A £16 million Harrods big spender accused of living off illicit wealth should be given her seized jewellery back because law enforcers are taking too long in their legal action against her, a court has been told.
Zamira Hajiyeva, the wife of a jailed banker, who became the first person in Britain to be targeted by an “unexplained wealth order” over her lavish lifestyle, is facing the loss of £3.2 million of jewels in forfeiture proceedings brought by the National Crime Agency.
It claims the jewels – which include a £1.2 million Cartier diamond ring and a Boucheron sapphire and ruby necklace worth up to £120,000 – were bought with “dirty money” given to her by her husband Jahangir before he was convicted in Azerbaijan of plundering the state bank where he worked.
But barrister James Lewis QC has now told a new hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court that Mrs Hajiyeva has been “out of her jewels” for more than three and half years since they were seized by law enforcers and should be given them back so she can wear them again.
He said the reason was that the National Crime Agency had taken too long in trying to secure forfeiture of the jewels and that prolonging court action against her any longer would breach her human rights.
“My client has been out of her jewellery for three and a half years,” Mr Lewis told the court. “If she has it back it will be tainted and she’ll probably never be able to sell it but she can at least wear it.”
He cited Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights which guarantees the right to a fair trial within a reasonable time and insisted that the National Crime Agency should have foreseen the legal difficulties which have been delaying its attempts to take ownership of the jewels
Mr Lewis’ plea came during the latest phase of long-running litigation which began when Mrs Hajiyeva was issued with an “unexplained wealth order” in 2018 using new “McMafia” legislation introduced by the government.
The NCA alleged that her £15 million home on Walton Street in Knightsbridge and an £11 million golf course in Berkshire were bought using Mrs Hajiyeva’s husband’s criminal wealth and that her lavish spending – which included splashing out £16 million at Harrods on jewellery and other luxuries – was funded the same way.
She continues to deny any wrongdoing and has yet to lose ownership of any of of her assets.
The latest court action centres on her jewels, which were seized by the NCA in late 2018 and early 2019 from Christie’s auction house and Cartier’s store in Bond Street, but remain legally owned by Mrs Hajiyeva.
Law enforcers are trying to change that through forfeiture proceedings but have been told that they must first serve notice of the legal action on Mr Hajiyev in his Baku prison cell.
The court heard that NCA will now try to do this by sending staff to Azerbaijan to hand the relevant documents to officials from the country’s general prosecutors’ office to give to Mr Hajiyev in prison.
Chief Magistrate Paul Goldspring said this attempt should be allowed and rejected Mr Lewis’ bid to stop the proceedings, ordering an adjournment instead.
Another hearing will take place later this year to determine whether the attempt to notify Mr Hajiyev of the forfeiture action over the jewels has succeeded and what the next steps should be after that.
Earlier court hearings have heard that Mrs Hajiyeva’s jewels include a Van Cleef and Arpels pearl necklace valued at £20,000 which is believed to have been bought for Mrs Hajiyeva by her husband in the Swiss ski resort of St Moritz.
Other seized items listed at the time in included a £4,000 diamond cluster and bar necklace and a £9,000 Cartier “Panthere” pendant.