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What are the McMafia laws and how are police using them?

Unexplained Wealth Orders were brought in at the beginning of 2018.

(Tom Wilkinson/PA)
(Tom Wilkinson/PA)

Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs) were introduced under so-called McMafia laws – named after the BBC organised crime drama – which came into force at the beginning of 2018.

They are seen as a way of making wealthy figures, such as Russian oligarchs, who are suspected of corruption to account for their luxury lifestyles in Britain.

They allow investigators to force a so-called politically exposed person (PEP) to explain the source of their wealth and give the National Crime Agency power to seize assets if they can’t.

A PEP is someone from outside the European Economic Area in a position of power that makes them liable to bribery or corruption; or someone with suspected links to serious or organised crime.

The UK’s first UWOs were granted against Zamira Hajiyeva in connection with properties bought for a total of £22 million.

Mrs Hajiyeva came to the attention of the NCA because of her credit card spending and effective control of a Knightsbridge house, now worth £15 million, the High Court heard.

Lawyers for the NCA claimed her husband was a state employee between 1993 and 2015 and would not have had a large enough legitimate salary to fund their lifestyle.

In a witness statement submitted to the High Court, Mrs Hajiyeva insisted her husband was “innocent” and had faced a “completely unfair” trial in Azerbaijan, where he was jailed for 15 years for fraud and embezzlement.

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The home of Jahangir and Zamira Hajiyeva on Walton Street, Knightsbridge (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

She said he was “a man of substantial means” who was “very well-off” when they married in 1997 and had a number of business interests before joining the International Bank of Azerbaijan.

She said the house was bought after she was kidnapped in Azerbaijan, which “involved me being held in atrocious conditions for 28 days”.

“After that, I was scared to leave the house in Azerbaijan, and was not happy there at all,” she said.

“We therefore decided as a family that I should move to London with the children, while my husband would continue working in Azerbaijan.”

PA

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