Friday, 14 December 2012

The Royal Sands Development Ramsgate, The Hilton Hotel, Accor Hotels, The Isle of Thanet Gazette and Thanet District Council.


Today’s Isle of Thanet Gazetteh as a front page article called, Crunch time over the £25m Royal Sands development in Ramsgate, Here is the link to it http://www.thisiskent.co.uk/Crunch-time-25m-Royal-Sands-development-Ramsgate/story-17586373-detail/story.html and spread about it on pages 6 and 7 called, Chairman bars deal debate, which I can’t find for free online. And some related letters on the letters page, which I don’t think is free online either.

If you want to read the whole paper you can either, like me, go out and get a paper version, or you can pay for the online version, here is the link to do this http://eeditions.nmgl.co.uk/kent

Like all newspaper coverage it suffers a bit from the reporters having limited space, time and lots of other things to report, but overall the coverage is I think the best they have done on this issue.

The picture above was taken on 23rd November 2011 just before all activity on the site stopped.

I will take the article that is published online, that everyone can read first and talk about the issues this raises, which is mostly about figures that don’t seem to add up to me.

The main reason for these articles is the announcement that the speculator/developer has come up with the funding and the hotel operator, and is due have a secret meeting with Sue McGonigal (the council’s chief executive and head of finance) and Alan Poole (the council’s cabinet member and deputy leader).

The idea being to finalise the sale of the site to the developer for £3.3m.

I guess there are concerns here. One is that combining the role of chief executive and head of finance means that there may be a desire to take the money that outweighs the benefits to the local community. Another is that £3.3m could be very handy for the present cabinet to help balance the books.

It is a bit uncertain how many hotel operators have run away from this project, there is a big difference between expressing an interest, which is what I think Whitbread did in 2002, and committing funding to the project which is what Wetmore, if they ever existed did in 2009.

I guess the big question to ask any company with a reputation that gets involve in this project is. Do you know the idea is to build it on an EA designated high risk flood zone without a flood risk assessment and have you read the EA’s letter about this?

I would guess a newspaper headline like “Hilton hotel to built it on high risk flood zone without a flood risk assessment.” Isn’t going to necessarily be that good for their business.

Particularly if it comes after a big storm where the hotel has been damaged by the sea.

Back to the figures that don’t add up, the article says £5m has already been spent on the site, it also says that the developers contribution to the road layout and cliff was only around £600,000, which leaves the question what was the other £4.4m spent on.

Up to now, I had assumed the five million had mostly been spent on the new road layout, but now it looks as though this white elephant, particularly the huge roundabouts that appear to have little or no discernable purpose, were paid for by us taxpayers.


Speculating on where the money could have gone, I think the planning stage could have cost as much as £200,000, the surface drainage pipe around £700,000 and the antics of the three men and the digger on site last year £100,000, this leaves £3.4m.

Perhaps if the £1m deposited with the council was included, but that still leaves £2.4m.

I would guess if either The Hilton Group or The Accor group is genuinely involved it would mean new plans as I guess they would want some say in the design of the hotel, obviously this would lead to a new planning application and associated statuary flood risk assessment.


I have just asked Cllr Driver if he has had any replies to his emails about the documents relating to the financing of the development, when the developer asked for concessions last time and he sent me his latest letter to the chief executive of the council for publication, here it is.

Sent: Friday, 14 December 2012, 14:12
Subject: Urgent Pleasurama



Dear Ms McGonigal

The front page article of today's Thanet Gazette sates that yourself and Cllr Poole will be meeting with SFP on Tuesday of next week. I assume that this meeting is the beginning of the due diligence process. I would be grateful if you could confirm that this is the case.

I would also be grateful if you could let me know what plans are in place for me to see the full  due diligence documentation, have access to officer advice and the opportunity to raise any questions with you about the documents.

I am particularly busy at work at the moment so it would be very helpful to have an idea of potential dates as soon as possible. I would also be grateful if you could  let me have copies of the due diligence documentation in advance of any meeting as I would like to have the time to carefully study and check the information which SFP will be submitting to the Council. I am happy to collect such documents from the Council Offices.

