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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 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 two properties value about 22 million kilos utilizing an Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO).

The onus is now on the proprietor to indicate that any asset value greater than 50,000 kilos was obtained by reliable means, reasonably than for police to have to show it was obtained illegally.

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 mentioned about $three billion might have been misappropriated by Hajiyev, who denied the fees.

Lawyers for Hajiyeva, who denies any wrongdoing, mentioned 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.

The case is a take a look at for UWOs, which got here into impact earlier this yr with the purpose of forcing overseas officers suspected of corruption and their households to account for his or her wealth and make it simpler for authorities to grab property and property.

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

Last week, choose Michael Supperstone rejected Hajiyeva’s enchantment towards the UWO though her legal professionals mentioned they’d take the case to London’s Court of Appeal. Supperstone additionally dominated that Hajiyeva’s identify, which beforehand couldn’t be disclosed, could possibly 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 mentioned 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 acknowledged his internet value to be about $72 million.

Hajiyeva spent 16.three million kilos ($21.three million) underneath a loyalty card scheme at Harrods between 2006 and 2016, utilizing 35 bank cards issued to her by the IBA. An earlier court docket listening to heard how she splashed out 150,000 kilos on jewelry in a day.

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,” mentioned 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 mentioned.

($1 = zero.7602 kilos)

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

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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