Friday, 2 December 2011
Hide And Seek
Number One Hyde Park has been well publicised in the media as the ultimate London property development. The prices are said to be from £3 million plus for a shoebox one bedroom flat to £36 million for a posh penthouse.
In its way it is a microcosm of the insanities of the UK property market as well as an extreme example of how wrong our money system is going. The latest information is that a large number of the flats are not paying in council tax to the local authority.
This is Westminster Council, the home of our seat of government where you might expect a greater attention and drive to get in the revenues. But it seems there are obstacles. The first is that the developers and sellers of the flats claim that they do not “know” who owns them.
That the Candy brothers are less able to identify their customers than the chap who sells garden sheds down the road from us is a source of wonder to me given the extent and nature of administrative and legal services available to them, but there you go. Even the biggest beasts can be totally incompetent.
Or perhaps it might raise some interesting questions about the sales tactics. One matter is how the prices were originally “benchmarked”. There is the smell of the “huckster’s plant” about this. Have someone put up a big bid early and all else will follow.
Candy brothers are well connected with other London property players so they would not have too much trouble finding a helpful friend. Especially, as amongst their closer contacts there were some who really needed to protect whatever wealth they could rescue from the demands of anxious creditors and others.
Legally, of course it is all shipshape and trim and not a speck to be seen. The owners of the flats are all business people with complex financial structures. These are the kind that disappear wealth from beyond these shores through a chain of secrecy jurisdictions to a place that nobody can find.
Least of all the tax gatherers of Westminster City Council. What is really odd about the whole business is the annual Council Tax payable is reported to be £1375 a flat. This figure may surprise most readers and it is likely that very many people would be delighted to have any flat or home, Knightsbridge or wherever where the total Council tax payable was as low as this.
How did they manage it? If it is correct it must be legal. Yet there are the most elaborate arrangements in place to avoid it on behalf of some of the richest people on the planet. Or would they rather not be identified for reasons we can only speculate about?
The problems relating to this kind of thing in the property world are well known. Apparently, the covering up of ownership information enables avoidance of stamp duty and a range of other taxable charges and expenses.
Quite how much in total a wealthy property investor can avoid or evade is astonishing. The national estimates for this are staggering in the context of our present fiscal situation.
From what is known about some of the flats from the back of my personal random memory between the ears came a little voice saying “’Ullo, ‘ullo, ‘ullo.” Names emerged from the mist of Scotch there. These are well known to many people in and around the London elite and their connections.
That the owners are truly anonymous is highly unlikely. If I am right not only do many know who they are but they are also major donors to the Conservative Party with a direct line to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
And nobody dare breathe a word.