World News

Police arrest woman who spent £16m in Harrods

Police arrest woman who spent £16m in Harrods

Zamira Hajiyeva, who is married to former International Bank of Azerbaijan chairman Jahangir Hajiyev, will have to explain where she got the money for her opulent spending.

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.

She is under investigation by Britain's National Crime Agency (NCA), which in February secured the country's first-ever unexplained wealth order to target Hajiyeva's wealth.

Hajiyeva's husband, Jahangir Hajiyev, who was formerly chair of the International Bank of Azerbaijan, is now serving a 15-year prison sentence in Azerbaijan for his part in embezzling $138 million.

She was held in custody after turning herself in to police last week, with the BBC reporting her bail bid was quashed by prosecutors on Tuesday, despite her agreeing to pay 500,000 pounds ($900,000) as a guarantee.

But judge Jeremy Baker at London's High Court ruled there were not "substantial grounds" to believe she would leave the country.

This year, a court heard how Hajiyeva had spent more than £16m at Harrods over a 10-year period.

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In court this week, her legal team said she was a "spendthrift", but was not a "fraudster".

Mrs Hajiyeva, who lives in a £15m house near to the London store, is wanted by the authorities in Azerbaijan for an alleged conspiracy to defraud the Azerbaijani national bank.

Last week, the agency seized jewellery belonging to her family that was worth more than £400,000 and was due to be auctioned at Christie's auction house.

She is now in an isolation cell and her extradition to Azerbaijan is under consideration. The orders allow authorities to seize assets from people suspected of corruption until the owners account for how they were acquired.

Hajiyeva has denied any wrongdoing.

"The NCA's case is that the UWO [unexplained wealth order] is part of an investigative process, not a criminal procedure, and it does not involve the finding of any criminal offence".