A tax-avoiding property developer is trying to evict a group of homeless people from a shelter

'you can't hide homelessness' graffiti
Steve Topple

A property developer whose majority shareholder is registered in the tax haven of the British Virgin Islands is trying to evict a group of homeless people occupying one of its unused buildings.

Direct action

As The Canary previously reported, Streets Kitchen is a grassroots group, supporting homeless people and rough sleepers across London. And it has taken matters into its own hands by occupying 204 Great Portland Street, on the boundary between Fitzrovia and Marylebone. The building, Sofia House, is being ‘regenerated‘ by W1 Developments, but has been standing vacant. So Streets Kitchen has turned it into the ‘Sofia Solidarity Centre’.

As Jon Glackin from Streets Kitchen said:

We’ve taken this building back. It’s been empty for five years. So [we’ve] reoccupied it to provide a space space for homeless people in this treacherous weather. Basically, trying to save people’s lives.

But now, Streets Kitchen has been served with court papers saying that it needs to appear before the County Court at the Royal Courts of Justice, central London, on Wednesday 14 March at 2pm. The notice is a “claim form for possession of property”. The property is officially known on the Land Registry as Holy Trinity Church House and 73 and 74 Bolsover Street:

Streets Kitchen Court One

Streets Kitchen Court Two

Aside from showing that W1 Developments is not happy about Streets Kitchen’s occupation, the papers also shine a light on the property developer’s financial affairs.

Take a deep breath…

Planning applications from the council show that the company behind the apparent company 204 GP Street (Jersey) Limited is W1 Developments (the planning application numbers here and here [pdf, p5] are the same). But because Jersey as a jurisdiction does not hold a Companies House database like the rest of the UK, it is almost impossible to know anything more about 204 GP Street (Jersey) Limited. But we can find out more about W1 Developments.

W1 Developments currently has six projects, while officially making a loss of just under £75,000 in the year up to 28 February 2017 [pdf, p2]. The company did not generate any revenue, but merely acted as an effective debt holding company; owing £217,380 [pdf, p5]. It paid £723 corporation tax in that year [pdf, p5].

In December 2017, Concord London Developments became [pdf] the majority shareholder in W1 Developments. This company in turn has a majority shareholder [pdf, p6] called Theola Investments Ltd, registered in the British Virgin Islands. It owns 55% of Concord, with directors Michael Keaveney and Christopher Murray owning another 22% each.

And there’s more…

But W1 Developments is registered out of Brecher LLP, a law firm’s office. Brecher has 17 partners, one of whom is Andrew Brecher. He, in turn, is the secretary of Ridgeford Properties Management Limited, whose director is W1 Development’s Christopher Murray. This company is a subsidiary [pdf, p11] of Ridgeford Developments Limited, of which Murray is the sole director.

For the year ending 31 March 2016, Ridgeford Developments owed [pdf, p24] another subsidiary, Ridgeford Properties Limited, over £4m. Murray is also a director of this company, and its secretary is Brecher Abram Nominees Limited. This also acts as the secretary to another company, Ridgeford Properties (Bolsover Street) Limited, which is classed as dormant.

What makes this spider’s web all the more intriguing is that the official court document lists Ridgeford Properties Limited as the “development and project property manager for the claimant”:

Streets KLitchen Three

And to make sure your head is completely spinning, the ultimate owner [pdf, p24] of the Ridgeford group of companies is Urban Sky Investments Limited, based in Canada.

Also, Murray is a director of a dormant company called Fairmore (204 GPS) Limited (“GPS” – Great Portland Street?) which owes [pdf, p8] £3m to Murray’s other company Ridgeford Developments Limited.

The £3.5m charge (or mortgage) provided to 204 GP Street (Jersey) Limited by HSBC on 8 October 2015 is filed on HM Land Registry as below:

Welcome to Tory Britain

Ultimately, what all this shows is that W1 Developments appears interested neither in paying much UK tax nor in being transparent about who owns what in its property portfolio. Meanwhile, Streets Kitchen has literally been saving the lives of homeless people and rough sleepers, with up to 100 staying each night at Great Portland Street.

W1 Developments appears to be yet another property company with dubious tax affairs and complex financial and legal arrangements, all with the goal of masking who owns what and where the money comes and goes from. And the fact that it now wants to throw dozens of homeless people and rough sleepers back onto the streets sums up the state of Tory Britain.

The Canary asked W1 Developments for comment, but none was received at the time of publication.

Get Involved!

– Support Streets Kitchen – contact it via Twitter DM if you can help. Also support Refugee Community Kitchen and StreetVetUK.

Featured image and additional images all via Streets Kitchen

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