Woman who spent $21M at Harrods bailed, fights extradition

Hajjiyeva’s local shop was posh department store Harrods, where British investigators say she spent 16 million pounds ($21 million) over the course of a decade. (Getty Images)
Updated 08 November 2018
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Woman who spent $21M at Harrods bailed, fights extradition

  • British investigators say she spent 16 million pounds at Harrods over the course of a decade
  • Britain’s National Crime Agency wants to know where Hajjiyeva got the money

LONDON: Like many people, Zamira Hajjiyeva often dropped by a neighborhood shop, just down the street from her London home, to pick up a few things — including gem-encrusted jewelry and a cellar-full of fine wines.
Hajjiyeva’s local shop was posh department store Harrods, where British investigators say she spent 16 million pounds ($21 million) over the course of a decade, using 35 credit cards issued by a bank led by her husband.
Britain’s National Crime Agency wants to know where Hajjiyeva got the money to fund her Harrods shopping sprees and buy two UK properties worth 22 million pounds ($29 million).
She is also the subject of a separate investigation in her home country of Azerbaijan, where her husband, former International Bank of Azerbaijan Chairman Jahangir Hajjiyev, was sentenced to 15 years in jail in 2016 for fraud and embezzlement.
On Thursday, Hajjiyeva was freed on bail by a British judge while she fights extradition to Azerbaijan over embezzlement allegations.
Hajjiyeva, 55, is the first person to be subject to an Unexplained Wealth Order, a measure introduced by the UK at the beginning of the year in a bid to curb London’s status as a haven for ill-gotten gains. The orders allow authorities to seize assets from people suspected of corruption or links to organized crime until the owners account for how they were acquired.
At a court hearing this year, a lawyer for the National Crime Agency gave details of Hajjiyeva’s spending at Harrods, including 100,000 pounds in one day on Cartier jewelry, 150,000 pounds in another trip on goods from luxury brand Boucheron, and 1,800 pounds on wine.
Last week the agency, which investigates cross-border and organized crime, seized 49 items of jewelry worth 400,000 pounds from Christie’s auction house, where Hajjiyeva’s daughter had taken them to be valued.
The items included a Boucheron sapphire and ruby necklace worth up to 120,000 pounds and a Van Cleef & Arpels pearl necklace worth 20,000 pounds, which investigators say was originally bought by Hajjiyeva’s husband in St. Moritz, Switzerland, for more than 10 times that amount.
Hajjiyeva denies wrongdoing and is fighting to overturn the order and hang on to her assets.
Her lawyers have said the wealth order “is part of an investigative process, not a criminal procedure, and it does not involve the finding of any criminal offense.”
Separately, Hajjiyeva was arrested last week by British police at Azeri request over alleged embezzlement. A High Court judge ruled Thursday that there were no “substantial grounds” to refuse her bail.


Jar wars: the Italian plot to weaken Nutella

Updated 56 min 54 sec ago
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Jar wars: the Italian plot to weaken Nutella

  • Nutella, invented by family-owned firm Ferrero, is a favorite among sweet-toothed youngsters at home and abroad
  • Barilla is preparing to launch a chocolate spread next year in a major challenge to Nutella

MILAN: Chocolate spread Nutella has long had pride of place on supermarket shelves but faces imminent attack from an Italian rival usually found in the pasta section.
Italy’s Barilla, known internationally for its spaghetti and maccheroni packaged in blue boxes, is preparing to launch a chocolate spread next year in a major challenge to the brand that became a global phenomenon in the 1980s, sources said.
Nutella, invented by family-owned firm Ferrero, is a favorite among sweet-toothed youngsters at home and abroad and generates annual sales of more than €2 billion ($2.3 billion).
With 54 percent of the global market for chocolate spreads, Nutella is the leader and faces virtually no major competition as a mass-marketed brand.
Cokokrem of Turkey’s Yildiz Holding is the second most popular spread with a share of only 2 percent, according to market research provider Euromonitor International.
But two sources familiar with Barilla’s plan say its new spread, Crema Pan di Stelle, seeks to exploit a perceived weakness of Nutella: its use of palm oil.
The ingredient has drawn a consumer backlash due to health and environmental concerns. Ferrero launched an ad campaign in 2016 to defend its use of palm oil, saying it was safe when refined at controlled temperatures and that the company only bought oil from sustainable palm plantations.
Barilla decided to mount a challenge to Nutella after sensing that Ferrero was starting to encroach on the pasta-maker’s lesser-known biscuit business, one of the sources said.
Industry sources said Ferrero will launch a Nutella-filled biscuit next year, seen as a direct challenge to Barilla’s own chocolate cookie brand, Baiocchi.
Ferrero declined to comment on the new biscuit.
To take on Nutella, Barilla has prepared a recipe that contains sunflower oil, 10 percent less sugar, Italian-only hazelnuts and cocoa from sustainable farms, one source said.
Barilla, also a family-owned firm, has presented its spread to buyers at major supermarket chains and could launch it as soon as January in Italy, the sources said.
Still, it faces a tough challenge.
One industry expert said it could cost several million euros just to secure a spot on the same supermarket shelves as Nutella, which commands a premium eye-level position.
“Crema Pan di Stelle will increase competition for Nutella in Italy thanks to the considerable brand awareness it has among domestic customers, but Barilla will find it difficult to take the challenge abroad,” said Marco Eccheli, director at the Italian unit of consulting firm AlixPartners.
Contacted for a comment Barilla said it would answer questions about new products in coming weeks.
The name Crema Pan di Stelle is taken from another of Barilla’s successful biscuits brands, Pan di Stelle or ‘bread of the stars’ which is sold mainly in Italy.
“It will contain crumbles of Pan di Stelle cookies to make it taste crunchy,” the source said.