s first unexplained wealth order.
Zamira Hajiyeva, 55, the wife of an Azeri state bank chairman jailed in 2016 for embezzling more than £100 million, has lived in luxury in London for more than a decade.
Zamira spent more than £16 million at Harrods, including £150,000 on jewellery in a single day, owns a golf club and has access to a private jet.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) order will require her to explain her income, potentially opening the way for more wealth orders.
The authorities said eight other people are currently being pursued by the NCA under unexplained wealth orders, including Africans, Russians, South Asians and members of former Soviet states.
Dubbed “McMafia” laws after a BBC television crime drama, the legislation targets organised crime and corruption.
The UK authorities claim Zamira’s fortune came from her husband’s theft from the International Bank of Azerbaijan.
Jahangir Hajiyev is serving 15 years in a Baku prison for defrauding the bank out of £2.2 billion.
His official salary was listed at £54,000 in 2008 but the couple bought properties worth £22 million in Britain.
The 57-year-old promoted the Azeri economy across Europe and attended the World Economic Forum at Davos.
The UK government may be forced to hand back millions to Azerbaijan.
Donald Toon, the NCA’s director, said any property and money seized would be returned to Baku.
Toon told the BBC that who would claim any reclaimed wealth “becomes a political and international issue”.
“So, in the first instance the value of those assets would come into the UK government, and then there is a direct engagement between the originating country of the money and the UK about the extent of repatriation.”
The NCA has now prevented Zamira from selling properties until she can explain that her wealth was obtained legitimately.
She has two joined homes on Walton Street in Knightsbridge, close to Harrods, which were bought for £11.5 million in 2009 by a firm registered in the British Virgin Islands.
Zamira’s lawyers lost their High Court appeal last week and removed her right to anonymity.
Lord Justice Sales ruled that “the basic principle of open justice applies” in the case.
The Mill Ride Golf Club in Berkshire, which is reportedly owned by Hajiyevs, was bought in 2013 by a company registered in Guernsey which was set up in 2013 and was dissolved last year.
Baku. Azerbaijan might benefit from the UK probe. Picture credit: Pixabay