Woman at centre of ‘McMafia order’ will not be extradited back to Azerbaijan

The woman at the centre of the UK’s first so-called McMafia order will not be extradited back to Azerbaijan to face fraud and embezzlement charges.

Zamira Hajiyeva, 55, won her extradition battle on Thursday after a judge at Westminster Magistrates’ Court ruled she would not get a fair trial in Azerbaijan.

But lawyers representing the Azerbaijani government indicated they would appeal against the judge’s decision.

The court was told in June that Mrs Hajiyeva had spent up to £15.5 million of embezzled cash in luxury boutiques, hotels, restaurants and grand department stores across Europe.

She is also said to have bought jewellery, gold and flight tickets for herself and family members, paid school fees for her three children and splashed out on health and beauty treatments.

It was also revealed earlier this year that Mrs Hajiyeva spent £16 million during a decade-long spending spree at Harrods – buying jewellery, designer fashion and perfume at the luxury department store.

Mrs Hajiyeva is alleged to have been a member of an “organised criminal group” of 37 people involved in embezzling 97 million US dollars (£76 million) from the International Bank of Azerbaijan (IBA) between 2009 and 2015.

Her husband, Jahangir Hajiyev, 57, was the chairman of the state-controlled bank from 2001 until his resignation in 2015 before he was subsequently sentenced to 15 years in prison for fraud and embezzlement.

Mrs Hajiyeva was fighting extradition to Azerbaijan in relation to the same allegations, claiming she is being persecuted for her political beliefs and will not get a fair trial.

She was the first subject of an Unexplained Wealth Order in the UK.

Chief Magistrate Senior District Judge Emma Arbuthnot said: “I have discharged you under Article 6 on the basis you won’t get a fair trial if you return to Azerbaijan.

“There’s almost bound to be an appeal in this case, we will know for sure in 14 days.

“You remain on the same bail as before.”

Ben Keith, representing the Azerbaijani government said: “We will likely appeal this case.”

A statement issued by Mrs Hajiyeva’s lawyers said: “We welcome the decision of the senior district judge today which confirms that our client, Mrs Hajiyeva, will not be extradited to Azerbaijan.

“There is much more that we would like to say but given ongoing proceedings in respect of other matters and the possibility that the Azeri government may appeal, we will not be making any further comment at this stage.

“Whilst we understand the interest in this case we ask that the press please respect her family’s right to privacy.”

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