UK Government questions source of funds for £80 million London property spend
An undisclosed PEP is the subject of a second set of unexplained wealth orders. UWOs are obtained by the National Crime Agency in the UK when an asset worth over £50k is purchased by someone who seemingly doesn’t have a correspondingly high income. In this case, the targets are three London properties bought for more than £80 million. It’s worth noting that the properties were bought 10 years ago and are worth considerably more now. All three are held by offshore companies.
The case highlights the use of luxury property in London as a way to launder money. The Registration of Overseas Entities Bill which will create a publicly accessible register of beneficial owners of non-UK entities owning or buying UK land will be live by 2021. This will help investigators and FIs trace ownership more easily.
The first two UWOs targeted £22 million worth of property belonging to Zamira Hajiyeva, wife of an Azeri banker who was the former chair of the International Bank of Azerbaijan. He was jailed for 15 years for embezzlement and fraud, among other things. Famously, she racked up a bill at Harrods for over £16 million. The itemised details of that bill were also released this week. In among the Cartier and Boucheron was nearly £2,000 of charcuterie (in one day!) £30,000 on chocolate and more than £900 of coffee (irrelevant but interesting details).
It seems greed has no bounds.