Nicholas van Hoogstraten
Nicholas van Hoogstraten
Nicholas van Hoogstraten in 1988
Nicholas Marcel Hoogstraten
25 February 1945
|Occupation||Property tycoon, entrepreneur, businessman|
|Net worth||£500 million (estimated)|
Nicholas van Hoogstraten (born Nicholas Marcel Hoogstraten; 25 February 1945) is a British businessman and convicted criminal involved in property.
Van Hoogstraten is known for his property empire as well as his life history: 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.
Early life and career
Nicholas Marcel van Hoogstraten was born in Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex, to Charles, a shipping agent, and Edna, a housewife. His mother was of German and English heritage, his father was reportedly of Flemish and French descent.
His grandfather was a major shareholder in the British-based East India Company, although the value of this interest had expired by the time Hoogstraten was born. He was educated at a local Jesuit school, but is also known to have attended Blessed Robert Southwell Catholic School in Goring-by-Sea.
He left school aged 16, 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 moved to Notting Hill Gate and bought houses very cheaply because of rent controls, but indulged in "persuading" tenants to move out using threatening practices associated with Peter Rachman. 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. Many loanees were unable to maintain his unreasonable payment terms and defaulted their properties to him, enabling him to build up a substantial property portfolio along the south coast and in London.
Braunstein case and imprisonment
Aged 22, he was convicted for paying a gang to throw a grenade into the house of Rev Bernard Braunstein, a Brighton cantor on 12 November 1967. Braunstein's son David owed a debt to Hoogstraten (the van was added later) over a failed textile business they had jointly owned. Hoogstraten had become dissatisfied with a payback arrangement the two men had made. According to evidence given in court by Sylvia Braunstein, the wife of Braunstein senior, in a threatening altercation at the Braunsteins' home, Hoogstraten had announced: "I'm a Fascist, and a Nazi, didn't you know that? If I wanted I could pay £50 to men in London to get every Jew in Brighton bumped off".
He was sentenced to a four-year prison sentence in May 1968, and sentenced to a further four-year sentence the following August, which ran concurrently, rather than in sequence after an appeal. At an appeal in 1970, the Lord Justice Wynn described Hoogstraten as "a sort of self-imagined devil who likes to think of himself as an emissary of Beelzebub". Thinking Hoogstraten had "built up a picture of himself as a sinister international figure", he believed Hoogstraten was little more than "a child, a Walter Mitty character who will grow out of all this nonsense". Van Hoogstraten said of the grenade attack in 2000: "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 arrested immediately after his release, and was subsequently jailed on eight counts of handling stolen goods. In October 1972, he was sentenced to a further 15 months for bribing prison officers to smuggle him luxuries. "I ran Wormwood Scrubs when I was in there", he told Jane Kelly of The Sunday Times in January 2006.
Hamilton Palace (1985–present)
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.
On the site of the former High Cross House, a nursing home destroyed by fire caused by unknown reasons, van Hoogstraten began constructing Hamilton Palace, near Uckfield in East Sussex in the mid-1980s. Hamilton Palace, located at 50.946966, 0.120901, was reportedly named after the capital of Bermuda, where van Hoogstraten owns property.
Construction of the palace began in 1985 and had cost around £40 million by 2006. The neoclassical palace features a copper dome and is larger than Buckingham Palace. The enormous edifice is intended to house his collection of art—currently stored in Switzerland—including 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 in perpetuity 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, he had the paths blocked with razor wire and a pile of discarded refrigerators.
With little on the project being constructed since van Hoogstraten fell out with the architect, Anthony Browne, in 2000  the building stands uncompleted. When neighbours called for the property to be put to "good use" by helping the needy, van Hoogstraten said, "The 'homeless' – the majority of whom are so by their own volition or sheer laziness – are one of the filthiest burdens on the public purse today. The chance of my offering an opportunity for them to occupy Hamilton Palace is just ludicrous." He also denied that the project had stalled, saying "Even the most moronic of peasants would be able to see from the pictures that we have been busy landscaping the grounds of the Palace." 
Mohammed Raja case
In July 2002, van Hoogstraten was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment for the manslaughter of Mohammed Sabir 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 retrial Mr Justice Mitchell, the trial judge, ruled that there was "no foundation for a manslaughter case", and, consequently, van Hoogstraten was formally acquitted. 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 get it".
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 English 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 African girlfriends. Frequently interviewed in the Courtlands Hotel in Hove, it is a property with which he has "close connections", but which is legally owned by his children.
