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McMafia order wife Zamira Hajiyeva spent £15.5m in embezzled cash on luxuries, court hears | UK News



A woman spent up to £15.5m of embezzled cash in luxury shops, hotels, and restaurants across Europe in the UK’s first so-called McMafia order, a court has heard.

Zamira Hajiyeva spent millions during her decade-long spending spree – and it was revealed last month how she spent £16m at Harrods between 2006 and 2016.

The 55-year-old is also said to have splashed out on jewellery, gold, beauty treatments and flight tickets for herself and family members, as well as paying school fees for her children.

Mrs Hajiyeva, the wife of jailed Azerbaijani banker Jahangir Hajiyev, 57, came under the scrutiny of the National Crime Agency (NCA) when the anti-corruption statute, nicknamed the McMafia laws, came into effect last year.

She is alleged to have been a member of an “organised criminal group” of 37 people involved in embezzling $97m (£76m) from the International Bank of Azerbaijan (IBA) between 2009 and 2015.

The mother-of-three is fighting extradition to Azerbaijan at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in relation to the same allegations.

She claims she is being persecuted for her political beliefs and will not get a fair trial.

EMBARGOED TO 1200 TUESDAY MAY 28 The home of Jahangir and Zamira Hajiyeva on Walton Street, Knightsbridge, purchased in 2009 for 11.5 million. A judge found mother-of-three Mrs Hajiyeva spent more than 16 million in luxury department Harrods store, including almost 500,000 in a single day, during a decade-long spending spree between September 2006 and June 2016.
The home of Jahangir and Zamira Hajiyeva on Walton Street, Knightsbridge

Helen Malcolm QC, representing the Azerbaijani government, said the $97m (£76m) was obtained through 28 IBA-issued credit cards.

Between £14.5m and £15.5m was spent on 10 credit cards issued in Mrs Hajiyeva’s name, she told the court.

The other cards were in the name of her stepdaughter and her husband’s personal bodyguard.

Her husband was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment and was ordered to repay $39m (£30.5m), and an appeal in relation to that had been refused, Ms Malcolm said.

Jewellery seized from Christies linked to the unexplained wealth order imposed on Zamira Hajiyeva
Jewellery seized from Christies linked to the unexplained wealth order imposed on Zamira Hajiyeva

The court heard how he earned between $29,000 (£23,000) and $70,000 (£23,000) as a state employee.

Ms Malcolm said there was no evidence of any legitimate source of wealth, while Mrs Hajiyev is said to have no income and is selling jewellery to fund her lifestyle.

Ms Malcolm said: “The case against her is embezzlement and fraud in a conspiracy with her husband.

“The conduct in this country amounts, in our submission, to either money laundering the proceeds of that fraud, or she is the beneficiary of the fraud, (or) she is complicit in the fraud – so conspiracy to defraud or conspiracy to steal.”

Jewellery worth £400k linked to first Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO) seized by NCA
Jewellery worth £400k linked to the first Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO) seized by NCA

Hugo Keith QC, representing Mrs Hajiyeva, described the charge against her as “bogus”.

He said she has been brought because she is “the wife of the top banker convicted in Azerbaijan”.

“We say that the charge is likely to have been brought in order to pressurise him to give up valuable assets to the state and in order to intimidate others,” he said.

Mr Keith added that the embezzlement allegation is put “by virtue of her, admittedly exorbitant, expenditure” on the 10 credit cards, claiming there is no evidence she knew they were “improperly procured”.

He continued: “Spending money, however exorbitant, is not a criminal offence.

“Spending that sort of money in Harrods might be an offence, but it is not a criminal offence in law.”

Mrs Hajiyeva has been hit with two Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs) after a High Court judge found out about her eye-watering spending spree over 10 years.

UK authorities want to know how she and her husband could afford to buy a £11.5m house near Harrods in Knightsbridge and a £10.5m golf club in Ascot, Berkshire.

She has been granted permission to appeal the High Court’s decision by the Court of Appeal.

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