News 10th Oct 2018

Identities Revealed in First UWO Case

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Today the reporting restrictions placed on the proceedings surrounding the UK’s first unexplained wealth orders (UWOs) have been lifted. This reveals the identity of Mrs A, the mystery wife of a state banker.

Here we provide a brief overview of the case and what could happen next.

Who are the respondents to the UK’s first Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs)?

In the initial court documents, the respondent to the UK’s first UWO was ‘Mrs A’. Now that the anonymity order has expired, we can reveal that Mrs A is Zamira Hajiyeva, wife of Jahangir Hajiyev, who was formerly Chair of the International Bank of Azerbaijan (IBA). Hajiyev was convicted in Azerbaijan for his part in the embezzlement of £109 million (€125 million) from the IBA

What are the first UWOs targeted at?

The first UWO is targeted at a house on Walton Street – 3 minutes from Harrods in West London – which was bought for £11.5 million in December 2009 by a British Virgin Islands (BVI) company, Vicksburg Global Inc.1 According to the judgement handed down by the High Court on October 3rd, in June 2015, Zamira Hajiyeva informed the Home Office during her application for indefinite leave to remain that she was the beneficial owner of Vicksburg Global and therefore owned the property.2

However, this appears to be contradicted by the BVI’s Financial Investigation Agency which in 2018, according to the judgment, informed the UK’s NCA that Jahangir Hajiyev was the actual beneficial owner of Vicksburg Global.3

A second UWO was issued by the NCA in relation to land on which Mill Ride Golf Club, near Ascot is located. Hajiyeva is said to have purchased this property in 2013 for £10.5 million, using a Guernsey company called Natura Limited.

Additional information provided by the appeal

In addition to the purchase of the asset mentioned above, the NCA also showed the court evidence of the couple exhibiting a pattern of spending that was not commensurate with their known lawful sources of income. During the court hearing, the NCA described how Zamira Hajiyeva had spent £16 million at Harrods alone using credit cards issued by the IBA during a ten-year period.

The NCA also showed the court evidence that suggests that Zamira Hajiyeva’s husband, Jahangir, is registered as the beneficiary of a company which had used a £32.36 million ($42.5 million) loan to buy a Gulfstream jet, and Zamira had sought a fast track to UK residency through the Tier 1 Investor visa system. At the time of her application, this visa would have required UK investments of at least £1 million. This scheme has long been identified as a weakness in the UK’s defences against money laundering due to the lack of checks carried out on those that received the visas between 2008 and 2015.

What Happens Next?

If Mrs Hajiyeva does not successfully challenge the UWO Order handed down on October 3rd, she will be required to explain to the NCA how she and her husband were able to legitimately afford the property currently under investigation. A failure to respond or provide an inadequate response, could be used as evidence by the NCA to pursue confiscation of the properties through civil proceedings.

1. National Crime Agency and Mrs A, Approved Judgement, p.5 para 122.

2. National Crime Agency and Mrs A, Approved Judgement, p.5 para 15

3. National Crime Agency and Mrs A, Approved Judgement, p.5 para 16