UK may lose over Harrods spender's millions
Britain may be forced to hand back millions of pounds seized from the Harrods 'big spender' to Azerbaijan, the National Crime Agency chief has admitted.
Donald Toon, the agency's director of economic crime, has revealed that if the High Court rules Zamira Hajiyeva had used fraudulent funds, any property and money seized from her would be returned to her native country.
He outlined how the High Court battle surrounding the UK's first Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO) would see any confiscated cash become a "political and international issue".
Ms Hajiyeva (55) was named yesterday as being at the centre of a financial investigation amid allegations she used her husband's stolen money to fund a lavish lifestyle.
The Azerbaijan national has lived in Knightsbridge for more than a decade during which time she has spent more than £16m (€18m) in the Harrods department store. Her five-bedroom house is worth £15m and she also bought the Mill Ride golf and country club in Ascot for £10.5m.
Her husband, Jahangir Hajiyev, the former chairman of the International Bank of Azerbaijan, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2016 for defrauding the bank out of £2.2bn.
The National Crime Agency claims Ms Hajiyeva used funds raised fraudulently to fund property purchases in the UK.
Mr Justice Supperstone has ordered she must comply with the UWO order and explain how she acquired her wealth. Her lawyers, who issued a statement insisting the order did not imply any wrongdoing on behalf of their client, are arguing she is the wife of a legitimate businessman.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's 'Today' programme, Mr Toon said if the agency won the case it would use the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to apply to the courts to seize a number of her properties.
Asked who would then have a right to claim that wealth, he said: "Ultimately, that becomes a political and international issue." (© Daily Telegraph London)