Over the years Nicholas van Hoogstraten has variously gone by the names of Reza Ghadamian, Karl Brunner, Nicholas Hamilton and once changed his name by deed poll to Adolf von Hessen, not to mention the fact that he was originally just plain Nicholas Hoogstraten. He has also been known as 'Nasty Nick', Britain's most feared landlord, the second Rachman, who was once described by one judge as being a "self-imagined devil" who "thinks he is an emissary of Beelzebub". He is also the author of such pronouncements as "The only purpose in creating great wealth like mine is to separate oneself from the riffraff" or "I have my own religion which is power".
He was born Nicholas Marcel Hoogstraten (or Nicholas Francis Marcel Hoogstraten according to some newspaper reports) at Shoreham-by-Sea on the 25th February 1945. His father Charles Marcel Joseph Hoogstraten was of Flemish origin, but was born in India, and worked for a time in Paris before he made his way to Britain prior to the start of World War II, when he worked in a munitions factory in Bognor and married a local girl named Edna Brookes. He later served in the Royal Armoured Corps, and after the war became the senior wine steward aboard the SS Andes, the flagship of the Royal Mail Shipping line.
What can be said with certainty about the childhood of young Nicholas is that he didn't think much of either his father ("I don't get on with my father") or indeed his mother ("My mother was not nice to me. I never had any affection.") Of course, thanks to his father's occupation he saw little of him during his childhood, although it seems that Charles Hoogstraten was something of a bully, and indeed the one thing that father and son shared in common was a predilection for mistreating poor Edna. Nicholas
attended the local Jesuit school, where it seems he demonstrated no interest in his education, but rather devoted his time to
stamp collecting, and rapidly moved from trading stamps on the playground to advertising in philatelic journals and doing business with major stamp dealers such as Stanley Gibbons. By the age of fourteen he was attending school in a three-piece business suit, reading the Financial Times, and excusing himself from certain lessons in order to sit in a vacant classroom and deal with his business. As a result of these efforts, he claimed to have acquired a stamp collection worth £30,000 by the age of fifteen. Unfortunately it seems that one the methods adopted by the young Hoogstraten to acquire stock for his business was to hire other teenagers to steal it from local stamp shops. Inevitably one pair were caught in the act and soon spilled the beans on Hoogstraten. Having already been granted a conditional discharge back in 1956 for the theft of a school typewriter (he needed it to type up correspondence for his business), he made his second appearance before a juvenile court in 1960 and was given two years probation for being an accessory to burglary and for handling stolen goods.
It was then that his father decided to remove him from school and find him a job as bellboy on board the SS Andes, believing no doubt that the experience would return his son to the straight and narrow. Hoogstraten spent the next year or two touring the Mediterranean and Caribbean, and was apparently adept at posing as the poor homesick boy in order to attract the sympathy of women passengers and thus obtain larger tips. One of the ports of call for the SS Andes was Nassau, and Hoogstraten appears to have taken a particular liking to the Bahamas. At one time Hoogstraten claimed that he made a fortune buying up land from the estate of Harry Oakes, (who was bizarrely murdered in 1943 in what remains to this day an unsolved mystery) and selling it on, and that he had in this manner turned his stake of £30,000 into hundreds of thousands and put the money in Switzerland. He has also claimed that he owned a thirty room hotel on the Langton Road in Hamilton, before selling it to an American. However Bahamian land registry records show no transactions in the name of Nicholas Hoogstraten, nor does anyone in the Bahamas remember the name. Not that this necessarily proves anything, as he may well have dealt through nominees, but whatever the truth of the matter, it seems that Hoogstraten found it hard to fit in with the white expatriate community in the Bahamas, who looked down on the young Sussex lad on the make. He therefore abandoned the Caribbean and by the age of eighteen he was back in Britain where he found work at Stanley Gibbons, but left a couple of years later when he was sacked on suspicion of being involved in the pilfering of stock.
The beginnings of an empire
Sometime after he returned to Britain in late 1963, Hoogstraten took his first step on the road to building his property empire. The story was that he was driving down Magdalene Street in Brighton in 1963 when he noticed that there was a row of five houses for sale by auction. Enquiries revealed that the properties "were going for nothing", because they had sitting tenants and that Hoogstraten recognised the potential for profit as and when the tenants moved on. However his father Charles was to claim in 1988 that it was he who first began investing in property, and employed his son to do the paperwork only to find that he'd registered some of the deeds under his own name.
Whatever the truth behind that story, what is known is that Hoogstraten's early forays into the property market were carried out under the guidance of a certain William Bagot, who appears to have become something of a father figure and mentor to the young businessman. Bagot was himself something of a reclusive figure, who on casual acquaintance appeared to be nothing more than a tramp, particularly since his standards of personal hygiene left a great deal to be desired, but was nevertheless said to have owned some four hundred properties in the London area. Although when he died in 1993 he left an estate valued at only £10,000, largely because it was believed that his assets were already in the possession of his sole beneficiary N. Hoogstraten Esq.
