On February 5, the United Kingdom National Crime Agency (NCA) announced that the United Kingdom Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal of Zamira Hajiyeva, the wife of imprisoned Azerbaijani banker Jahangir Hajiyev, of an Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO) that the NCA obtained against Hajiyeva. The UWO in question, which the NCA obtained in 2018, required Hajiyeva to explain how she and her husband could afford to buy a £15 million house in Knightsbridge, London.
Hajiyev, the former chairman of the state-owned International Bank of Azerbaijan (IBA), had been sentenced in Azerbaijan in 2016 to 15 years’ imprisonment and required to pay the IBA $39 million, after he was charged “with large-scale embezzlement, abuse of trust, and other violations of the Azeri Criminal Code.” On the appeal of the UWO, Hajiyeva had sought discharge of the UWO on the ground that Hajiyev’s conviction, which she maintained was “the central feature” of the NCA’s application for the UWO, stemmed from a “grossly unfair trial” and should be discharged.
The court, however, not only ruled against Hajiyeva but refused her permission to take the case to the United Kingdom Supreme Court’ though Hajiyeva may apply directly to the Supreme Court to take her appeal.
Note: An NCA official stated that the NCA is still “ultimately looking for Mrs Hajiyeva to comply with the original order, pending any further right of appeal that may be granted.” That appears unlikely, given Hajiyeva’s sustained court challenges. Unless Hajeyeva succeeds in persuading the Supreme Court to grant her appeal, the NCA could move to seize her house sometime this year.
This latest ruling regarding the Hajiyeva UWO – one of the first two UWOs that the NCA obtained – further bolsters the NCA’s credibility in its continuing use of UWOs to combat illicit finance associated with serious and organized crime.