Published: Sat, October 13, 2018
Sport | By Kayla Schwartz

Zamira Hajiyeva, wife of jailed banker, named as subject of 'McMafia' order

Zamira Hajiyeva, wife of jailed banker, named as subject of 'McMafia' order

The wife of a corrupt banker jailed in Azerbaijan for 15 years faces the loss of two properties worth £22 million in the first use of new British police tactic aimed at tackling high-level global corruption. Hajiyeva's United Kingdom properties are a 170-acre Mill Ride Golf & Country Club in Ascot and a home in the capital's Knightsbridge area.

At an earlier court hearing, a lawyer for Britain's National Crime Agency gave details of Hajiyeva's spending at Harrods, which allegedly included one occasion where she dropped £150,000 ($198,000) in a single visit.

But she also has a husband, Jahangir Hajiyev, who is serving 15 years in prison after being convicted of fraud and embezzlement in his capacity as chairman of the International Bank of Azerbaijan.

The NCA alleges that this money - and the money used to acquire the properties - was cash that her husband embezzled when he was employed by the bank. She said he had other business interests too, and supplied a 2011 document from a money manager putting her husband's net worth at almost $73 million.

Her attempt to overturn the UWO at the High Court was unsuccessful last week.

Hajiyeva's London home is one minute's walk from Harrods, where she spent 16 million pounds in a decade, sometimes splashing out tens of thousands of pounds a week, according to prosecutors.

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

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According to the NCA, Ms Hajiyeva was spending around $3million a year - or $7400 a day - using 35 different credit cards at the store which were all issued by the International Bank of Azerbaijan, The Mirror reported. Unless her appeal succeeds, she will have to explain further the source of the wealth used to pay for the home and the golf club just outside London.

UWOs - which have been dubbed McMafia laws after the hit BBC1 drama - are a new tool to help investigators crackdown on the £90bn tide of "dirty money" flooding into London by forcing suspected corrupt government-linked officials to prove that their wealth is legitimate.

The High Court has ordered her to explain the source of her wealth - and she risks losing her property if she can not do so.

They noted it is part of an investigative process, not a criminal procedure. However, Werner Capital, a family office that manages property investments for wealthy people, produced a report in 2011 that stated he was worth £55mn. From 1993 to 2015 Mr Hajiyev was a state employee and his wealth is not justified by his income. The Zamira case is being closely watched and if the NCA succeed, it is expected to launch up to nine new UWO investigations.

Donald Toon, Director for Economic Crime at the NCA, said: 'The NCA fully supports an open and transparent justice system that helps demonstrate our determination to ensure that the United Kingdom is not seen as a soft target for the investment of illicit finance.

"We are delighted that this first case is progressing in court, underlining the effectiveness of unexplained wealth orders in targeting suspicious wealth", said the organization's director, Duncan Hames.

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