In February 2018, a judge accepted that van Hoogstraten did not have the money or assets to pay the family. Describing van Hoogstraten's conduct as "wholly deplorable and contemptuous", Mr Jusice Morgan said: “If there was any way I could make Mr van Hoogstraten pay for all this, I would gladly do it.”
Later life based in Zimbabwe
Hoogstraten first bought an estate in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) in 1964, aged 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 the country's former leader Robert Mugabe, whom he describes as "100 per cent decent and incorruptible"; van Hoogstraten has said he "[does not] believe in democracy, I believe in rule by the fittest".
In 2005, he 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 Mugabe's Zanu (PF) party and [had] bought into several large state-owned companies".
In January 2006, he stated 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 demanding payment in US dollars for rents rather than in Zimbabwean dollars, which is forbidden under Zimbabwean law. He was charged with violating the Censorship Act by possessing pornographic photographs; women in "indecent poses", a proportion of which also featured van Hoogstraten himself. He was held in custody for five nights but released on bail.
On 3 July 2009, having reputedly changed his name to Nicholas Adolf von Hessen by deed poll, 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 pornography without a warrant.
Van Hoogstraten claimed to 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".
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.
Van Hoogstraten in popular culture
- On 13 August 1988 van Hoogstraten made an extended appearance on the British television discussion programme After Dark, alongside among others Marie Jahoda and Owen Oyston.
- In the song Sheriff Fatman, the anti-hero of the song is an unscrupulous businessman, infamous for fifteen minutes, who is compared with Nicholas van Whats His Face, considered by many critics to be a transparent reference to van Hoogstraten.
- Brockes, Emma (8 September 2000). "Even nastier Nick". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
- Barber, Lynn (15 January 2006). "Nasty Nick". The Observer. London. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
- "Explosives charge man 'was like one of family". The Times. 15 December 1967. p. 14. (subscription required)
- "More inquiries over jail corruption". The Times. 19 October 1972. p. 15. Retrieved 4 February 2018. (subscription required)
- "Van Hoogstraten's life of controversy". BBC News. 26 January 2008. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
- "Profile: Nicholas van Hoogstraten: Attila the landlord is back with a vengeance". The Sunday Times. 14 December 2003. Retrieved 4 February 2018. (subscription required)
- Kelly, Jane (8 January 2006). "Jane Kelly meets Nicholas van Hoogstraten". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
- Millward, David (20 December 2005). "'Emissary of Beelzebub' who revels in his own notoriety". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
- Raath, Jan (3 July 2009). "Zimbabwe court clears Nicholas van Hoogstraten of porn and currency charges". The Times. London. Retrieved 20 May 2010.
- Hamilton Palace designers A.J. Browne website
- Selby, Alan (19 March 2016). "'Slum landlord Nicholas van Hoogstraten slams 'filthy migrant peasant' neighbours". The Daily Mirror. Retrieved 5 December 2018.
- "Tycoon found guilty" (22 July 2002), BBC News. Retrieved 26 January 2008.
- "Hoogstraten freed afvter legal battle." (8 December 2003). BBC News. Retrieved 26 January 2008.
- Raath, Jan (28 January 2008). "British tycoon Nicholas van Hoogstraten to face court in Zimbabwe". The Times. London. Retrieved 20 May 2010.
- "Tycoon 'responsible for killing.'", BBC News, 19 December 2005. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
- "Nicholas van Hoogstraten: Property Tycoon Held In Zimbabwe", Sky (United Kingdom); 26 January 2008. Retrieved 11 March 2014.
- "Hoogstraten: My life in prison", theargus.co.uk, 12 December 2003. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
- "Hoogstraten sees off claim from estate of murdered rival Brighton and Hove landlord", brightonandhovenews.org, 27 February 2018. Retrieved 5 December 2018.
- "An 'emissary of Beelzebub'", BBC News, 22 July 2002. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
- "Nicholas van Hoogstraten: Property Tycoon Held In Zimbabwe", Sky News. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
- "UK tycoon 'arrested in Zimbabwe'"; retrieved 12 March 2014.
- Nicholas van Wotsisface
- Walsh, Mike and Jordan, Don. (2003). Nicholas Van Hoogstraten – Millionaire Killer, John Blake, ISBN 978-1-904034-68-1
- Van Hoogstraten's life of controversy – BBC News website
- BBC News Archive of news stories relating to Van Hoogstraten
- collection of Scotsman articles relating to the civil trial of the manslaughter case
- The Guardian meets van Hoogstraten
- Network DVD – World in Action Vol. 3 – The Violent World of Nicholas Hoogstraten