I am assuming that SFP will have informed all of its prospective backers including the hotel company that the development is situated in a designated flood risk area.  Perhaps you could clarify this matter with them.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely


Cllr Ian Driver
Chair OSP

PS I am still awaiting a reply to my e-mail of the week before last about the checks carried out on documents in the 2009 Cabinet report re Pleasurama

Update Cllr Driver has had a partial reply to his email, which he has sent me for publication.

From: Sue McGonigal
Sent: 14 December 2012 18:01
To: cllr-Ian Driver
Cc: cllr-Alan Poole
Subject: RE: Urgent Pleasurama
 


Dear Cllr Driver,
The meeting next week is to continue the negotiations around the final version of the revised development agreement. It is possible that some information that will be used to support the due diligence will be presented.
As soon as we are in a position where we have an agreed revised draft agreement, we will then begin to formally collate all of the due diligence documentation.  Once we are at that stage we will convene a meeting to share the due diligence documents in full.  I would imagine that this will be very early in the New Year.

I will ask for clarification around the point you make regarding notification of flood plain risk.

Regards,

Sue

A further email from Cllr Driver for publication


From: cllr-Ian Driver
Sent: 15 December 2012 12:56
To
Subject: Accor Hotels and SFP Ventures (UK) Ltd

Dear Ms Thouvard,

I read with interest an article in this week's edition of the Isle of Thanet Gazette which states that Accor Hotels has agreed to finance a company called SFP Ventures (UK) Ltd to develop  a hotel at the Royal Sands Ramsgate, Kent, UK. I understand from the article that Accor Hotels have provided SFP Ventures UK Ltd with a letter which confirms that it will be supporting this company.

I am a Thanet District Councillor for the Ramsgate area and Chairman of the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Panel. I am writing to enquire if this article is correct and seek you confirmation that Accor Hotels are indeed supporting SFP Ventures (UK) Ltd in the development of the hotel at Ramsgate.

If Accor Hotels have agreed to support SFP Ventures (UK) Ltd, I assume that in the course of negotiations with you, they have  advised Accor Hotels that the UK Government's Environment Agency have designated the area in which the hotel is to be built as facing  a high probability of flooding. The Environment Agency has also recommended that the SFP Ventures (UK) Ltd conduct a Flood Risk Assessment of their proposed development in order to ensure the safety of residents. I do not believe that SFP Ventures have conducted  such a flood risk assessment.

As an elected Councillor one of my major concerns is the safety of local residents and visitors to Ramsgate. I am therefore writing to you to express my concern that Accor Hotels may be supporting  a company  (SFP Ventures (UK) Ltd) which does not appear to be following best practice in relation to the safety of people who may live and work in their development.

I attach a copy of the Environment Agency letter and look forward to hearing from you.


Yours sincerely



Councillor Ian Driver
Chairman Overview and Scrutiny Panel

I will carry on with this post as I get time, perhaps some ideas will appear in the comments.

57 comments:

  1. Michael, The way I read the article is that £600,000 came from the one "known" director. No mention is made of who put in the other £4.4 million or what it was spent on.

    Can't quite imagine a Ramsgate Hilton on the seafront.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I look forward to reading the reply from Accor Hotels to Ian Driver

      Delete
  2. Dear Ms McGonigal



    The front page article of today's Thanet Gazette sates that yourself and Cllr Poole will be meeting with SFP on Tuesday of next week. I assume that this meeting is the beginning of the due diligence process. I would be grateful if you could confirm that this is the case.



    I would also be grateful if you could let me know what plans are in place for me to see the full due diligence documentation, have access to officer advice and the opportunity to raise any questions with you about the documents.



    I am particularly busy at work at the moment so it would be very helpful to have an idea of potential dates as soon as possible. I would also be grateful if you could let me have copies of the due diligence documentation in advance of any meeting as I would like to have the time to carefully study and check the information which SFP will be submitting to the Council. I am happy to collect such documents from the Council Offices.



    I am assuming that SFP will have informed all of its prospective backers including the hotel company that the development is situated in a designated flood risk area. Perhaps you could clarify this matter with them.



    I look forward to hearing from you.



