A woman who spent £16m at Harrods has launched a legal challenge to try to overturn the UK’s first unexplained wealth order (UWO) that would force her to reveal the source of her fortune.
Zamira Hajiyeva, the wife of the jailed Azerbaijani banker Jahangir Hajiyev, complained to the court of appeal on Thursday that the UWO was “intrusive” and based on the “grossly unfair trial” of her husband, who was convicted of defrauding an Azerbaijani bank out of up to £2.2bn.
Hajiyeva, 56, is subject to two UWOs on her £15m five-bedroom Knightsbridge home, which is 100 metres from Harrods, and a £10.5m Berkshire golf course.
The orders, which were obtained by the National Crime Agency (NCA), give the police the power to seize the properties if she fails to provide evidence that money she used to buy them was legitimate.
The new legal powers, nicknamed McMafia laws after the BBC organised crime drama, allow the NCA to freeze properties if they suspect the owner is linked to international crime or is a politically exposed person.
This month the NCA seized £190m of assets, including a £50m mansion, from a Pakistani property tycoon after a settlement of a similar “dirty money” investigation.
Hajiyeva is asking the court of appeal to overrule an earlier decision by the high court, which dismissed her attempt to overturn the UWO.
In September, Hajiyeva fought off an attempt to extradite her to Azerbaijan to face fraud charges. During the extradition hearing her barrister said: “Spending money, however exorbitant, is not a criminal offence. Spending that sort of money in Harrods might be offensive but it’s not a criminal offence in law.”