The Unexplained Wealth Order legislation and London’s financial aristocracy
30 October 2018
Zamira Hajiyeva, the wife of former Azerbaijani state banker Jahangir Hajiyev, is the first person to be investigated by Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) under an Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO).
Jahangir Hajiyev is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence in Azerbaijan for a massive fraud operation involving the embezzlement of tens of millions of pounds from the country’s International Bank. Zamira is being investigated by the UK financial authorities on the suspicion that she enjoyed an extravagant life in London on the proceeds of his crimes.
In 2009, a company based in the British Virgin Islands—traced back to the ownership of Hajiyev and his wife—bought an £11.5 million home in Knightsbridge. The five-bedroom property is currently worth around £15 million. It is conveniently located within minutes of the luxury Harrods department store, where Hajiyeva spent £16 million across 35 credit cards in 10 years—nearly £4,500 a day. Her other known purchases include more than £10 million buying the Mill Ride Golf Club estate in Berkshire and £31 million (£42 million in today’s money) on a private jet. These stand to be seized if Hajiyeva cannot provide an account of how she lawfully acquired the money to purchase them.
As with all such moves against corruption by the ruling elite, an individual—and a very easy target in this case—is being used to distract from the untold billions of pounds worth of criminal wealth that has been allowed, and encouraged by successive governments, to find a comfortable home in the capital. The timing of the introduction of UWOs into legislation this January was not accidental. They were introduced as…