BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
Another Azerbaijan-related major corruption scandal is brewing in Europe. The country’s crooked officials have swindled billions of petrodollars for their personal benefit while the majority of the Azeri people live in abject poverty.
The latest example is on the front pages of most British newspapers. Mrs. Zamira Hajiyeva, 55, the wife of an Azerbaijani banker, has spent over $21 million by shopping at the Harrods luxury department store in London between 2006 and 2016.
The United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency alleged that stolen funds were used to buy a $15 million, five-bedroom house in the exclusive London neighborhood of Knightsbridge, 100 yards from the doors of Harrods. The house is now worth $20 million. She is also accused of spending almost $14 million to purchase a golf and country club in Ascot, The Guardian newspaper reported. Incredibly, Mrs. Hajiyeva owns two reserved parking spaces in Harrods at a cost of $500,000 a year. She was given permission to live in the UK eight years ago under a visa scheme for wealthy investors, without checking her source of funds.
“Mrs. Hajiyeva is the wife of Jahangir Hajiyev, 57, the former chairman of the state-owned International Bank of Azerbaijan. In 2016 he was sentenced to 15 years in jail for defrauding the bank out of $3 billion,” according to Rupert Neate of The Guardian.
Mrs. Hajiyeva’s lawyers in London had petitioned to keep her name, the husband’s name, their nationality and his bank a secret. However, the British court of appeal lifted the veil of secrecy at the request of the media.
The National Crime Agency stated that Mrs. Hajiyeva used 35 American Express, Mastercard, and Visa credit cards issued by her husband’s bank to fund her spending spree. On one trip to Harrods she spent $200,000 on Boucheron, a luxury jewelry, perfume and watches brand. On another trip she bought $132,000 of Cartier jewelry. She also purchased a $42 million Gulfstream G550 jet. Her wine cellar is stocked with some of the world’s most expensive bottles, The Guardian reported. Meanwhile, Mrs. Hajiyeva’s daughter from a previous marriage, who was a student in London, had shares worth $20 million paying dividends of $1.3 million a year. Mrs. Hajiyeva also has two 17 and 20 year old sons from her current husband, who were also educated in private British schools.
Mrs. Hajiyeva’s husband gave her $1.3 million to invest in British government bonds, and received $26,000 monthly expense allowance. However, after her husband’s arrest, she fled Azerbaijan and began selling her family’s silver at Christie’s auction house.
The Azerbaijani authorities are interested in questioning Mrs. Hajiyeva in connection with her husband’s banking case, accusing her and other family members of serving as conduits for Mr. Hajiyev’s scheme to take money out of the country.
Mrs. Hajiyeva is the first person in the UK’s new anti-corruption law — “Unexplained Wealth Order” — designed to target suspected corrupt foreign officials who have potentially laundered stolen money. Justice Supperstone demanded that she explain the source of the funds for her lavish purchases. If she is unable to do so, her properties could be seized. The Judge agreed that “this evidence is significant in the light of the reports of Mr. Hajiyev’s trial allegations made against him included abuse of his position at the Bank by issuing credit cards in the names of family members, through which large debts were run up against the Bank.”
Mr. Jahangir Hajiyev, as chairman of the IBA bank between 2001 and 2008, had an official salary of $71,000 a year. However, Werner Capital, which manages property investment for wealthy people, produced a report in 2011 disclosing that Mr. Hajiyev was worth $73 million, The Guardian reported. The prosecutor, Jonathan Hall, who represented the National Crime Agency, announced: “As a state employee between 1993 and 2015, it is very unlikely that such a position would have generated sufficient income to fund the acquisition of the property.”
In court, Mrs. Hajiyeva stated that she had no knowledge of the source of funds for her purchases, claiming that her husband was responsible for the payments. She described Mr. Hajiyev as “a man of substantial means.” She has hired a team of highly paid British lawyers to defend her in court.
For the time being Mrs. Hajiyeva’s expensive London mansion and the golf and country club remain frozen and cannot be sold.
It remains to be seen if the British government would seize Mrs. Hajiyeva’s properties in London. There are many more such cases which will come before the courts in the coming months, exposing the widespread corruption of Azeri officials who have stolen billions of dollars from their country’s oil wealth, investing them for their personal benefit in many countries around the world!
I don’t think airing the misconduct of others should be our main focus. It kind of looks immature and crass. We have plenty of corruption and misconduct in our own closet. We won’t be looked on kindly if we have to point out the shortcomings of others when we haven’t cleaned our own house yet. Lest we forget the online gambling habit of one Ara Vardanyan!
