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Wife of jailed banker fails in attempts to overturn unexplained wealth order

The wife of a jailed banker has lost her appeal over the UK’s first unexplained wealth order (UWO).

Zamira Hajiyeva was the first person to be made subject to a UWO, under new powers brought into force in January 2018.

The orders allow the National Crime Agency (NCA) to seize someone’s assets if they believe the owner is a politically exposed person, someone from outside Europe who is in a position of power that makes them liable to bribery or corruption and they are unable to explain the source of their wealth.

Ms Hajiyeva was married to international banker Jahangir Hajiyev, a former chairman of the state-controlled International Bank of Azerbaijan who was convicted of fraud and embezzlement and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

In February 2018, the NCA secured UWOs against two properties owned by the couple valued at approximately £22 million, which Ms Hajiyeva appealed against on the basis that her husband was not given a fair trial in Azerbaijan.

A High Court hearing in October 2018 dismissed that initial attempt highlighting a series of red flags that brought into question whether their lawfully obtained income would have been sufficient to afford the properties.

Ms Hajiyeva was also the subject of attempts to extradite her to Azerbaijan to face fraud and embezzlement charges, which she fought off on grounds that she feared she would not receive a fair trial.

Now in the latest appeal, three justices at the Court of Appeal have dismissed her challenge adding that her application for permission to appeal their judgment has also been denied.

Following the ruling, Sarah Pritchard, director of the NCA’s National Economic Crime Centre, said: “This is a significant result which is important in establishing unexplained wealth orders as a powerful tool helping us to investigate illicit finance generated in, or flowing through, the UK.”

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Gurjit Singh
As a member of the Criminal Litigation Accreditation Scheme (CLAS), holder of the Higher Rights of Audience (HRA) qualification and duty solicitor for the Coventry area, I regularly represent clients in a wide range of criminal cases, including road traffic offences.

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