Just one anonymous door on Harley Street is home to
2,159 shadowy shell companies.
By Oliver Bullough and cross-posted from The Daily Mail
Looking up on an autumn evening at the windows of Britain’s most expensive and desirable apartment block, One Hyde Park, it is hard not to notice an odd anomaly. Very few of the lights are burning.
At the top of this modernist block, built as a joint venture between its developers, the Candy Brothers, and a firm belonging to Qatar’s former prime minister, is a penthouse. In 2010, it sold for £140 million — making it at the time the most expensive flat in the world.
The development is owned offshore, beyond the reach of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs or other British authorities, as are most of the flats within. It is hard to say exactly how much living here would cost or who the inhabitants are. But whoever lives at One Hyde Park, most of them don’t appear to spend much time at home.
This is not unusual. With a group of friends, I help run trips called the London Kleptocracy Tours: we fill up a bus with 50 sightseers, rather as if we were taking them round Hollywood to see where Clark Gable used to live or Scarlett Johansson gets her hair cut. Instead of showing them stars, however, we show them more dubious characters.
Across central and west London, our guides point out properties owned by ex-Soviet oligarchs, the scions of Middle Eastern political dynasties, Nigerian regional governors and all the other people who are hiding fortunes.
On the route is Eaton Square in Belgravia, now perhaps London’s most prestigious address — a magnificent oblong of grand, cream-painted, four-square houses behind shoulder-height black railings.
One of the cheapest at a mere £15 million was recently commandeered by anarchist squatters. It belongs to Andrei Goncharenko, a manager at a subsidiary of the Russian gas giant Gazprom, who bought a string of properties in the capital between 2011 and 2014…