Van Hoogstraten's life of controversy
office at evnuk.org.uk
Sun Jan 27 00:04:49 GMT 2008
Van Hoogstraten's life of controversy
As the millionaire property developer Nicholas van Hoogstraten is
arrested in Zimbabwe, BBC News looks at his business practices and
Once heralded as Britain's youngest millionaire, Nicholas van
Hoogstraten has never made any secret of his robust approach to business.
During one of his many court appearances a judge described the tycoon
as a "self-styled emissary of Beelzebub".
>From an early age he aspired to be what he calls a "quality person"
and was a great fan of Margaret Thatcher because she made him "proud
to be English".
He left school at 16, joined the Navy and travelled the world. Just a
year later he sold his astutely acquired stamp collection for Â£1,000
and embarked on a business career, buying property in the Bahamas.
Now he is believed to have homes in Barbados, St Lucia, Florida,
Cannes and Zimbabwe.
He has spoken warmly of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, whom he
once described as "100% decent and incorruptible". He holds vast
fortunes in the African country and once said: "I don't believe in
democracy, I believe in rule by the fittest."
Nicholas van Hoogstraten, 62, is no stranger to controversy and his
list of previous convictions includes ordering a grenade attack on the
home of a business associate, a Jewish clergyman who he claimed owed
For that he spent four years in Wormwood Scrubs in the 1960s, but he
would later face much more serious charges.
In 1999, Mohammed Raja, 62, was shot dead by two men identified as Mr
van Hoogstraten's henchmen, but the tycoon's conviction for
manslaughter was quashed by the Court of Appeal in July 2003 and he
was freed five months later.
Following his release from prison Mr Raja's family brought a Â£6m civil
action against him.
In December 2005 the civil courts - where the standard of proof
required is much lower than the criminal courts - ruled that on the
balance of probability, Mr van Hoogstraten was involved in the murder.
High Court judges ordered him to pay Â£500,000 interim costs but the
businessman was typically defiant and stated that Mr Raja's family
would "never get a penny".
Mr van Hoogstraten also hit the headlines during an ugly spat with
ramblers over a public footpath through the grounds of the enormous
mansion he built near Uckfield in East Sussex.
Called Hamilton Palace, after Bermuda's capital, it is neo-classical,
with a copper dome.
It was estimated to have cost about Â£40m and was reportedly the most
expensive private house built in Britain for a century.
It is bigger than Buckingham Palace and has a 600ft art gallery and a
mausoleum designed to hold Mr van Hoogstraten's body for 5,000 years.
The mausoleum's walls are three feet thick because he said he wanted
to "make the building last for ever".
Never afraid of a fight, the tycoon has described taking on a nun at
She "tried to whack me with a chair-leg once - I grabbed it and hit
her and she never tried again".
The only purpose in creating great wealth like mine is to separate
oneself from the riffraff
Nicholas van Hoogstraten
He was born in 1946 in Shoreham, East Sussex, as Nicholas Marcel
Hoogstraten - the "van" was added later. His father was a shipping
agent and his mother a housewife.
With the profits he made from his Bahama property deals, he moved on
to the British housing market, buying six properties in Notting Hill,
London, before moving on to Brighton.
By the time he was 22, he was reputed to have had 350 properties in
Sussex alone and to have become Britain's youngest millionaire.
But he also gained a sinister reputation and was accused of using
strong-arm tactics against tenants of slum properties which he bought
cheaply for redevelopment.
In the 1980s, as the housing market boomed, he prospered, acquiring
more than 2,000 properties.
By the 1990s he had sold 90% of them, making massive profits and
investing in other areas, including global mining.
When a fire broke out at one of his properties in the early 1990s in
Brighton, he described the five people who died in the blaze as "scum".
To Mr van Hoogstraten his tenants are "filth", while people who live
in council houses are "worthless and lazy".
He once said: "The only purpose in creating great wealth like mine is
to separate oneself from the riffraff."
He has also said he believes that "the whole purpose of having money
is to put yourself on a pedestal".
He has five children - four sons and a daughter - by three different
He said he is preparing his eldest son, Rhett, to take over his empire
- which he says is worth Â£800m.
In a BBC interview in 2002 the property baron said he had no plans to
retire, but wanted his son to be groomed to eventually take over.
He said: "I'm still young and fit and I've got a long time to go. I'd
like him to shadow me and find out everything that's going on.
"But it's a difficult task because I keep everything close to my
chest, nothing's in writing, there are no records of anything."
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/01/26 15:44:55 GMT
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