LONDON – An Azerbaijani woman who spent £16 million at London’s up-market Harrods department store and was the first to be targeted by new British legislation on “unexplained wealth” was freed on bail Thursday as she fights an extradition request by Baku. Zamira Hajiyeva, who was arrested last week in London, faces two charges of embezzlement in Azerbaijan. She was held in custody after Baku appealed against a magistrate’s court decision granting her £500,000 ($655,000/573,000 euro) bail, arguing she was a flight risk.
But judge Jeremy Baker at London’s High Court ruled there were not “substantial grounds” to believe she would leave the country. He ordered her release but imposed a curfew under which she will not be allowed to leave her luxury home in southwest London between 9 pm and 6 am. Hajiyeva, who was not in court, must also report to a central London police station every day, has surrendered her passport and is banned from travelling outside London’s M25 ring road.
Hajiyev’s husband Jahangir was jailed in 2016 for embezzling money from the International Bank of Azerbaijan, where he was chairman.
Separately, she is under scrutiny by Britain’s National Crime Agency, who issued a so-called Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO) demanding that she explain where she got the £11.5 million to pay for her property in Knightsbridge.
The court issuing the order also heard that she had spent more than £16 million at Harrods over a 10-year period.
UWOs were incorporated into British law in January 2018 as part of the fight against money laundering.
People who fail to account for the sources of their funds are liable to have assets seized.