Wealthy foreigners living in Britain off the proceeds of illicit cash are targets under a new anti-corruption law.
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The first ‘unexplained wealth order’ is underway against Zamira Hajiyeva, the wife of former Azerbaijan state banker Jahangir Hajiyev, who was jailed for stealing an estimated £100 million from his employer.
Under the order, British authorities plan to seize her £11.5 million London home and other assets if she cannot go to court and give an account of how she came by her wealth.
She lives close to one of her favourite London haunts – Harrods.
Records show she has spent £16 million in the store over the past 10 years, including £150,000 on jewellery in a day. She also had bills of £20,000 on luxury men’s goods, £100,000 on jewellery.
£100m stolen from bank
She holds 35 credit cards issued by her husband’s bank.
Mrs Hajiyeva, 55, also owns a golf course in Berkshire, two bays within the private Harrods car park and Mrs Hajiyeva also bought a $42m Gulfstream G550 jet.
Her lawyers say Mrs Hajiyeva will comply with the order and put her case forward to the courts.
“The order does not and should not imply any wrongdoing by her or her husband,” said the lawyers.
The couple are considering an appeal against the order.
Mr Hajiyev was the chairman of the International Bank of Azerbaijan. He was jailed for 15 years for the part he played in a £100 million fraud and ordered to repay £30 million.
The couple are allegedly behind an offshore company that purchased their Knightsbridge home.
Investigators at the National Crime Agency have revealed the Hajiyev case is the first of around a dozen unexplained wealth orders in the pipeline.
The government suspects billions of pounds of dirty money raised from crime and corruption is invested in British property, but investigators could not prove the source of the cash was illegal.
To get around the problem, the law was changed so that those suspected of washing dirty money in the UK financial system now must prove where their wealth came from. If they cannot offer a reasonable explanation, the National Crime Agency can apply to the High Court to seize the property.
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