UK Issues First Ever 'Unexplained Wealth Order'

Ruben Hill
October 11, 2018

Hajiyeva's husband, former International Bank of Azerbaijan chairman Jahangir Hajiyev, was sentenced to 15 years in jail in his home country in 2016 for fraud and embezzlement.

Last week, judge Michael Supperstone rejected Hajiyeva's appeal against the UWO although her lawyers said they would take the case to London's Court of Appeal.

During a High Court hearing in July, in which the couple were known only as Mr and Mrs A, it was revealed that Mrs Hajiyeva had an enormous amount of disposable income.

According to the United Kingdom judicial ruling last week, the Hajiyevs bought the house in the upscale Knightsbridge neighborhood of London in 2009 through a British Virgin Islands company, paying around £4 million of the £11.5 million purchase price upfront. The measure protecting her anonymity and other details of the case were lifted Wednesday. The NCA alleges that this money - and the money used to acquire the properties - was cash that her husband embezzled when he was employed by the bank.

Mr. Hajiyev was IBA's chairman between 2001 and 2015.

Mrs Hajiyeva was issued with the first two unexplained wealth orders (UWOs) to be obtained by the National Crime Agency against two properties worth £22m in total.

"Nobody knows precisely how much dirty money is trying to be laundered through Britain because London is one of the biggest financial centers in the world", Penrose told ABC News. Another company linked to them bought the golf estate in 2013.

Hajiyeva used 35 credit cards linked to her husband's employer, the Bank of Azerbaijan, to finance her lifestyle, the AP reported.

"Unexplained Wealth Orders have the potential to significantly reduce the appeal of the United Kingdom as a destination for illicit income", Toon said.

Hajiyeva faces an Unexplained Wealth Order relating to her $20 million, five-bedroomed home in the tony neighbourhood of Knightsbridge and the $18 million Mill Ride Golf Club near Ascot.

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 £4.4 billion worth of suspicious wealth we have identified across the United Kingdom", he said.

He is asking the European Court of Human Rights to intervene in his case.

UWOs, which came into effect earlier this year, have been dubbed "McMafia" powers following the popular BBC global crime drama.

Investigators from the National Crime Agency believe there are billions of pounds of dirty money invested in British property - but it is nearly impossible to charge the owners with a crime or seize the assets because of a lack of evidence.

The unexplained wealth order is a new power given to law enforcement agencies this year to tackle suspected corruption.

If a suspected corrupt foreign official, or their family, cannot show a legitimate source for their riches, then the National Crime Agency can apply to the High Court to seize the property.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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