Azerbaijani banker's wife detained in London

Lester Mason
November 10, 2018

LONDON-A woman who spent 16 million pounds ($21 million) at the London luxury department store Harrods over the span of a decade became the first person arrested in the United Kingdom under new investigative powers that target unexplained wealth.

She is under investigation by Britain's National Crime Agency (NCA), which in February secured the country's first-ever unexplained wealth order (UWO) to target Hajiyeva's wealth.

Hajiyeva's husband, Jahangir Hajiyev, was chairman of the state-owned International Bank of Azerbaijan; in 2016, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison after being found guilty of fraud and embezzlement.

She was held in custody after turning herself in to police last week, with the BBC reporting her bail bid was quashed by prosecutors on Tuesday, despite her agreeing to pay 500,000 pounds ($900,000) as a guarantee. Harrods department Store in Knightsbridge where Hajiyeva is said to have spent more than £16 million over a decade.

People who fail to account for the sources of their funds are liable to have assets seized. A High Court judge ruled Thursday that there were no "substantial grounds" to refuse her bail.

But her lawyers said she is no "fraudster" - just a "spendthrift" - and was not likely to flee the country because her children were based in the UK.

Mrs Hajiyeva is at the centre of an inquiry by the National Crime Agency into dirty overseas cash.

Last week more than £400,000 worth of jewellery was seized from her by the NCA before it was due to be auctioned at Christie's auction house.

The court of appeal heard she made the purchases on three Harrods customer loyalty cards, using 35 credit cards from the International Bank of Azerbaijan, her husband's bank. The Azerbaijani woman must explain how she afforded the assets in question, otherwise she could lose them.

Ms Hajiyeva's legal team sought to overturn the Unexplained Wealth Order so she could retain ownership of her properties.

Her lawyers have said the wealth order "is part of an investigative process, not a criminal procedure, and it does not involve the finding of any criminal offense".

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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