UK’s FBI seizes homes worth £80 million belonging to ‘politically exposed person’

UK’s FBI seizes homes worth £80 million
Three London properties estimated to be worth more than £80 million ($101 million)

By Guest Correspondent Matúš Tóth, Illicit Trade News Network

Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) has secured a court order that may force the owner of three London properties estimated to be worth more than £80 million ($101 million) to fully account for the origin of their wealth.

The NCA, which is often referred to as the UK’s FBI, applied to London’s High Court for three Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs) against an unnamed foreign official described as a “politically exposed person believed to be involved in serious crime”.

As well as the UWO, the court also imposed Interim Freezing Orders, which mean the properties cannot be sold, transferred or dissipated until the NCA’s investigation comes to a close.

All three properties are currently being held by offshore companies.

In a statement, Graeme Biggar, Director General of the UK’s National Economic Crime Centre (NECC), said: “The purchase of prime property in London is a tactic used to launder money and we will use all the powers available to us to target those who try to do this.

“A priority for the NECC is to ensure we explore every opportunity to deny assets linked to illicit finance. Our aim is to prevent misuse of the UK’s financial structures which undermines the integrity of the UK’s economy and institutions.”

UWOs, which came into effect in January last year, can be used by UK law enforcement agencies to seize suspicious assets and hold them until they have been properly accounted for.

The legislation under which they were introduced was drafted with corrupt Russians in mind.

This was only the second time the NCA has successfully applied for UWOs since the new legislation was enacted over a year ago.

The first orders were issued against Zamira Hajiyeva, 55, the wife of an imprisoned Azerbaijan banker who lives in a £12 million London home, owns a Berkshire golf course, and is said to have spent some £16 million at high-end London department store Harrods over a decade.

Her husband, Jahangir Hajiyev, 57, is currently serving a 15-year jailed term in his native Azerbaijan after he was convicted of illegally siphoning off millions of dollars from his state-controlled bank.

Full details of Hajiyeva’s profligate spending were laid bare this week, when High Court documents seen by the BBC revealed how she once spent £600,000 in a single day, and had blown £30,000 on chocolate in a single purchase.

The papers also reveal she spent £4 million at jewellers Boucheron, £1.75 million at Cartier, and £2,400 on wine and spirits in a single purchase.

The Kenya Government should cooperate with NCA and apply for UWOs belonging Kenyans many of them Dictator Daniel Moi cronies including his former aide Joshua Kulei, former Head of Civil Service Sally Kosgei among others owning properties in Britain. Kulei is a former prisons warder who endeared himself to Moi and transformed into a multi-millionaire as a trusted aide.

He fought several corruption cases many of them before corrupt judges who never punished the powerful and endowed. He was among several corruption suspects prohibited from setting foot in United Kingdom. At one point he faced accusations of looting Kenya Pipeline Corporation –

Kenya’s super-rich are stashing their money abroad and could relocate there in just under 10 years to safeguard the interests of their children, who have been educated and located there.

Andrew Shirley, editor of the Knight Frank Wealth report, says there is an increasing interest in property in the United Kingdom and Dubai.

Shirley explained that with a lot of the wealthy children studying abroad, they have acquired global exposure and are more open to opportunities out there.

“There is a great mobility of wealth, with Africans and Kenyans buying property abroad. London is the most popular for Kenyans searching for property followed by Dubai,” he says.

According to Shirley, 24 per cent of Africa’s super-rich plan ditching the continent in the next decade for personal security, political issues and to access a higher quality of education, health and life.

With at least 202 new entries into the elite club of dollar millionaires in 2015 — pushing the current figure to 8,500, up from 8,300, and which is expected to grow 80 per cent to 15,300 in the next 5 years — Kenya has billions, some say trillions of wealth locked abroad.

  • Additional information by Kenya Confidential Business Editor

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