Nicholas van Hoogstraten
|Nicholas van Hoogstraten|
|Born||Nicholas Marcel Hoogstraten
25 February 1945
Shoreham-by-Sea, England, UK
|Occupation||Property tycoon, entrepreneur, businessman|
|Net worth||£500 million (estimated)|
Nicholas van Hoogstraten (born Nicholas Marcel Hoogstraten; 25 February 1945) is a self-made British businessman and real estate magnate. Van Hoogstraten is known for his business empire as well as his controversial life story: in 1968, he was convicted and sent to prison for paying a gang to attack a business associate. In 2002, he was sentenced to 10 years for the manslaughter of a business rival; the verdict was overturned on appeal and he was subsequently released, but in 2005 he was ordered to pay the victim's family £6 million in a civil case.
He has been estimated to be worth £500 million, although he claims his assets in the UK have all been placed in the names of his children.
Born Nicholas Marcel Hoogstraten in Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex, to working-class Catholic parents: Charles, a shipping agent, and Edna, a housewife. His mother was of German and English heritage, his father was of Dutch and French descent. He was educated at a local Jesuit school, but is also known to have attended Blessed Robert Southwell Catholic School in Goring-by-Sea, now known as Chatsmore Catholic High School.
Aged 11 he started selling stamps to noted collectors, from his personal collection that he claimed to be worth £30,000. It was later discovered that he was paying fellow-pupils to steal stamps to order from specialist shops along the south coast. Aged 14 he began wearing a suit to school, where he would excuse himself from classes to read the Financial Times and attend to business.
He left school in 1962 aged 17 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. On return to the UK he built-up his capital through a loan sharking business based in towns along the south coast of England, where he would take property deeds as the backing collateral. This allowed him to build up substantial property interests along the south coast and in London. In his early career he also owned a nightclub in Brighton, calling Rod Stewart "a greedy little runt" in a row over takings.
By 1968 (aged 23) he was Britain's youngest millionaire with a portfolio of more than 300 properties. That same year he began serving a four-year prison sentence for paying a gang to throw a grenade into the house of Bernard Braunstein, a Brighton rabbi, after Braunstein's son David allegedly owed van Hoogstraten £2,000 over a failed textile business.
By 1980, aged 35, he owned over 2,000 properties. He later sold the majority of his housing, investing in other fields outside Britain, chiefly mining and farming interests in Nigeria and later Zimbabwe. He was frequently interviewed in Courtlands Hotel, Hove, with which he has "close connections", but which is legally owned by his children.
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.
He has been a close associate of Robert Mugabe, whom he describes as "100 per cent decent and incorruptible", and Van Hoogstraten has said he does not "believe in democracy, I believe in rule by the fittest." 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." 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".
On 26 January 2008, he was arrested in Harare for allegedly charging rentals in US dollars rather than Zimbabwean dollars — forbidden under Zimbabwean law. He was charged with violating the Censorship Act by possessing pornography and was held in custody for five nights but released on bail. On 3 July 2009, it was reported that a Zimbabwe court had dismissed the charges of illegal currency dealing and possession of pornography: 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.
Van Hoogstraten told Lynn Barber, writing for The Observer in 2006, 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."
After his £6m payout to the family of Mohammed Raja, Van Hoogstraten emigrated to Zimbabwe. By 2013, he owned over 1,600 square miles (4,100 km2) of land including Central Estates, owned mineral rights in the Marange diamond fields, as well as houses in Harare, all of which are patrolled an protected by state officers managed by the Joint Operations Command. He also has businesses in Equatorial Guinea, and mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In 1968 he began serving a four-year prison sentence for paying a gang to throw a grenade into the house of Bernard Braunstein, a Brighton rabbi. The rabbi's son, David Braunstein, allegedly owed van Hoogstraten £2,000 over a failed textile business (adjusted for inflation the figure would be much higher as "you could buy a house for that much"). At the trial the judge described Hoogstraten as "a sort of self-imagined devil who thinks he is an emissary of Beelzebub." He has said of the incident: "It seems a bit distasteful to me now, but back then when I was young... these weren't anarchists, they were businessmen, respectable people."
