Wife of jailed banker facing extradition under 'McMafia' laws | Eurasia Diary - ednews.net

20 July, Saturday


Wife of jailed banker facing extradition under 'McMafia' laws

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The wife of a jailed Azeri banker, the target of the U.K.’s first unexplained wealth order, spent almost 16 million pounds ($20.4 million) across Europe, including at Harrods and luxury boutiques, on 10 credit cards issued illegally by her husband’s bank.

Zamira Hajiyeva, who was unmasked last year as part of a British crackdown on foreigners linked to overseas corruption, is fighting extradition to Azerbaijan in a London court.

“The conduct in this country would amount to either money laundering the proceeds of that fraud, or she is the beneficiary of the fraud, she is complicit in that fraud," Helen Malcolm, the lawyer representing the Azerbaijani government, said at the extradition hearing, Bloomberg reports.

She has been targeted by the National Crime Agency after so-called anti-corruption ‘McMafia’ laws came into force last year, The London Economic reports.

Representing Azerbaijan, Helen Malcolm QC said: “Mrs Hajiyeva is the subject of an extradition request issued in October last year. She is the wife of the former chairman of the International Bank of Azerbaijan.

“He was convicted in Azerbaijan in October 2016 and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.

“She spent money in US dollars, pounds sterling and euros. Once you convert the sums into Azerbaijan manat you get a number of slightly differing total amounts. It’s somewhere between £14.5m and £15.5m that she spent on those credit cards.

“The National Crime Agency have recently seized £400,000 worth of the jewellery.

“She has not provided any evidence as to how she could fund honestly the kind of sums she has been spending.”

The court also heard Hajiyeva owns three houses in Knightsbridge, west London, which were bought in 2009 for over £11million.

It was also said that Hajiyeva is blocking extradition to her home country on the basis she will not receive a fair trial because of her political views.

But the barrister said there was ‘no suggestion’ that the fraud prosecution was politically motivated, and the government were ‘unaware’ she even had any political views.

Ms Malcom said: “There is no suggestion in our position the this is a political prosecution. Mr Hajiyeva doesn’t seem to have disputed the amounts of money that he took from the International Bank.

“This requested person has never disputed she took and spent those sums. She has, as far as we are aware, no political opinions. We are unaware.

“There is no question of this being a political vendetta against her.”

The extradition hearing, expected to last three days, continues.

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