    Yours sincerely





    Cllr Ian Driver

    Chair OSP



    PS I am still awaiting a reply to my e-mail of the week before last about the checks carried out on documents in the 2009 Cabinet report re Pleasurama.



    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mr Driver,

      They will not reply to you. Some may think that is because they have too much to hide. Would a Judicial Review throw some light on this curious project?

      Delete
  3. Cllr Driver is clearly being given the run around. This is a done deal behind the scenes by the officers, which is why Green didn't want any debate. Poole thinks he will gain some importance and credibility but is so stupid he doesn't realise he is being used. He will just sit there, maybe ask one or two banal questions that will confirm to the developers how naive he is, and then smirk and stutter and grin, just like he does at Committee. The man is an absolute embarrassment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. These, some have said, dodgy speculators have won assisted by a few on the public payroll who need to keep details secret in order to protect their own skins.

      On the other hand I cannot overlook the possibility that the probity of all those involved is beyond doubt.

      Whatever the truth maybe this twisted tale will not go away. The protagonists are not home and dry.

      Delete
  4. Police involvement in Pleasurama the sooner the better.

    A tale of blatant bungs and theft. When will Ramsgate Labour explain their largest-ever £25k donation to Party funds?

    The public seem to be funding the councillors and civil servants to fund the councillors and civil servants as with the 0% salary fraud.

    And for Ian Driver not even to receive a reply from McGonigal after weeks is disgraceful. While secret council meetings are just the usual whitewash - who were the 27 councillors who wanted these held in secret so we know at election time? Reducing TDC by about half sounds about right.

    All documents should be FOI and placed online along with invoices and EKO and civil servant salaries, expenses, cars etc etc within the week. Why are the councillors allowing this secrecy?

    And yet another lost Summer with a derelict site.

    Get the Police in and make some arrests.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. On what charge exactly, 3:25? Unless there is real evidence of a criminal offence the police can do nothing and incompetent councillors, however annoying to us, cannot actually be arrested for the lack of substance between the ears.

      As for the bung, I think you will find that was over China Gateway to South Thanet Labour to help Ladyman and not into the coffers of Thanet Labour over Pleasurama.

      Delete
    2. Tom I have replied to 3.25’s comment before and am beginning to suspect he or she pastes it in with minor variations without either reading any replies or even more than the title of the post.

      What the purpose of the misinformation and the ludicrous assertions that most of the council officers should be arrested could be eludes me.

      Possibly to close down this blog as many similar comments – which I have deleted - have been libellous, possibly these comments are made by someone who is actually supportive of some of the more peculiar aspects of the development and considers making unsupported and over the top allegations will stifle any reasonable debate.

      Delete
    3. Tom, so there was a bung but for China Gateway but not Pleasurama? And that's OK and not a criminal offence?

      And Pleasurama is the normal seafront fire and devleopment by an unknown tax haven company without plans and secret meetings. And that's OK too?

      Michael's point on arresting most of the council officers is his own, and as inflated as his view persons unknown closing his blog for reasons unknown.

      We seem to have a corrupt council accepted and excused here. Or at best empty whining about it.

      Delete
    4. There was a donation, I understand from contributions to these pages by Cllr Wells and not disputed by anyone on the other side, to South Thanet Labour during the China Gateway negotiations. Whether there was anything criminal I very much doubt it with the then MP involved.

      Just for the record, if you can show that there was anything criminal in all this, please be my guest. I would be delighted to see some collars felt, but it needs a bit more proof than you constantly whining about alleged criminality. Evidence is what is required and I suspect you have none. Just your own wild theories.

      Delete
    5. You're dancing around Tom. You mentioned China Gateway as a bung. As did Chris Wells.

      Now you're saying maybe it wasn't?

      What proof would you suggest?

      Delete
    6. The word bung was yours and I really have no way of knowing how this money was transferred, in return for what favours or how the Labour party chose to use it. I just know that the £25000 often referred to was to do with China Gateway not Pleasurama and that the recipient party was Labour. Because the then MP was involved, with his reputation at stake, I would very much doubt there was anything irregular about it, but I really do not know. Unlike you, I do not add two and two to make five and then demand arrests.

