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Jailed banker’s wife who spent £16m in Harrods named in first ‘McMafia’ case

PICTURE: EAST2WEST NEWS

THE wife of a ‘fat cat international banker’ who was the subject of the first order made under so-called McMafia laws can be named after her bid to maintain her anonymity was rejected by a senior judge.

Zamira Hajiyeva (pictured above), who was named at a High Court hearing last week as Mrs A, was the subject of the first two Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs) obtained by the National Crime Agency (NCA) against two properties worth a total of £22million.

She unsuccessfully attempted to overturn a UWO made against an £11.5million property in Knightsbridge, which was purchased in 2009 by a company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands.

At the High Court last week, Mr Justice Supperstone dismissed her application to discharge the UWO, and also discharged an anonymity order preventing the identification of her and her husband, their country of origin, the bank Mr Hajiyev worked for, and the two properties.

Jailed: Jahangir Hajiyev was sentenced to 15 years for fraud and embezzlement in 2015

Her husband, Jahangir Hajiyev, was the chairman of the state-controlled International Bank of Azerbaijan from 2001 until his resignation in 2015, and was subsequently sentenced to 15 years for fraud and embezzlement.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Supperstone stated that ‘three separate loyalty cards were issued to Mrs A’ by department store Harrods, where she spent more than £16million between September 2006 and June 2016.

The judge extended the anonymity order until noon today pending an appeal against his ruling.

Yesterday, Lord Justice Sales dismissed an application to extend the anonymity order, ruling that ‘no good case’ had been made for its extension.

Loyalty cards: Mrs Hajiyeva spent £16million in Harrods in London PICTURE: REX

A spokesman for the NCA and the judiciary confirmed that the order has now lapsed.

Lawyers for Mrs Hajiyeva said in a statement: ‘The decision of the High Court upholding the grant of an Unexplained Wealth Order against Zamira Hajiyeva does not and should not be taken to imply any wrong-doing, whether on her part or that of her husband.

‘The NCA’s case is that the UWO is part of an investigative process, not a criminal procedure, and it does not involve the finding of any criminal offence.

‘On Mrs Hajiyeva’s behalf, an application for permission to appeal against the order of Mr Justice Supperstone was filed on October 8, 2018.

‘Mrs Hajiyeva has made clear her intention to engage fully in the judicial process, and will present her case to the court as appropriate through her lawyers. She will therefore make no further comment at this time.’

Duncan Hames, director of policy at Transparency International UK, said: ‘We are delighted that this first case is progressing in court, underlining the effectiveness of Unexplained Wealth Orders in targeting suspicious wealth.

‘UWOs should now be used more widely to pursue more of the £4.4billion worth of suspicious wealth we have identified across the UK.’

Under powers that came into force in January, the NCA may seize assets if officials believe the owner is a politically exposed person — someone from outside the European Economic Area in a position of power that makes them liable to bribery or corruption — or someone with suspected links to serious or organised crime, and they are unable explain the source of their wealth.

NCA director for economic crime, Donald Toon, said: ‘The NCA fully supports an open and transparent justice system that helps demonstrate our determination to ensure that the UK is not seen as a soft target for the investment of illicit finance.

‘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.

‘Unexplained Wealth Orders have the potential to significantly reduce the appeal of the UK as a destination for illicit income. They enable the UK to more effectively target the problem of money-laundering through prime real estate in London and across the UK, and we will now seek to move further cases to the High Court.’