He was jailed on eight counts of handling stolen goods and in 1972, was 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.
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". This conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal. During the preliminary stages of a re-trial Mr Justice Mitchell, the trial judge, ruled that there was "no foundation for a manslaughter case", and, consequently, Van Hoogstraten was formally acquitted. 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". Van Hoogstraten was not held guilty of Raja's murder or manslaughter under British criminal law, which requires a jury to be "certain so as to be sure of guilt" rather than operating on balance of probabilities. He allegedly told the BBC that Raja's family "will never get a penny". He explained to The Sunday Times that he had "no assets at all now in the UK", having placed those assets in the names of the five children he has reportedly fathered with a series of black African girlfriends.
He has been in the process of constructing Hamilton Palace, near Uckfield in East Sussex since the 1980s. Construction of the neoclassical building began in 1985 and had cost around £40 million by 2006. The enormous edifice is intended to house his collection of art — currently stored in Switzerland — and also includes a mausoleum. Under English law, perpetual trusts are only allowed in the upkeep of monuments and graves. By using the palace as a mausoleum, van Hoogstraten's trust would legally own the buildings and their fittings after his death. A large portion of his wealth has been transferred into a Bermudian trust for the upkeep of historic monuments.
He was involved in a long-running feud with the Ramblers' Association and a legal battle with the local authority over a right of way crossing the land around the mansion. In 1990, the paths were blocked with razor wire and discarded refrigerators.
Hamilton Palace was reportedly named after the capital of Bermuda, where van Hoogstraten owns property. With little on the project being constructed in recent years and substantial local opposition, the project is currently on hold and the building stands uncompleted and derelict.
Hamilton Palace is located at
- Emma Brockes "Even nastier Nick". The Guardian 8 September 2000
- Andrew Malone (27 July 2013). "Mugabe's British henchman: Nicholas Van Hoogstraten's astonishing new life". Daily Mail. Retrieved 27 July 2013.
- "The maniac in the mink", thesun.co.uk
- "Hoogstraten: My life in prison", theargus.co.uk (12 December 2003)
- Barber, Lynn (15 January 2006). "Nasty Nick". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 20 May 2010.
- "An 'emissary of Beelzebub'", BBC News, 22 July 2002
- Raath, Jan (3 July 2009). "The Times of London". Retrieved 20 May 2010.
- "Jane Kelly meets Nicholas van Hoogstraten", Sunday Times, 8 January 2006.
- Nicholas van Hoogstraten: Property Tycoon Held In Zimbabwe, Sky News; accessed 8 March 2014.
- UK tycoon 'arrested in Zimbabwe'
- "‘A self-imagined devil - an emissary of Beelzebub’", The Scotsman, 23 July 2002
- Raath, Jan (28 January 2008). "British tycoon Nicholas van Hoogstraten to face court in Zimbabwe". The Times (London). Retrieved 20 May 2010.
- "Tycoon found guilty." (22 July 2002). BBC News. Retrieved on 2008-01-26.
- "Hoogstraten freed after legal battle." (8 December 2003). BBC News. Retrieved 26 January 2008.
- "Tycoon 'responsible for killing.'", BBC News, 19 December 2005; retrieved 26 January 2007.
- "I won't pay a penny - Hoogstraten." (2 February 2006). BBC News. Retrieved on 2008-01-26.
- Hamilton Palace designers A.J. Browne website
- Walsh, Mike and Jordan, Don. (2003). Nicholas Van Hoogstraten - Millionaire Killer, John Blake, ISBN 0-904034-68-3
- Van Hoogstraten's life of controversy - BBC News website
- BBC News Archive of news stories relating to Van Hoogstraten
- "Sheriff Fatman" lyrics
- collection of Scotsman articles relating to the civil trial of the manslaughter case
- Network DVD - World in Action Vol. 3 - The Violent World of Nicholas Hoogstraten