UK

£1m diamond ring seized in multi-million shopper probe

The 8.9 carat ring seized by the NCA Image copyright NCA
Image caption The 8.9 carat diamond in its setting

A diamond ring worth more than £1m has been seized by the National Crime Agency as part of its continuing investigation into a London woman who spent £16m in Harrods.

The ring was found at a high-class jewellers by investigators looking into the source of Zamira Hajiyeva's vast wealth.

She's the first person in the UK to be subject to an Unexplained Wealth Order - a court measure designed to uncover suspected corrupt money hidden in the UK by foreign officials and their families.

Mrs Hajiyeva, who denies any wrongdoing, is married to Azerbaijan banker Jahangir Hejiyev, who was convicted and jailed for a massive fraud against a state bank in their home country.

Image caption Zamira Hajiyeva: Vast wealth under investigation

If she cannot prove a legitimate source for her enormous wealth in the UK, the National Crime Agency is expected to apply to seize her Knightsbridge home, situated just behind Harrods, and their Berkshire golf course.

Expensive ring needed repair

During an application on Monday for permission to hold the ring for six months, Westminster Magistrates Court heard that it had been seized last Friday after investigators identified it at a branch of Cartier jewellers.

The ring is described as an 8.9 carat "emerald-cut diamond".

It was bought by Mrs Hajiyeva's husband for £1,190,640 and their daughter, Leyla Mahmudova, had taken it to Cartier in July for repair.

Mrs Hajiyeva - who is fighting not just to keep her home but also to avoid extradition to Azerbaijan - was not represented at the hearing and the application was granted unopposed.

District Judge Michael Snow said: "There's a clear evidential link between the ring and Mr Hajiyev and he has been convicted of substantial fraud.

"That satisfies me that there are grounds to suspect that this is recoverable property."

That means the NCA can hold the ring in secure storage while it looks into where the money came from to buy it.

Last November, the NCA seized £400,000 of jewellery from the world-famous Christies auction house, which had been put up for auction by Mrs Hajiyeva's daughter.

Those 49 items can be held by investigators until May.

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