Woman who spent $21M at Harrods bailed, fights extradition

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An Azerbaijani woman who spent £16 million (US$20.87 million) at London's up-market Harrods department store and was the first to be targeted by new British legislation on "unexplained wealth" was freed on bail Thursday (Nov 8) as she fights an extradition request by Baku.

Zamira Hajiyeva was revealed last month as the first target of the UK's new Unexplained Wealth Orders.

Her husband, Jahangir Hajiyev, was jailed in 2016 of fraud and embezzling the state-owned International Bank of Azerbaijan.

She faces two charges of embezzlement and has been been held in custody since giving herself up voluntarily last Tuesday.

Over the course of a decade, the 55-year-old spent up big at the department store, with a court hearing she bought $180,000 worth of Cartier jewellery.

He said there were "substantial grounds to believe she would not surrender" to the court if she was granted bail. The orders allow authorities to seize assets from people suspected of corruption until the owners account for how they were acquired.

But prosecutors challenged the decision and she was detained in custody, being deemed a flight risk.

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But her lawyers said she is no "fraudster" - just a "spendthrift" - and was not likely to flee the country because her children were based in the UK.

Senior district judge Emma Arbuthnot agreed that Mrs Hajiyeva could be released on bail - if she pays £500,000 as a guarantee, stays at her home in Knightsbridge, does not travel outside the M25 and reports to police every day.

Last week the agency, which investigates cross-border and organised crime, seized 49 items of jewellery worth £400,000 from Christie's auction house, where Hajiyeva's daughter had taken them to be valued.

She is now in an isolation cell and her extradition to Azerbaijan is under consideration.

Hajiyeva denies wrongdoing and is fighting to overturn the order and hang on to her assets.

The UWO means she has to explain the origin of her fortune.

"The NCA's case is that the UWO [unexplained wealth order] is part of an investigative process, not a criminal procedure, and it does not involve the finding of any criminal offence".

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