How London turned into Richistan

Mail on Sunday

The city with more super-rich than anywhere else proves Putin had a point when he taunted PM about losing his capital to oligarchs.

It is 3am on a warm Tuesday in Cadogan Square, Belgravia, and a £200,000 orange Maserati screeches to a halt.
The driver revs the engine for several minutes, and the car – with Arab script on its registration plate – roars off into the night. By the time the sleepless residents reach their windows to peer out, the car has long gone.
For the next month the streets of the capital will be dominated by Ferraris and Maybachs in often garish colours, driven by the over-indulged sons of the Emirates aristocracy.

Sometimes the cars come straight from the Park Lane showroom. Sometimes the playboy owners fly their favourite vehicles – heavily customised, from gold-plated interiors to velvet-covered bodywork – more than 3,000 miles for a few weeks of fun in the London traffic.
It is an annual sojourn, delayed this year by Ramadan. With temperatures reaching 110F in Kuwait, Qatar and Abu Dhabi, the ruling families have flocked to the temperate if polluted air of Knightsbridge for shopping and leisure.

And for the younger men – nights of boozing and ostentatiously bad behaviour impossible back home.
Welcome to super-rich London, the city with the highest number of multi-millionaires in the world, according to the respected Wealth Insight analysis – more than 4,000 individuals with more than £20 million per head, placing London ahead of Tokyo, Singapore and New York.
Last week, speaking at the G20 Summit, Vladimir Putin described Britain as ‘a small island’. Nobody, said his spokesman, pays attention to it – except of course the Russian ‘oligarchs who have bought Chelsea’.

To that list he might have added the Khazakhs, Azerbaijanis, Malaysians, Chinese, Indians and even Greeks and Italians who are all scrambling to buy up London in ever greater numbers.
The tide of foreign wealth seems unstoppable. ‘Super-prime’ homes, usually defined as the top 5 per cent of the most valuable properties, are being sold to international buyers at a rate of almost 85 per cent, while 60 per cent of newly built property in London is bought by overseas investors, mainly from the Far East.
Greek and Italian investors are said to be buying £500 million of British property a year.

Just a few weeks ago, the former prime minister of Qatar, whose family owns a large slice of the One Hyde Park apartment complex among other UK trophy assets – the Qataris even own Harrods – said he would retire to London rather than his homeland.
His decision is symbolic. London has been transformed into a playground for foreign fortunes – a land of world-beating restaurants, limitless shopping and a reputation for extreme discretion.
It has helped create an image of the city as one of the world’s most glamorous and exciting destinations – yet also as a soft touch for plutocrats and dictators keen to hide their loot. It is no coincidence that Colonel Gadaffi chose the UK in which to keep an estimated £40 billion of his assets.
Gulf millionaires have been in Britain since the oil crisis of the mid-1970s, settling first in Mayfair and expanding to Knightsbridge. Their numbers and their wealth have grown relentlessly, expanding with the ever-rising price of energy – as has their appetite for London.
They are demanding customers, says the Quintessentially Lifestyle concierge company. ‘We recently had a request for a gold-plated BlackBerry – a bespoke phone,’ said Clementine Churchward, a partner in the firm.
‘Another client wanted a pet jellyfish. Last week a client sent 1,000 pink roses from Saudi Arabia to Southampton after his student girlfriend passed an exam.
‘We were once asked to source four months of camel milk, to be delivered every week when a Jordanian wife arrived to join her husband. Their one-year-old child was allergic to cow’s milk.’
If the Arabs have traditionally favoured Mayfair, a new breed of super-rich, the Russians, have colonised Belgravia and Kensington.
Alina Blinova runs Rustyle, which she describes as an events management, PR and lifestyle company. ‘Last summer a Russian friend came over and told me he wanted the most expensive house on the market,’ she says.
‘He didn’t care where, or how big it was. He bought a house costing £100 million with its own helicopter pads. He only uses it for two or three weeks a year.’

