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UWO says banker’s wife spent $21 million at Harrods

A London court unsealed an unexplained wealth order Wednesday that names the woman who spent £16 million ($21 million) at Harrods department store buying Cartier jewelry, wine, and other luxury goods.

In the UK’s first use of unexplained wealth orders or UWOs, the court ordered Zamira Hajiyeva, 55, to explain the source of funds she used for the Harrods shopping spree.

She also bought a $15 million Knightsbridge home and a $14 million golf course and estate near Ascot.

The National Crime Agency secured two UWOs in February. The court ordered anonymity while Hajiyeva challenged their legality.

Wednesday the court upheld the orders and released her name.

Hajiyeva’s husband, Jahangir Hajiyev, was chairman of the International Bank of Azerbaijan. In 2016 he was sentenced in Azerbaijan to 15 years in jail for fraud and embezzlement.

Unexplained wealth orders allow UK enforcement officials to require politically exposed persons to explain the source of their wealth or face asset forfeitures. The UWO law came into force on January 31 this year.

The National Crime Agency alleged that between 2006 and 2016, Zamira Hajiyeva used 35 credit cards issued by her husband’s bank.

She plans to appeal Wednesday’s court ruling and contest the UWOs, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Sam Rubenfeld.

Her lawyers said the UWOs are part of “an investigative process” and that Wednesday’s court ruling doesn’t imply wrongdoing.

In addition to the UWOs, the National Crime Agency in February secured interim freezing orders against the two properties, “meaning that the assets cannot be sold, transferred or dissipated while subject to the order,” the NCA said.

Sven Stumbauer of AlixPartners told the Wall Street Journal the UK orders are “a big warning signal for those who want to stash assets or move funds through real estate.”

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.

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