      Much as I would dearly loved to see most Labour politicians carted away in chains, it is not going to happen anytime soon and you constantly screaming for police intervention without evidence is not going to help. If you really know something, go to the police with it, but, short of that, it is utter nonsense to keep on about police action.

      Delete
    7. Tom, you refer to the bung at 9:23 now you're dancing around saying you're not quite sure.

      It was a Labour bung you think? And for China Gateway not Pleasurama?

      Why haven't you as something of a Tory fanatic raised it with your party or the Tories raised it in council?

      Why are you so anti-police involvement? The Fraud Squad would be able to take a view on China Gateway and Pleasurama and the O% salary issue wouldn't they?

      Delete
    8. 11.23 For clarity here, Commercial Group Properties the company behind The China Gateway development (the one that has been awaiting compliance with a stringent agreement mostly to do with the original plans that were for a series of individual Chinese companies with there own septic tanks, processing their own sewage and poring the results into our drinking water reservoir) offered donations of £25k to both The Conservative Party and The Labour Party.

      The Labour Party accepted The Conservative Party didn’t.

      These were legitimate properly accounted donations, like pretty much all of the political party funding in this country, if you want to call them bungs, then it means the whole of our politics is funded with what you call bungs.

      Delete
    9. Anon, 11;23, I think Michael has fully answered your query. I am not anti-police involvement but having been one of them I probably have a greater understanding of what they can or cannot do than you obviously have. Suggest you ring the Fraud Squad with your suspicions and see what response you get.

      As for a Tory fanatic, I am actually much closer to UKIP.

      Delete
    10. Tom, it's embarrassing to watch you twist and turn. Now you're letting Michael speak for you - and that there were two bungs? And it involved the aquifer under Manston?

      If you were in say the Fraud Squad then you may well be right that they'd be useless or idle in investigating corruption.

      Given your claimed Police experience though how would you investigate these bungs under say the Fraud Act?



      Delete
    11. It may be embarrassing for you, 6:22, but it certainly isn't for me. You really cannot get the message can you. If you think there was anything wrong you report it for it is your allegation.

      Delete
  5. "I'll buy the freehold but yer can't expect much cos the site is a flood risk don't yer know. I got another bag full of promises for yer local to report." ?

    Stand by to be told that TDC did the best available deal for Thanet.

    What would make me laugh is if the purchaser employs cliff surveyors and charges TDC remediation for the million quids worth of patching they did.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Err, on all this flood risk business, when exactly was this site last flooded. I have lived here since 1944, regularly visited Merrie England in the old days and can never recall any flood.

      Delete
    2. 9.10 the council have already done another survey and are going to embark on more expensive patching. My guess though is that to get the cliff façade to a standard where it would work with a viable maintenance scheme, within the confined of the narrow gap between the cliff and the back of the development, for the life of the development, would require a different approach.

      Will the two documented occasions are 1897 where the sea demolished the buildings down there with the exception of the station and 1953 where the sea threw a 12 ton crane, that had been working on the beach, over the sea defence and into the middle of the site.

      The problem exists without any of the problems associated with rising sea levels for the life of the building, but the bottom line is that without a flood risk assessment no one actually knows what would be a reasonable flood protection plan and any new build there would be to a greater or lesser degree blighted.

      The other side of the flood risk issue relates to the new foundations not being screwed to the bedrock but sitting on the old sand beach with no one knowing the state of the sea wall there. all the council know is that it was built in 1860 and they have no plans and no maintenance record.

      What I find peculiar is that an sea defence works needed as the result of a flood risk assessment would be funded by the national costal protection budget and not the developer or council.

      Delete
    3. If flooding of the site happened in 1897 and 1953 this equates to a 1 in 56 year risk. This means the next inundation is overdue as it should have occurred in 2009.

      Pity it did not happen on time, then all the speculation would have be confirmed on a vacant site. But watch that space, nature has a habit of biting back and the recent UK inland flooding should be a sober warning.

      Conditions will conspire to repeat this flooding at some time in the future.

      Delete
    4. Readit I still had connections with Pleasurama in 1978 having worked for them on and off in the early 70s, the 1978 storm did some damage which wasn’t serious enough to make the local papers. The sea stove some of the doors in at the front causing some flooding and damaged the electrics after which the front part of the arcade that used to be The Long Bar, had the electrical gaming and leisure machined removed and was used for pool tables only. Obviously the majority of the Pleasurama site was at the level of the station platforms, so about a metre higher than the royal sands internal ground floor will be.