You hurt Mihriban Alieva’s feeling!.
State of emergency I can smell you from miles away that you are not Armenian in fact you are an Azerbaijani. We can tell by the words you use, you are trying very hard just like your Zionist Azeri colleagues who are continuously writing anti Armenian articles to make your baseless points. The whole world knows how corrupt is your Baku. Get a life asshole.
Mikey, you sound paranoid and conspiratorial. No need to to accuse and jump to conclusions. I have Red, Blue and Orange (although historically Yellow) blood running in my veins. I should be upset that you are calling me a Turk, but I don’t want to take it that seriously. You’re blinded by hate and can’t see the forest for the trees. The oligarchs and corrupt syndicates of Armenia love you for this. They don’t want you to be self critical. They like to create red herrings to distract and divert from the relevant or important issue affecting Armenian and its people. You’re just towing their line by refusing to see the obvious. The obvious is the total economic, social, and political irrelevancy of Armenia today. No amount of dishing the problems of others’ is going to cure our internal ills!
Defrauding $3billion …what an appetite!
Let us clean our own house first, before we look into our neighbors’ corruption cases with a critical eye.
How much money have the previous corrupt politicians and businessmen stolen from the Armenian nation?
Armenia must adopt harsh anti-corruption laws similar to those of Singapore and severely punish the past and present violators to set an example.
Corruption is Armenia’s Number 1 Problem.
I don’t know who is hiding behind your fake name. As an Armenian, I am interested in exposing Azeri corruption to the world. You seem more interested in exposing Armenian cases of corruption which is much less thanks to Prime Minister Pashinyan. I want to make the Azeris and Turks look bad, while you want to make Armenians look! Are you Armenian?
Not sure if you’re rebuttal is directed at me or Ari but basically we’re both saying the same thing. We should concentrate on fixing our own problems first. Once this is accomplished, then we can go after others as much as you please. I don’t think airing the misconduct of others is in our best interest at this time. I know you’re a journalist and this is your job, but for us patriots the immediate concern is the survival and strengthening of our homeland within. All other matters can take a back seat for the time being!
My Brother Harut,
There is no question or doubt about the Azeri or Turkish politicians’ and businessmen’s corruption and human rights violations. Instances of these officials openly practicing illegal activities is well documented and they themselves have no decency hiding them. Who else but Aliyev appoints his wife as a key government representative? Who else but Erdogan appoints a family member as the head of central bank in order to siphon and launder money legally?
Armenians must rise above the political and social norms surrounding the country. We must demonstrate our conviction to principles of fairness, justice and human rights by first stamping out corruption in Armenia at all levels of government and private business.
Absolutely correct. The parable of the speck and the log (Matthew 7:1-5, Luke 6:41-42).
I like John 3: 13! Most important part of Christianity!
Harut, my fellow Armenian,
While I agree that exposing the fraudulent activities of nations like Azerbaijan & Turkey is indeed an important task, I do also feel we must first tackle the corruption in our own nation. Armenia is a good nation, composed of a good people, that possess an amazing culture, intelligence, a gift for entrepreneurship, & amazing resilience! If corruption in Armenia is tackled head on, I have NO DOUBT that in just a few short years Armenia will not simply grow but prosper. I enjoy your articles & I encourage you to keep up the good work but in this instance I feel that bad mouthing Azerbaijan simply makes us look bellicose & petty. I am very proud of the fact that one of the many things that separates us from Azeri’s & Turks, is that we often take the moral high ground. That is why the rest of the world respects our small nation & people. I ask you continue the great work you are doing but to also keep in mind that the only way our small nation can fully take advantage of the hard earned independence we now celebrate, is to fix the problems within our nation & THEN concentrate on the problems outside of it. I say this all with respect & admiration for your contributions.
that There is corruption and there is CORRUPTION. Yes theres some of everywhere, but the scale at which the Azeris are draining the State, is unprecedented. As I have written before, Military Spending is the best cover for stealing. Its easiest to hide. That’s why, they constantly shell us. To cover the theft. Declare ten for every one and there your millions. The downside is that when in combat and those poor Azeri boys run out of shells , or grease, or spare parts. It will be too late for them. That’s why its important to wipe out graft.
$ 150 billion in Eurasia, if the Azerian national bar is present in both countries get share of this pie
“State of Urgent” how much do you get from your oilman, for every ridicule comment?? especially when you use word of “our homeland” ???? I have read your “politically” motivated hate comments toward Armenia and Armenians in general! Time to get a raise from Bādkube oilman and change your fake name to something better than “Emergency” something like mental ICU if you smart enough!