The wife of the former chairman of the international bank of Azerbaijan has been in the Court of Appeal challenging the unexplained wealth orders (UWOs) obtained by the National Crime Agency (NCA) over her property.
We commented in September on the UK Court’s decision to block the extradition of the subject back to Azerbaijan to stand trial there, which was based on the risks of a denial of justice if that extradition were to happen. Similarly, a significant part of the present case put to the Court of Appeal is that the convictions of her husband were decided in a court in Azerbaijan and were also a “flagrant denial of justice” that were unfair. Also at stake in the proceedings is the status of the subject’s husband as a politically exposed person or not and whether he should be considered to have been a “central banker”.
Not withstanding these points, it is clear that the subject’s vast expenditure, as well as the value of her properties, raises many unanswered questions when compared to the legitimate income of the subject and her husband. The structures used to purchase and hold the properties also show characteristics of money laundering, which was brought to the Court’s attention.
The judgment of the Court of Appeal has been reserved, most likely to be released next year. When this comes, it will bring yet more clarity to the key elements of the UWO provisions and how they are to be applied. The UWO regime is still in its relative infancy and the succession of cases relating to this first set of UWOs are providing a good deal of valuable case law that will no doubt shape how the regime is pursued by the UK authorities in the future.
A London property owned by an Azeri banker’s wife was probably bought through a British Virgin Islands company “to keep the identity and provenance of the monies hidden” and in a manner that had the “hallmarks of money laundering”, the UK Court of Appeal has been told.