      I guess the damage to Ramsgate harbour wall and Margate during that storm overshadowed the relatively minor damage to the Pleasurama site.

      Delete
    5. On that basis London is about due for another Great Fire or Plague and don't even go there on flood risk with global warming. Maybe we should relocate them all to Margate?

      Delete
    6. I do not care too much about the statistics and even less about global warming. But I always keep in mind that the sea should be treated with respect. If it can reach you then one day it will. Historically the sea has a nasty habit of killing people.

      But of course the sea may yet meet its match in the intellect and might that is TDC and SFP.

      Delete
    7. Tom,

      The Great Fire of London and the Black Plague were caused by human negligence and can therefore happen at any time. Storms are natural occurrences which have a recognised repetition rate which is used to predict such natural events. You may be interested to know that all storm drains in the UK are designed using a 1 in (a certain number of years) storm occurrences.

      Delete
    8. Readit, fair comment, but do you not agree that human behaviour has similar repetition rates with history regularly repeating itself in cycles. Loved the bit about drains which is clearly a seriously flawed calculation in many places.

      As for me, well I am neither for or against the Pleasurama project, but just wish there was some evidence of a well conceived and researched plan leading to a reasonable use of major sea front site. At the moment it seems to be just a derelict building site adept at conjuring up in the minds of the Thanet troll community all sorts of conspiracies, scams, brown envelopes and bent officials. Realistically I think it is probably more down to crass inefficiency and little grey, brain dead councillors being easily conned by smooth talking developers and their agents.

      Delete
    9. Tom Clark,

      I take your point about TDC being conned by smooth talking developers and their agents. I agree that this debacle could be more a consequence of incompetence rather than crude corruption. I know for a fact that it is possible to corrupt a person by the use of flattery [a method popular with the KGB for use against Western targets]. This method can be just as effective against clever people because they delude themselves that they are in control, until the trap is sprung.

      Be it incompetence or brown envelopes, the people of Thanet have been poorly served and those responsible must atone.

      NB: and no Mr anonymous I am not suggesting that the KGB was involved. Other acronyms are also available.

      Delete
    10. Tom,

      If you consider storm drains are under designed as you imply, then consider that the flood of 1953 could have been a 1 in 50, 1 in 100 or a 1 in 200 year storm. If it was 1 in 50 then we are overdue for another, if it was 1 in 100 then we must expect another within 41 years and if it was a 1 in 200 year storm the repeat will be within 141 years. All these time scales are within the life of the proposed Royal Sands building and must make it a high insurance risk. History is certainly repeating itself with human behavior on Royal Sands, the developers have their heads firmly stuck in the sand and are in denial about the risk of site flooding.

      With regard to incompetence or corruption at TDC, I think the more important question is who are these "smooth talking developers" because they are almost certainly local.

      Delete
    11. Readit,

      I agree. This curious project is entirely a local affair.

      Delete
  6. I dont normally respond to anonymous comments. I think they are of little value, especially when it is so easy to adopt an internet "identity" so that the reader can assess the writer's interests over time. However, Anonymous December 14, 2012 10:52 PM accuses me of not wanting debate.
    To me, there are two issues here. One is how we got to the situation the Council finds itself in over the Royal Sands. That is largely a matter of record and is well within the remit of Cllr Driver's Scrutiny committee to investigate to see if lessons can be learnt. It would reqire Cllr Driver to do his job however rather than the current pattern of rabble rousing followed by retraction.
    The second issue, of much more interest to me, is how we proceed to bring forward the development for the benefit of Ramsgate's slow but steady regeneration. To suggest that negotiations btween the Council's Chief executive and the developer should be held in public is ridiculous, no business transaction could be carried out that way. However, once those transactions have been completed, then all parties at the Council should be informed and opinion obtained. This facility has already been offered to Councillor Driver as the current Chair of Scrutiny. As much as possible, allowing for the legalities of commercial confidentiality, should be shared with the public. Beyond that, the decision to proceed and responsibility is clearly that of the Cabinet Member, Cllr Alan Poole. It is his decision whether he wishes to share that responsibility with Cabinet or indeed the Council.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Councillor David Green,

      I take your point (including the one about the 'anonymice' that infest this blog).