Her friend Natalie Kaut, a millionaire fashion designer originally from Ukraine, adds: ‘London is easy to live in and I feel safe here. There are cases where the men buy expensive mansions so that they can send their women and children to London. The children will get a good education, and the women can endlessly shop, although many of them are lonely. The men are happy to pay for everything because it leaves them free to enjoy their mistresses in Russia.
‘I can recognise Russian women in the street: they’re head to toe in labels, particularly Dolce and Gabbana, Versace, Roberto Cavali – they mix it with absolutely no taste – which can cost anything more then £10,000 an outfit.
‘Some Russians have grown up with money. There are others with the mentalities of farmers. Their wealth is the result of a criminal act. They then throw their money around. I don’t know how they get passports as many of them are wanted men. They cannot go back to Russia.’
Indians and Malaysians are also well represented in the money pouring in to London. One Indian tycoon recently gave a £5,000 tip to staff at 5 Hertford Street, Robin Birley’s new private members’ club.
And then there are the Chinese who, in the run-up to the London Olympics, were said to be spending £60 million a month in the property market, preferring new waterside buildings (seen as a good portent) in Canary Wharf and Richmond. Retail analysts have calculated that Chinese shoppers account for nearly a third of luxury goods sales in Britain.

One Hong Kong property billionaire, Joseph Lau Luen-Hung, reportedly spent £33 million on a six-floor mansion in Belgravia – a home for his £25 million Gaugin, £8 million Picasso and a 10,000-bottle wine collection.
But most wealthy Chinese have remained invisible.
The daughter of a millionaire sent here for a boarding school education followed by an English university, told The Mail on Sunday that it was no surprise her compatriots were so private. Hong Kong businessmen have long-established links with Britain, and she says her father is an industrialist in the north of mainland China. But some wealthy mainlanders in London are government officials with no right to the money they control.
Most of these people are anonymous, but she knows that Harrow and Oxford-educated Bo Guagua, son of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai – currently on trial for corruption – had a luxurious lifestyle when he studied in Britain, including an apartment in South Kensington. Such is the fear inspired by the Chinese authorities, it was safer, she said, if she did not give her name.
Nothing better illustrates the extraordinary influx of foreign money than London property. Behind the well-protected walls of Campden Hill in the heart of Kensington lies one of London’s most expensive and historic houses. But it is not visible to the public and is currently empty.
The house, a former ambassadorial residence, is owned ostensibly by an offshore company, but its real owner is a flamboyant and high-spending Jordanian playboy called Eyhab Jumean, former proprietor of the China White nightclub.

Jumean has for many years worked in the private office of Sheik Sultan bin Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyam, the billionaire Emir of Abu Dhabi.
Jumean also owns a mansion in Brick Street in Mayfair which includes an underground car park for his collection of Maseratis and Lamborghinis. He has owned these two houses for the past ten years and last month he put both on the market for a cool £100 million. The Campden Hill house is for sale for £75 million.
Thanks to the crisis in the eurozone, demand for top-end property has reached fever pitch, with European investors joining the scramble to park their money. Estate agent Savills has reported a 15 to 20 per cent increase in the number of wealthy Greek families looking to buy properties worth between £2 million and £4 million.
Rival Knight Frank has found that in South Kensington more than three-quarters of buyers from 2010 to 2013 were foreign.
In Kensington it was two out of three, notably Elena Franchuk, wife of Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Pinchuk and friend of Elton John, who bought an imposing mansion for £80 million.

