LONDON — Nov 8, 2018, 10:44 AM ET

Woman who spent $21M at Harrods bailed, fights extradition

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Like many people, Zamira Hajiyeva often dropped by a neighborhood shop, just down the street from her London home, to pick up a few things — including gem-encrusted jewelry and a cellar-full of fine wines.

Hajiyeva's local shop was posh department store Harrods, where British investigators say she spent 16 million pounds ($21 million) over the course of a decade, using 35 credit cards issued by a bank led by her husband.

Britain's National Crime Agency wants to know where Hajiyeva got the money to fund her Harrods shopping sprees and buy two U.K. properties worth 22 million pounds ($29 million).

She is also the subject of a separate investigation in her home country of Azerbaijan, where her husband, former International Bank of Azerbaijan Chairman Jahangir Hajiyev, was sentenced to 15 years in jail in 2016 for fraud and embezzlement.

On Thursday, Hajiyeva was freed on bail by a British judge while she fights extradition to Azerbaijan over embezzlement allegations.

Hajiyeva, 55, is the first person to be subject to an Unexplained Wealth Order, a measure introduced by the U.K. at the beginning of the year in a bid to curb London's status as a haven for ill-gotten gains. The orders allow authorities to seize assets from people suspected of corruption or links to organized crime until the owners account for how they were acquired.

At a court hearing this year, a lawyer for the National Crime Agency gave details of Hajiyeva's spending at Harrods, including 100,000 pounds in one day on Cartier jewelry, 150,000 pounds in another trip on goods from luxury brand Boucheron, and 1,800 pounds on wine.

Last week the agency, which investigates cross-border and organized crime, seized 49 items of jewelry worth 400,000 pounds from Christie's auction house, where Hajiyeva's daughter had taken them to be valued.

The items included a Boucheron sapphire and ruby necklace worth up to 120,000 pounds and a Van Cleef & Arpels pearl necklace worth 20,000 pounds, which investigators say was originally bought by Hajiyeva's husband in St. Moritz, Switzerland, for more than 10 times that amount.

Hajiyeva denies wrongdoing and is fighting to overturn the order and hang on to her assets.

Her lawyers have said the wealth order "is part of an investigative process, not a criminal procedure, and it does not involve the finding of any criminal offense."

British police arrested Hajiyeva for alleged embezzlement last week at the request of Azerbaijan.

Ben Keith, a lawyer for Azerbaijan's government, said during a British High Court hearing Thursday that Hajiyeva faced allegations of "embezzling money from the International Bank of Azerbaijan."

He said there were "substantial grounds to believe she would not surrender" to the court if she was granted bail.

But judge Jeremy Baker ruled there were no "substantial grounds" to refuse bail.

News - Woman who spent $21M at Harrods bailed, fights extradition

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  • gs12

    I bet she disappears.

  • Dagro Yatko

    Since this law was created to curb ill-gotten gains. And all gov't funds are acquired illegally, how much of their own assets have they frozen until they prove it wasn't obtained by extorting citizens through "taxation" aka theft?

  • helicohunter

    This is why we have ***t-hole countries. The corrupt elites in government and business steal all the money, so there is nothing left for education, health care, infrastructure, or anything else that might benefit the population.

  • Furrmin The Cat

    Wow!

  • Sasha Payne

    Glad to see that ABC is 100% committed to attaching a video to EVERY article. /s Sheesh!

  • Bree Zee

    Released on bail...they won't be seeing her again.

  • Colinalcarz

    Does the US have a similar law? If not we should! Which new congressman wants to sponsor a bill?

  • Rich

    My gosh, so many comments involving CSI terms. Is
    It possible we are frustrated lawyers? Maybe we just watch too much TV

  • Billy Bob Smith

    Okay, so she spent all this money using credit cards. Were the credit card bills paid on time? If so, what was the source of the money? Was she paying off one card with another? Lots of missing answers here.

  • Just4Fun1

    Geez, I thought my wife was bad by having Amazon packages delivered every day.

  • larryx

    I also would like to know where she got all that money, especially maybe it would work for me?

  • TBC

    "Hajiyeva, 55, was arrested last week by British police at Azeri request over alleged embezzlement."

    I'm not saying this woman is innocent, in fact it's entirely likely she's done *something* dodgy to get all that money. However, don't assume pure intentions on the part of the Azerbaijani government. Corruption is the order of the day down there.

  • Tony

    I agree, your wealth should come from legitimate sources. With that said, I believe she should have to wear an ankle monitor, so her whereabouts are known