      The reality of this curious Pleasurama project is that, rightly or wrongly, it has caused many tax payers to conclude that TDC is either incompetent, corrupt or both. And as you will appreciate not without reason. You may wish to reassure the voters that that their money is safe in the hands of TDC, and that the probity of all at TDC can be placed beyond doubt? How do you intend to do this?

      Delete
    2. Dave I find it a bit strange that you should reply to anon and yet not respond to http://thanetonline.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/cabinet-member-and-mayor-of-ramsgate.html the problem is very much one of twice bitten thrice shy. As I pointed out in the this post which was a direct reply to you, the council have on two occasions decided to proceed with SFP based on documentation from what purported to be Swiss banks that transpired not to actually exist at the time the decision was made.

      What concerns me is that we have another situation where the justification for proceeding will be made up of documentation from reputable companies, like Whitbread or the other three contractors that pulled out in the past.

      When these companies discover the intention is to build on a high risk flood zone with no flood risk assessment, that the supporting letters guaranteeing funding are from foreign banks that don’t exist or lack a banking licence and that the developer has never in fact developed anything we will be back to another ten years of deserted building site.

      This time around though the council will lack the ultimate sanction of owning the freehold, meaning that there will be no leverage the council can apply to prevent what looks like a long term land banking operation.

      For me the most worrying aspect of this latest newspaper article is that it seems to suggest that actual money spent by SFP is much lower than I thought, of course that does depend on what proportion of the site work and drainage pipe were paid for by Cardys.

      Is there anything you can say to me that will reassure me the secret decisions will be based on a more rigorous investigation of the supporting documentation than was done at the previous secret meeting?

      Delete
    3. Michael,

      Precisely, Michael.

      I see no evidence to suggest that work will be started, let alone completed, in the foreseeable future. Though I suspect that there will be immediate cash rewards for some individuals. Cui bono?

      No one should delude themselves that they are home and dry. The truth behind this curious project will not remain concealed forever.

      Delete
    4. Michael,

      On the question of the flood risk: any potential flat buyer would be wise to consult the insurance companies. I sure that the estate agents will advise this in their prospectuses.

      Of course this is assuming that any flats actually get built. Which will be a moot point once the speculator has got his hands on the Freehold.

      Delete
    5. Once again cllr Green like his collegue cllr Poole is just trying to score points against cllr Driver in a childish way. Without cllr Driver asking some very relevent questions this matter would have just been nodded through on the quiet. It does appear that there is something to hide and why does the chief exec delay answering cllr Drivers quetions?

      The information given in the Gazette article does not come from any SFP director but from a local estate agent that may or may not be authorised to speak for SFP.
      But if what he is saying is true why would TDC accept £600,000 from one of SFP's directors in a personal capacity rather than from the company? Do they have a contract with the private individual? cllr Driver could also ask the chief exec about this money and what money laundering checks were carried out.
      You cant do business with anybody without these safegauards if a transaction is over 15,000 euros.


      Delete
    6. John, you have to appreciate that the apartments are not being offered for sale freehold but on long leases, from memory 125 years, with these will be leaseholders commitments, general annual building maintenance costs for one thing.

      From memory the insurance would be for the whole building and paid to the freeholder by the leaseholders, perhaps the insurance company will be an offshore company offering a competitive deal for flood risks.

      Delete
    7. Michael,

      I do appreciate this bearing in mind that I lived for 13 years in such a building in central London right beside the Thames. The communal insurance was included in our service charge. If there is a flood risk then the cost of the insurance will reflect that risk and could be very high indeed. The insurer may also want to have a good look at the cliff face and set his premiums accordingly.

      The identity and location of the insurance company would be something to bear in mind. Maybe the company has been set up already?

      Delete
  7. In order to restore public confidence in this project, the current councillors need to be seen as whiter than white. They need to step back and look at the overall situation, not the documentation presented to them.

