Unexplained Wealth Orders: A £16.3m spending spree in Harrods on a $70k salary?
In March of this year I posted an article about the National Crime Agency (‘NCA’) having secured the first Unexplained Wealth Orders (‘UWOs') with respect to assets totalling £22m (for a explanation as to what UWOs are see my blog-post dated 6 February 2018 - https://www.auxiliumtax.co.uk/single-post/2018/02/06/Unexplained-Wealth-Orders) . There were no details as to the identity of the respondent at the time. The respondent (under the cloak of anonymity) challenged the orders in the High Court.
On 3 October the NCA reported on its website that the challenge to the Order had been dismissed by the High Court. Donald Toon, NCA Director for Economic Crime is quoted as saying:
“I am very pleased that the court dismissed the respondent’s arguments today. This demonstrates that the NCA is absolutely right to ask probing questions about the funds used to purchase prime property. We will continue with this case and seek to quickly move others to the High Court. We are determined to use the powers available to us to their fullest extent where we have concerns that we cannot determine legitimate sources of wealth."
The Court has now lifted the anonymity order and it has been confirmed that the subject of the UWO is Zamira Hajiyeva, the wife of the now jailed former chairman of the State-owned International Bank of Azerbaijan, Jahangir Hajiyev. Hajiyev was sentenced by an Azeri court to 15 years in jail in 2016 following his convictions for fraud and embezzlement. He is alleged to have misappropriated up to $3 billion dollars.
Just popping to the shops
Hajiyeva was not exactly trying to fly under the radar with her extravagant spending. It is reported that she spent an eye watering £16.3 million in Harrods between 2006 and 2016 on 35 bank cards issued by (you guessed it) the International Bank of Azerbaijan. She has said that her husband was a man of ‘substantial means’ by way of justification for her spending. However, Reuters reports that letters from the bank suggest his annual income was a modest $70,648 in 2008.
Hajiyeva must now explain the source of her wealth to the NCA or risk having the properties subject to the UWOs seized.
Hajiyeva’s lawyers have confirmed their intention to take the case to the Court of Appeal. I shall monitor with interest.
Let this case be a warning to those individuals who are spending their ill-gotten gains in the UK. The UWO is a powerful tool and it will be used.
As an aside, if your spouse is languishing in jail having been convicted of a multi-billion dollar fraud, and you are buying properties in Knightsbridge and on first name terms with the assistant at the Bulgari concession in Harrods, do not be surprised if the NCA comes knocking at your door clutching a UWO with your name on it.