The wife of a former major Azerbaijani official may be the first foreigner to lose British property on suspicion of corruption – and not the last
The High Court of London has put an end to the landmark case of the wife of a state banker from Azerbaijan, thereby removing the last obstacle to starting a large-scale hunt for the financial assets and homes of corrupt officials and criminals who moved to the UK.
Unexplained Wealth Order
London has long become a quiet haven for dubious capital.
Several years ago, law enforcement agencies received a new tool to combat the legalization of criminal proceeds through the purchase of real estate – a warrant obliging a person with assets in the amount of 50,000 pounds or more to prove that they were bought with honestly earned money.
With no income, Zamira Hajiyeva, the wife of former head of the State Bank of Azerbaijan Jahangir Hajiyeva, lived a luxurious lifestyle in London Her husband was previously convicted of embezzlement in Azerbaijan.
All this aroused the suspicion of the UK National Crime Agency and made it an ideal target for the first high-profile case of the new campaign.
Investigators easily persuaded the judge to issue a warrant, demanding to explain where she got the money to buy a house in a fashionable area of London and a luxury estate with a golf course in the province.
The media relished details about her millions of expenses in an expensive department store and the purchase of a private jet.
The Hajiyeva’s warrant is the first of its kind – law enforcement authorities wrote out in February 2018.
Hajiyeva’s lawyers claimed that her property was legally acquired and her husband was not a civil servant, therefore the law on “inexplicable wealth” does not apply to him.
In February, the second court rejected these arguments.
Now, if within seven days Hajiyeva does not provide the authorities with convincing information from their point of view about legal sources of income, her property will be confiscated.
“We are pleased with the court decision. A precedent has been set up that will help us in subsequent litigation regarding warrants for inexplicable wealth,” said Sarah Pritchard, one of the heads of the anti-crime agency.
Three new cases are due to reach court soon. Not all the defendants are named by name, but earlier representatives of the agency promised to issue warrants to people from Africa, South Asia, the former USSR and Russia.