    In 2003 when planning permission was granted, money was flowing like water and it probably seemed a good idea for some local unknown individuals (for local they most definitely are) to set up an offshore development company in the hope of getting rich quick.

    But property developing goes in cycles which is why most development companies are short-lived. In 2012 obtaining £25+ million to do a marginal development without a track record has as much chance of success as a Hilton on the moon in the next 10 years.

    Let us not forget it is TDC who is "gagging" any publication of facts on this development, through the development agreement. They should lift that ban and ask SFP to behave like any normal British based developer with full disclosure of directors for the whole company, not just a "front" company based in Billericay without finance.

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  8. Readit,

    I appreciate that there is nothing illegal in private citizens setting up an offshore development company. But how did this company manage to secure the pleasurama contract? This is the question that will never go away.

    Someone out there knows who it was that set up this company, how they got the contract and by what means. It is time for them to speak out, if only to save their own skins.

    BVI is a British Dependant Territory. We have a suspected misuse of public funds. There is rumour of corruption within local government? With this in mind it ought to be possible for the law to discover who is behind SFP. It would certainly be possible for agencies of the British Government to obtain this information surreptitiously. What they subsequently do with that information would be left to their own imagination.

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  9. "But how did this company manage to secure the Pleasurama contract? This is the question that will never go away."

    John,
    Without any details of the real SFP coming forward, one can only assume they had some influence over TDC at the time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Readit,

      The evidence suggests that SFP must indeed have had a strong influence over TDC at the time. One wonders just what this may have been? It cannot have been SFP's proven track record because it does not have one. Something else then, but what? Cui bono - therein lies the answer.

      Delete
    2. A company without a track record must have been set up specifically to develop this site and therefore must have local representation. I am sure directors of SFP (offshore)Ltd are reading this blog article right now.

      Delete
    3. Readit,

      The evidence suggests to me that you are correct. Similarly, so must the whistleblower be close by.

      Delete
  10. It will be interesting to see how TDC have shown the £600,000 that Mr Painter says was paid in the accounts and whether VAT was also paid.
    I trust also that any councillors that have ever bought/sold a property through Mr Painter will declare/have declared their interest before any dealings/voting with this project.

    If £3.3 millions is the value of the site there must be supporting independent documentation stating this as the council must get the best price. Nice windfall of £495,000 for the government as stamp duty is payable at %15 by commercial companies at this level.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I'm very honoured by David Green responding to my earlier post. He also refers to Ian Driver as being the 'current' chair of scrutiny. When do you and your incompetent group intend deposing him and giving the position to one of your lap dogs? I dare you to try it. Lets face facts David. Other than one or two members, your Labour group is desperately short on grey matter and relies totally on whatever the officers say what that is worth. The thought of Poole and a bean-counter negotiating on our behalf with professional sharks does not inspire any confidence whatsoever.

    I had thought there was a little more depth to you, but in supporting this Mickey Mouse arrangement, you are showing that you are no better.

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  12. Possible signs of money laundering From above linkie:

    3.9 It is impossible to give a definitive list of ways in which to spot money laundering or how to decide whether to make a report to the MLRO. The following are types of risk factors which
    may, either alone or cumulatively with other factors, suggest the possibility of money
    laundering activity:

    (a) General

    • A new client;
    • A secretive client: eg, refuses to provide requested information without a
    reasonable explanation;
    • A client you have not met;
    • Concerns about the honesty, integrity, identity or location of a client eg a client
    who is not present in the area and there is no good reason why they would
    instruct us, or information reveals that the client is linked with criminality;
    • Complex or unusually large transactions/systems;
    • Illogical third party transactions: unnecessary routing or receipt of funds from third
    parties or through third party accounts;
    • The source or destination of funds differs from the original details given by the
    client;

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  13. Estate Agents are within the "Regulated sector" of the Act.

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  14. As tax payers why don't we ask the government for a judicial review of the whole sorry affair, it seems to me too certainly warrant one.
    If these people want to keep their business secret do it with their own money not ours,

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. John,

      This has also occured to me. Though I am not sure how we do it. Does anyone out there know?

