Blind eye turned to dodgy dosh

An address belonging to Zamira Hajiyeva © Getty images
An address belonging to Zamira Hajiyeva

An Unexplained Wealth Order for an Azeri shopaholic is a tiny step towards combating illicit cash.

I believe an Englishman’s home is his castle. So if the long arm of the law – or even the taxman – starts encroaching on my modest mansion, they would very quickly find themselves on the wrong side of my ferocious, faithful mastiffs.

But the case of Zamira Hajiyeva stretches even his sympathy. According to The Sun, Hajiyeva is the first person named as the subject of an Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO), a new power that allows the National Crime Agency to seize assets including property and force foreigners to reveal the source of their cash.

Hitting Harrods

The authorities claim she received illicit funds from her husband, who “is serving 15 years in jail for stealing more than £100m in his role as chairman of Azerbaijan’s state bank”. This money was then allegedly used to fund a “lavish lifestyle” including a £11.5m home next to Harrods, ownership of the £10.5m Mill Ride Golf Club in Ascot, a £32m Gulfstream jet owned by her husband’s company in addition to £16.3m spent at Harrods over ten years.

Indeed, her obsession with the famous store was so great she owned two parking places under the store “at an estimated cost of £365,000 a year”. All this was supposedly achieved on her husband’s official annual salary of £54,000. Spending “an average of £4,300 ($5,700) per day, every day, for ten years” in one store may seem “breathtaking” says Tom Sykes in the Daily Beast.

However, “while the free-spending ways of Hajiyeva have shocked ordinary people, in the rarified world of the mega-rich they are not exceptional”. Indeed, Harrods staff openly talk about certain clients “buying Birkin bags by the dozen”, while one oligarch “had to move out of Knightsbridge because his wife was spending so much” there. 

Overall, “an influx of foreign cash from questionable sources” has been blamed “for massively inflating property prices” and turning “large swathes of Chelsea, Knightsbridge and Kensington” into “oligarch ghost towns at night”.

Banana-republic justice

Even if Mrs Hajiyeva is forced to give up her wealth, far more must be done to rectify Britain’s absurdly lax response to money laundering and financial crime in general, says The Guardian’s Simon Jenkins. For example, after the Panama Papers revelations two years ago, “tax dodgers in New York were paraded from their offices in handcuffs” while “the Spaniards successfully prosecuted Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for tax fraud”.

Yet in the UK “the revelations led to just four arrests and six interviews under caution”. Similarly, instead of prosecuting tax cheats, HMRC merely preferred to use the threat of prison as a negotiating chip. This isn’t leniency, it’s “banana-republic justice”.

Meanwhile, all the dodgy foreign money pouring in has “dazzled British ministers”, although the Treasury “sees virtually none of it”. Other cities impose “realistic property taxes”, but London’s oligarchs pay £2,000 a year. We are becoming “another Monaco… a refuge for financial piracy on the fringe of Europe”.

Tabloid money…  lazy Marxist clowns want a four-day week

• Fair play to American singer Taylor Swift for coming out in support of the Democrats, says Brian Reade in the Daily Mirror. If I were an actor giving a speech at a premiere, I’d like to think I had the guts to say: “Someone has just paid £160m for a flat in Knightsbridge… and is renting it out for £150,000 a week. If you walk there after this film you’ll pass dozens and dozens of homeless people who can’t afford a roof over their heads in this city.

Is it any wonder why, when our morals have been so skewered by greed?” If you were a fan of my work, expressing such sentiments may tempt you to boycott me and I might become less rich. But that’s the risk all artists in the real world run.

• “There are plenty of women racing drivers”, such as Stephane Kox from the Netherlands, says Jeremy Clarkson in The Sun. But they never make it to Formula One, the top tier. A new series of motorsport called Formula W sets out to rectify that. Unlike Formula One, where you need to spend £8m before you get the chance to drive, Formula W entry is free. If you’re good enough, you are given a car. And if you win the championship, you get a cheque for £380,000.

The theory is that by winning, you will also come to the attention of Formula One team bosses, “who are always on the lookout for the next Lewis Hamilton”. It is a tremendous idea. But I fear that, because of the slow cars they’re using, no one will notice.

• Labour is looking into a plan to offer workers a four-day week on full pay, says Nick Ferrari in the Sunday Express. Yes, that’s right. You work 20% fewer hours, but get 100% of the pay. This insane notion was first cooked up by the silly but so aptly named Greens, modified by the union chiefs who would take us back to the 1970s given half a chance, and now looks to be embossed by the imprimatur of Her Majesty’s Opposition.

The only missing party is the Scots Nats, but give them time. And what would any of them know? It’s not as though any of them actually understand what enterprise and sacrifice mean. None will have “come close to running a business… Most of these Marxist clowns would struggle to run a bath.”

disfi.com