I have been commenting with interest on developments to the first Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO). The subject of the UWO, Zamira Hajiyeva initially lost her challenge to the order before having her identity revealed. At the start of this week, £400,000 of jewellery being valued for her daughter at Christies auction house was seized by the National Crime Agency (NCA).
Mrs Hajiyeva is now in custody and possibly facing deportation, the BBC reported yesterday, and has apparently been so since Tuesday 30 October. The Metropolitan Police reportedly arrested Mrs Hajiyeva acting on an extradition request from the authorities in Azerbaijan, where she faces two counts of embezzlement.
This case is interesting because it potentially gives yet more insight into how the UK authorities will approach UWOs, the use of which we can expect to increase in the future, and the threat they pose to individuals who may then face criminal action in another country. In particular:
- it appears that the NCA picked a target for their UWO who was heavily embroiled in difficulties with the authorities of their home state (Mrs Hajiyeva's husband is already in prison in Azerbaijan). This is perhaps indicative of the sort of target that the NCA will pursue with UWOs in the future; and
- it remains to be seen how the UWO will progress if the extradition of Mrs Hajiyeva goes ahead. She is now obliged to answer the UWO by explaining how she could afford her various spending sprees and properties in London, which might be hard to do from the confines of an Azerbaijani jail.
We will continue to watch with interest as this case develops and the first UWO progresses towards a (possible) conclusion, nearly a year after the power was first introduced.