      Delete
    2. Over the years with Pleasurama I have taken it up with the local government ombudsman, both Labour and Conservative MPs, the district auditor, the information commissioner, my ward councillors, various leaders, cabinet members, most of the councillors, the chief executive of the council, aspects of it that are related to the road access I have taken up with county councillors. Outside of government I have taken it up with the various contractors, the council’s advising engineers.

      Various off the record responses lead me to the conclusion that the officers would like to be out of it but are concerned about the council getting into extended and expensive litigation. They have also confirmed my conclusions that some of the technical and engineering aspects, just won’t work in practice.

      I think the sad truth is that when a district council does something wrong there is a lip service but no real solution. Mistakes never occur at district council level, so no one councillor or officer can admit an error.

      I believe near the beginning there was a judicial review but I am uncertain of the details, only that it didn’t succeed.

      This then brings one on to what the legal action would be against, I don’t think there is a crime here in a criminal law sense.

      Delete
  15. I was writing more in the context of what constitutes due diligence. This is not the first time such an issue has been raised. For example if pubs and clubs tended in the general case to lose money or struggle in an area, yet one operator can post profits and employ an inhouse property improvement and acquisition operation. And if licensing in an area seems to favour one operator.

    The law (Common Law of Treason and Statute Law of proceeds of crime) has two exceptions in which it can be a criminal offence to do nothing. Both create duties to report suspicion or knowledge.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous 8:21PM

      To whom does one report it and how?

      Delete
  16. The last few posts have identified the problem of accountability with TDC. Michael lists all the bodies who should be sitting up and listening. Should being the operative word.

    A Judicial Review would appear to be the only avenue left open in this matter, but the CEO knows that the man in the street cant commit to such expenditure. TDC are therefore safe, provided they keep the lid on everything and out of the public domain. Scandalous behaviour by a Public Authority.

    ReplyDelete
  17. John Treason Law is backed by an obligation to report to a constable or a JP.

    Misprision of Treason

    Misprision of Felony (which would be so important now in matters like Savile) was displaced by statute many years ago.

    "3.3 Section 5 of the Criminal Law Act 1967 (Eng) provides:


    Penalties for concealing offences or giving false information

    5(1) Where a person has committed an arrestable offence, any other person who, knowing or believing that the offence or some other offence has been committed, and that he has information which might be of material assistance in securing the prosecution or conviction of an offender for it, accepts or agrees to accept for not disclosing that information any consideration other than the making good of loss or injury caused by the offence, or the making of reasonable compensation for that loss or injury, shall be liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for not more than two years.

    ....


    (3) No proceedings shall be instituted for an offence under this section except with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions.


    I don't see that the matter is easily "Reportable" and that is why I say it is, however, a measure of due diligence in the first place.

    Proceeds of Crime recovery in spite of being found innocent money laundering

    This matter of drugs and proceeds of crime and a scaffolding company arose from an arrest some months before the 2008 murder of Margate scaffolder David O'Leary. In the O'Leary case Kent Chief constable refused to record Proceeds of Crime Act offences against his own murder inquiry officers. This in connection with suspicions of criminal profits and later, during litigation against Chief constable, of suspected benefits fraud worth over 150,000 pounds over ten years (Benefits fraud crime is subject to recovery action by Proceeds of Crime Act)

    IE If the authorities are minded to refuse to record crime complaints or to refuse to disclose or refuse to initiate inquiry. You are up the creek without a paddle.

    What I can say of the O'Leary v Chief constable case is that Dan O'Leary filed Companies House records which shew that the estate had never wound up the company. In evidence David's former partner admitted to selling off the lorries and scaffolding. in law these were property of the Crown as they were assets of a struck off company.

    The Judge a number of times refused Dan's applications to compel disclosure of estate accounts by the partner and by Kent Police.

    TDC refused to engage re suspected housing benefits fraud.

    When there is no will to investigate by police and authority ... and the Judge refuses to issue directive orders to compel evidence there is no hope.

    And there was a helluva lot more to go with in O'Leary Decd than any member of the public has on the Pleasurama fiasco.






    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous 12:27

      In the light of what you say, I wonder if peaceful direct action would help. It would get the press along who would hear our concerns and investigate the alleged evidence of misdoings .

      Delete

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