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Azeri banker’s high-spending spouse focused by new British anti-graft powers

LONDON (Reuters) – The first goal of recent British powers to fight the proceeds of suspected corruption is the spouse of a jailed Azeri banker who spent greater than 16 million kilos at luxurious division retailer Harrods, London’s High Court has revealed.

A sale signal is seen at daybreak on the skin of the Harrods retailer in Knightsbridge in London, January 5, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville

An anonymity order was lifted after Zamira Hajiyeva, the spouse of the previous chairman of Azerbaijan’s largest financial institution, final week lost an enchantment towards an try by authorities to grab a property and a golf course price about 22 million kilos.

This is the primary time British authorities have used an Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO), an influence which got here into impact earlier this yr and goals to power international officers suspected of corruption and their households to account for his or her wealth.

Police say about 100 billion kilos of soiled money strikes by means of or into Britain annually, shopping for every little thing from luxurious London houses to entire firms. They say they’re targeted on cracking down specifically on cash from Russia, Nigeria, former Soviet states and Asia.

When a UWO is used the onus is on the proprietor to indicate that any asset price greater than 50,000 kilos was obtained legitimately.

Hajiyeva’s husband Jahangir Hajiyev, who was chairman of state-owned International Bank of Azerbaijan (IBA) from 2001 to 2015, was convicted by an Azeri court docket in 2016 of fraud and embezzlement and sentenced to 15 years in jail.

The Azeri finance ministry stated about $three billion may have been misappropriated by Hajiyev, who denied the costs.

Lawyers for Hajiyeva, who denies any wrongdoing, stated that Hajiyev was convicted after a present trial and the circumstances of the case didn’t meet UWO necessities. They didn’t reply to requests for remark, however have beforehand stated they might take the case to London’s Court of Appeal.

Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) efficiently utilized for orders towards Hajiyeva demanding she reveal the supply of her wealth or danger dropping the properties.

One order covers a home in London’s Knightsbridge, about 100 metres from Harrods, which was purchased for 11.5 million kilos by a company registered within the British Virgin Islands. The different order issues Mill Ride Golf Club in Ascot, west of London.

Last week, choose Michael Supperstone rejected Hajiyeva’s enchantment towards one of many UWOs. Supperstone additionally dominated that Hajiyeva’s title, which beforehand couldn’t be disclosed, might be made public on Wednesday.

MAN OF MEANS

The NCA had alleged Hajiyeva purchased two properties utilizing cash embezzled by her husband when he labored for the IBA.

Hajiyeva stated in a witness assertion that her husband was a person of considerable means. Supperstone’s written ruling made reference to a doc ready by Werner Capital from 2011 which said his internet price to be about $72 million.

Hajiyeva spent 16.three million kilos ($21.three million) beneath a loyalty card scheme at Harrods between 2006 and 2016, utilizing 35 bank cards issued to her by the IBA.

She spent 121,000 kilos at Harrods on a single day, shopping for unidentified items from luxurious jewelry, fragrance and watch model Boucheron and two weeks earlier splashed out 48,600 kilos on an merchandise from Cartier, court docket paperwork present.

However, letters from the financial institution confirmed Hajiyev’s internet earnings from IBA was simply $29,062 in 2001, rising to $70,648 in 2008.

“Where we cannot determine a legitimate source for the funds used to purchase assets and prime property, it is absolutely right that we ask probing questions to uncover their origin,” stated Donald Toon, the NCA director for financial crime.

“Unexplained Wealth Orders have the potential to significantly reduce the appeal of the UK as a destination for illicit income,” Toon stated.

Additional reporting by Margarita Antidze in Tbilisi; modifying by Stephen Addison and Alexander Smith

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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