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Nicholas van Hoogstraten (born Nicholas Hoogstraten on 25 February 1945) is a controversial British businessman and real estate magnate. In 1968 he was convicted of paying a gang to attack a business associate.[1] In 2002 he was sentenced to 10 years for the manslaughter of a business rival. The verdict was overturned on appeal but in 2005 he was ordered to pay the victim's family £6 million in a civil case. On 3 July 2009, The Times of London reported that he had changed his name by deed poll to Adolph von Hessen.[2]

He is estimated to be worth over £500million. His assets in property and farming alone are estimated to be worth over £200million.[3]

Contents

Life

He was born Nicholas Marcel Hoogstraten in Shoreham-by-Sea, the working-class son of a shipping agent. His mother was of German and English heritage, his father was of Dutch and French heritage.[citation needed] He says he was educated at a local Jesuit school, but is known to have attended Blessed Robert Southwell Catholic School in Goring-by-Sea, now known as Chatsmore Catholic High School. He left school in 1962 and joined the merchant navy for a year. He began his property business in the Bahamas with an initial investment of £1,000 realised from the sale of his stamp collection.[1]

He subsequently returned to Great Britain later in the 1960s with purchases in London and Brighton. In an article in the Observer, he was said to have been an associate of Peter Rachman[4], although Rachman died the year Hoogstraten left school. By 1968 he was reportedly Britain's youngest millionaire (aged 23) with a portfolio of over 300 properties, but the same year he began serving a four-year sentence in prison, for paying a gang to throw a grenade[1] into the house of Rev Braunstein, a Jewish leader whose eldest son owed him £2,000.[5] Of the incident he has said: "It seems a bit distasteful to me now," he says, "but back then when I was young . . . these weren't anarchists, they were businessmen, respectable people."[1]

He was also jailed on eight counts of handling stolen goods and in 1972 given a further 15 months for bribing prison officers to smuggle him luxuries. “I ran Wormwood Scrubs when I was in there,” he has said.[5]

By 1980 he owned over 2,000 properties. He later sold the majority of his housing, investing in other fields outside Britain, including mining interests in Nigeria and later Zimbabwe.

He is frequently interviewed in the Courtlands Hotel which he has "close connections with", but which is legally owned by his children.[6]

He was fined £1,500 in 2001 for contempt of court after telling the opposing counsel: “You dirty bastard . . . in due course, you are going to have it.”[7]

Mohammed Raja case

In July 2002, van Hoogstraten was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment for the manslaughter of Mohammed Raja, after being found not guilty of murder: a jury at the Old Bailey decided that "although he wanted Mr Raja harmed, he had not wanted him murdered".[8] This conviction was quashed in July by Judge Sir Stephen Mitchell who agreed that "there was no foundation for a manslaughter case."[9] On 19 December 2005 the family of Raja, in a civil action against van Hoogstraten, were awarded £6 million by Mr Justice Lightman, after the court found that the balance of probabilities was "that the recruitment of the two thugs was for the purpose of murdering Mr Raja and not merely frightening or hurting him".[10] Mr van Hoogstraten is not held to be guilty of Mr Raja's murder or manslaughter under British criminal law: this requires proof beyond reasonable doubt rather than on balance of probabilities. Mr van Hoogstraten is alleged to have told the BBC that Mr Raja's family "will never get a penny".[11]

Hamilton Palace

He has been in the process of constructing Hamilton Palace, near Uckfield in East Sussex since the 1980s.[4] Construction of the neo-classical building began in 1985 and cost around £40 million up to 2006. The enormous edifice is intended to house his collection of art (currently stored in Switzerland[4]) and also includes his mausoleum. Under English Law[12] perpetual trusts are only allowed in the upkeep of monuments and graves. By using the Palace as a mausoleum, Hoogstraten's trust would legally own the buildings and its fittings after his death. A "large section" of his wealth has been transferred[4] into a Bermudan trust for the upkeep of historic monuments.

He has been involved in a long running feud with the Ramblers' Association and a legal battle with the local authority over a right of way that crosses the land around the mansion. In 1990 the paths were blocked with razor wire and discarded refrigerators.[2]

Hamilton Palace is so named because of the property van Hoogstraten owns in the capital of Bermuda (Hamilton). Furthermore, the surnames of his children are also Hamilton. With little on the project being constructed in recent years and substantial local opposition, the project is currently abandoned after problems with contractors.[13]

Links with Zimbabwe

He first bought an estate in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) when he was 19. At around the same time he became friends with Tiny Rowland, who was then in charge of the London and Rhodesian Mining Company.[4]

He has been a close associate of Robert Mugabe (who he describes as "100 per cent decent and incorruptible" [14]), and in 2005 announced plans to take over NMB, a major Zimbabwe bank, though he sold his stake in the bank for over £1 million in late 2007. In 2009, it was reported he had been "a generous contributor to Mr Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) party and (had) bought into several large state-owned companies."[2]

In January 2006 he said in an interview with The Sunday Times that as a result of loaning £10 million to Mugabe “In six months’ time, when the interest is due, it would be cheaper for them to just kill me”.[15]

On 26 January 2008, he was arrested in Harare for allegedly charging rentals in US dollars rather than Zimbabwean dollars — illegal under Zimbabwean law.[2][16] He was also charged with violating the Censorship Act by possessing pornography [17] and was held in custody for five nights but released on bail.[2]

On 3 July 2009, it was reported that a Zimbabwe court had dismissed the charges of illegal currency dealing and possession of pornography on technicalities: the police were unable to produce the officer who had allegedly caught him on the currency charge and they had seized the allegedly pornographic photos without a warrant.[2]

Mr van Hoogstraten has told an Observer reporter that he pays for the education of three children in every school in Zimbabwe: "Actually, it doesn't cost a lot of money in real terms, but I've set up things like that that will continue."[4]

Public opinion

  • Judges have referred to Mr van Hoogstraten as a "bully" and an "emissary of Beelzebub".[18]
  • The 1989 Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine hit single "Sheriff Fatman" includes references to a fictional slum landlord described thus: "Now he's moving up onto second base... behind Nicholas Van Wotsisface" as becoming London's second worst landlord.

References

Further reading








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