Few have been as active as Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, who, rare among the super-rich, buys under his own name.
In 2011, he bought a £90 million mansion on Kensington Palace Gardens, the most exclusive street in the world.
Indian steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are neighbours.
He is in the process of selling his nine flats on Lowndes Square, Knightsbridge, for £52 million, as well as a £30 million house on Cheyne Walk, Chelsea.
Homes in London are worth £1.12 trillion, almost a quarter of the value of the UK’s entire housing stock, but only two-thirds of the buyers intend to live and work in London.
The result is hundreds of unoccupied properties, of which One Hyde Park, a venture between developer Candy and Candy and former Qatar prime minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al Thani, is the flagship.
It is the most expensive housing development in Britain.
According to Land Registry documents, almost all of the apartments – 59 of 80 – are owned by corporations registered in tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands and Liechtenstein, avoiding capital gains tax and stamp duty.
Residents include Rinat Akhmetov, the richest man in Ukraine, who bought two of the apartments for £136.4 million; Vladimir Kim, the former chairman of Kazakh copper company Kazakhmys; Sheik Mohammed Saud Sultan al-Qasimi of the Gulf emirate of Sharjah, and Nigerian oil tycoon Folorunsho Alakija.
So few of the apartments are permanently occupied by their super-rich owners that the building is dark most of time.
The foreign influx has helped create a vibrant super-rich economy. The titled owners and landlords of Chelsea, Belgravia, Knightsbridge and Marylebone – the Grosvenors, the Cadogans, the Howard de Waldens and Portmans – are certainly reaping the rewards.
Bolstered by this flood of new wealth, they are among the very few British families who can count themselves among the super-rich.
British finance houses are also grateful to foreign money, as are private schools, upmarket estate agencies, leading hotels, fashion houses and the art galleries and auction houses of Mayfair and South Kensington.
Nicholas Candy, co-developer of One Hyde Park, has said: ‘A lot of people don’t deliver the products they want . . . they want to have make-up fridges in the master bathroom for the ladies.’
The Forbes alternative cost of living index gives some insight into this parallel universe. Examples include a Russian sable coat by Maximilian for £170,000 (up 10 per cent from last year), a Sikorsky helicopter for £10 million, a kilo of Tsar Imperial Sevruga caviar for £8,700 or a thoroughbred yearling racehorse for just under £190,000.

Not everyone is in favour: the British ‘posh’, for example, have been driven out to a new inner ring of properties: instead of Belgravia, they buy in Pimlico; former Mayfair residents are in Marylebone; for Kensington, read Fulham. Central London is no longer affordable for the merely rich.

Theres a more seriously troubling side to the new wealth, too. If privacy is part of London’s appeal, so too is the generous tax regime for ‘non-doms’ and the lack of scrutiny of how the fortunes have been obtained.
British hedge fund founder Bill Browder, whose colleague Sergei Magnitsky was murdered in a Russian jail after his attempts to expose corruption, is emphatic.
‘A lot of the money sloshing around Mayfair, Belgravia, Chelsea and Knightsbridge is what I’d describe as blood money, flowing from horrific crimes,’ he says. ‘Not every member of the Russian super-rich is guilty of criminal behaviour, but a large proportion is.
‘One way to deal with this is to impose visa bans on those who are guilty of these crimes in their own country – like the Magnitsky Act we have helped introduce in America, which does just that.
‘It is an irony that such people want to keep their families and their stolen money in a place like London, a place that’s safe specifically because we do recognise property rights and the rule of law.’
London is a place where the rich can buy £50 million houses with offshore companies to hide their cash, where they can avoid tax, escape from legal prosecution from their homeland, and – for the most part – avoid being kidnapped and murdered. It is a safe refuge from extradition when charges of fraud and embezzlement are raised.
As there is no rule of law in many of the countries concerned, the judiciary rarely – if ever – extradite a foreign tycoon.
President Putin may well be right to say that no one pays attention to Great Britain.
Certainly that is the view taken by the millionaires and billionaires flocking to this country. They value the privacy we offer and – in a worrying number of cases – our readiness to turn a blind eye.

Additional reporting by Jo Knowsley and Angela Levin hairy girls hairy girl https://zp-pdl.com/best-payday-loans.php https://zp-pdl.com/get-quick-online-payday-loan-now.php payday loan

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