The wife of a jailed Azerbaijani banker spent millions of pounds on jewellery, designer clothes and other luxury items during a decade-long splurge, according to court documents presented as part of the UK’s first Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO).
Zamira Hajiyeva reportedly blew more than £16m at Harrods, just around the corner from her £11.5m west London home, ITV News reports. The mother-of-three once spent £600,000 in a single day, and paid out a total of £5.75m for Boucheron and Cartier jewellery.
Arguably her most “curious payment” was £99,000 at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo - Disney's then-exclusive boutique in the store, reports the BBC. “It’s not clear what this is for, given that the boutique charged £1,000 an hour for a prince or princess children’s makeover,” says the broadcaster.
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Hajiyeva is the first person to be targeted under a UWO, nicknamed the “McMafia law” after the BBC drama about Russian gangsters living the high life in London on their illicit income.
UWOs are civil orders which “require the owners of assets worth £50,000 or more to explain how they were able to afford them when their declared income seems to be too low”, says the Financial Times.
Hajiyeva, who also owns a a £10.5m golf club in Berkshire, has been ordered by the High Court to explain the source of the spent funds, as well as “how she and her husband could afford their pricey properties”, CNN says. She risks losing her properties if she fails to do so.
Her husband, Jahangir, is currently serving a 15-year sentence in Azerbaijan for defrauding the country’s state-owned national bank, where he served as chair between 2001 and 2015.
However, Hajiyeva, 55, maintains that the money behind her extravagant lifestyle was legitimate earnings from her husband’s successful business dealings.
Court documents show that Hajiyeva spent £250,000 at Harrods perfumer counters, £1m in the toy department, and more than £100,000 each on designer fashion brands Dennis Basso, Celine, Fendi and Christian Dior. A further £30,000 was spent in one afternoon on Godiva Belgian chocolates, and another £2,400 went on wine and spirits in a separate purchase.
Hajiyeva used 54 credit cards - many of which were linked to her husband's bank - to make the purchases, the BBC reports.
The case is being “closely watched” across the UK, says The Guardian. “If the NCA succeed, it is expected to launch up to nine new UWO investigations.”
Hajiyeva is also facing extradition to Azerbaijan over allegations of embezzlement, after her application to the Home Office for a so-called golden visa meant for wealthy investors “included evidence of a Swiss bank account with deposited funds in excess of £1m”, The Daily Telegraph adds.
In a statement, Harrods said: “Harrods' compliance with, and adherence to, the strongest anti-money laundering policies is a fundamental principle of the company’s operations.
“In this instance, where Harrods cooperated with a wider investigation, there has never been any suggestion that Harrods has operated in any way other than in full compliance with the highest regulatory and legal standards.”
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