Banker’s wife who blew £16m in Harrod’s has £1.1m Cartier ring seized in Britain’s first McMafia case targeting unexplained wealth
- The National Crime Agency seized a £1.1million Cartier ring from Zamira Hajiyeva
- It was originally bought by her husband and disgraced banker Jahangir Hajiyev
- She blew £16million in Harrods and was Britain’s first case under McMafia laws
The wife of a disgraced former boss of Azerbaijan’s biggest bank, who was subject to the UK’s first Unexplained Wealth Order when she spent £16million in Harrod’s, has had a £1.1million diamond ring seized by the National Crime Agency.
The 8.9-carat Cartier piece, originally bought by banker Jahangir Hajiyev, has been confiscated by investigators as they work to establish how it was paid for.
Zamira Hajiyeva, 55, used 35 credit cards issued by her husband’s bank to splash out £1.6 million on shopping every year for a decade at Britain’s most extravagant department store, located just a stone’s-throw from her lavish London home.
Two UWOs were granted against her concerning properties worth a total of £22 million under so-called McMafia laws.
The 8.9-carat Cartier piece, worth £1.1 million, has been seized by the National Crime Agency under McMafia laws
The powers, which came into force at the beginning of 2018, allow investigators to look into the source of wealth of politically exposed persons (PEP).
These people are from outside the European Economic Area and are in a position of power that makes them liable to bribery or corruption.
They could also be individuals with suspected links to serious or organised crime, who are unable explain the source of their wealth.
UK authorities want to know how the couple could afford to buy their large house in Knightsbridge as well as a golf club in Berkshire.
The diamond ring, which has a retail value of £1.19 million and was bought by Mr Hajiyev at Harrods in 2011, was seized from a jewellers where it had been sent for repair.
It will be held for six months while investigators carry on their work.
Zamira Hajiyeva, 55, who used 35 credit cards issued by her husband’s bank to splash out £1.6 million on shopping every year at Harrods, had the ring confiscated from her
The NCA has already seized 49 items of jewellery worth more than £400,000 from a London auction house, where they were being valued for Mrs Hajiyeva’s daughter in November.
Mrs Hajiyeva is facing extradition to Azerbaijan over allegations of embezzlement.
As chairman of the International Bank of Azerbaijan, Mr Hajiyev and wife Zamira enjoyed all the privileges of the super-wealthy – travelling the world in a Gulfstream private jet and drinking the finest wines.
Only a brief kidnapping by her husband’s enemies in 2005 appears to have troubled striking brunette Zamira’s gilded life.
Zamira Hajiyeva (pictured in 2017) remains on Azerbaijan’s ‘wanted-list’, pictured right in 2010
Mrs Hajiyeva lived in this sprawling mansion in Knightsbridge – just a stone’s throw from Harrods – with her husband
Zamira Hajiyeva’s husband, Jahangir Hajiyev, speaks during session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting of the New Champions in 2011
While never earning more than £54,000 a year at the bank, the couple assumed huge wealth, buying two-adjoining Belgravia townhouses for £11.5 million in cash in 2009 and an exclusive Berkshire golf course worth £10.5 million a few years later.
Mrs Hajiyeva’s home in Knightsbridge, central London, was bought through a British Virgin Islands firm with a mortgage of ‘up to £7,475,000’ the Evening Standard reports.
However the powerful couple’s multi-million financial empire came crashing down when Hajiyeva was arrested in his native Azerbaijan in December 2015 accused of embezzling more than £100 million from the bank. He is currently serving a 15-year jail sentence in the country for fraud and embezzlement.
When Mrs Hajiyeva unsuccessfully attempted to overturn a UWO in October, her lawyers claimed her husband’s conviction was the result of a ‘show trial’ and that his guilt ‘had been determined by the presidential administration in advance’.
What is an Unexplained Wealth Order?
The ‘unexplained wealth order’ was introduced in January this year to help officials identify and seize British property suspected of being bought by dirty money laundered by corrupt foreign criminals.
A UWO is an investigation order issued by the High Court on satisfaction of a number of tests.
A UWO requires a person who is reasonably suspected of involvement in, or of being connected to a person involved in, serious crime to explain the nature and extent of their interest in particular property, and to explain how the property was obtained.
A UWO can also be applied to politicians or officials from outside the European Economic Area, or those associated with them i.e. Politically Exposed Persons.
Boris Johnson, at the time the foreign secretary, said that the use of the orders ‘would be intensified’ in response to the novichok attack in Salisbury.
The establishment of UWOs, as part of the Criminal Finance Act, will enable the authorities to freeze and recover property if individuals are unable to explain how they acquired assets in excess of £50,000.
Agencies which can apply for a UWO include: the National Crime Agency, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the Financial Conduct Authority, the Serious Fraud Office, or the Crown Prosecution Service.