As it turned out property wasn't the only business in which Hoogstraten was involved during the early 1960s. He fancied himself as something of a mod and ran 'teen clubs' in Portsmouth, Brighton and Bristol, and once called Rod Stewart a "little runt" for disputing the door takings. He also opened the Deb boutique on the Regency Parade in Brighton (he hired Jimmy Saville to DJ for the launch party) and once turned down the offer of managing the Rolling Stones (because they were bunch of "scruffy buggers"). Certainly by the summer of 1967 he was claiming to be 'Britain's youngest self-made millionaire', added the 'van' to his name, attracted the interest of Fleet Street, and came to seen as one of new breed of anti-establishment tycoons who were making their mark during the Swinging Sixties.
Fighting the law
Hoogstraten's first brush with the law as an adult came in 1966 when he was clocked doing 46 mph in a 30 mph zone, and eventually caught after a police chase and restrained by two policeman. In addition to the speeding offence he was also later fined £2 for using obscene language. (He told one of the arresting officers to 'fuck off'.) However far more serious trouble arose as a result of his meeting a young man named David Braunstein on the Brighton to Victoria train. The two later became friends and decided to go into business together as Demaria Textiles, with Hoogstraten providing the funding whilst Braunstein did the work. Unfortunately the company failed to prosper and folded after less than two years. Hoogstraten reckoned that he'd lost £3,000 on the venture and wanted his money back, and although Braunstein volunteered to repay the sum of £6 a week, this did not satisfy Hoogstraten who threatened all manner of retribution should he not at least see £1,000 pretty damned soon. The Braunstein family were sufficiently alarmed to involve the police, and then on the 12th November 1966 someone lobbed a grenade through the downstairs window of the Braunstein home which exploded and demolished the sitting room. The police naturally decided to interview Hoogstraten regarding this incident and requested that he attend the local police station. There his solicitor claimed his client was "appalled" by the incident, only to be immediately contradicted by Hoogstraten who said, "I am not appalled. I think it's marvellous. The bastard owes me money".
Of course Hoogstraten didn't personally lob the grenade, as he delegated that particular task to one Anthony Albert Lawrence, otherwise known as 'Little Legs' Lawrence, a sometime scrap metal dealer and general all-round villain who had recently acquired a quantity of munitions pilfered from the Chelsea Barracks. Although Hoogstraten denied any involvement, the testimony of independent witnesses who had heard him threatening the Braunsteins helped persuade a jury of his guilt, and he was sentenced to four years in May 1968 for the crimes of malicious damage and demanding money with menaces.
Unfortunately for Hoogstraten this was only the beginning of his legal problems, as during a search of his home the police had come across a quantity of silver, much of which they succeeded in matching with items that had been reported stolen in a recent spate of burglaries. Hoogstraten claimed that he had brought the items from a 'reputable dealer' named Jack Swaysland and even had the receipts to prove it. However although Swaysland initially supported this story, he indicated to police that he was only doing so because he was fearful of the aforementioned Little Legs Lawrence. As it turned out Lawrence was himself arrested on a number of charges and was later convicted on the 22nd May 1968 of causing an affray in a public house and sentenced to three years. Once it was clear that 'Little Legs' was going to be placed out of harm's way, Swaysland gave a new statement to the police.
All of which meant that at the time Hoogstraten was being sentenced for the grenade incident, he had already appeared at Hove Magistrates Court on the 24th April 1968 to face fifteen charges relating to burglary and the possession of stolen goods. During his second trial he dispensed with his previous legal team and conducted his own defence. He claimed that it was all a fit up by the police who were on the lookout for a bribe, but failed to convince the jury. Convicted once more in August 1968, he was then sentenced to another five years to run consecutively with his original sentence, making nine years in all. Hoogstraten later
launched an appeal in 1970, and claimed that the nine years he was now serving was far more than he would have received had the two cases had been heard together. The Court of Appeal concurred and ruled that the two sentences should be served concurrently.
Despite this success Hoogstraten still had five years to spend as a resident of HMP Wormwood Scrubs. He was later to claim that "I ran Wormwood Scrubs when I was in there", although there are those that might dispute this claim. Nevertheless he took the opportunity to make the acquaintance of two gentlemen named Rodney Markworth and Robert Knapp (the latter being strangely enough a childhood friend of Janet Street-Porter) who would both later feature strongly in his future career. He also cultivated the friendship of the Roman Catholic chaplain Father Robert Gates, who subsequently proved useful in helping him to be granted parole and he was released from the Scrubs in January 1972, after serving some three years and eight months.
Sadly for Hoogstraten he didn't remain at liberty for long. At the beginning of his sentence Hoogstraten had petitioned the Home Secretary to be allowed to continue running his business from prison. His request was refused, and so he simply bribed a prisoner officer named Gordon Scott to smuggle out letters and bring in certain luxuries. Clearly someone brought this fact to the authorities attention and on the day of his release Hoogstraten was immediately arrested outside the prison gates on charges of bribing a prisoner officer. Hoogstraten was granted bail and when the case came to trial on the 18th October 1972, pled guilty to two charges of corruption in the belief that he'd receive nothing more than a fine. He was rather surprised to receive a further sentence of fifteen months, particularly since he insisted that the governor knew all about the arrangement. He later appealed against this sentence, and succeeded in getting it reduced so that he was released once more in January 1973.
The Violent World of Nicholas Hoogstraten
Whilst the specific details of Hoogstraten's path to fame and fortune have never been entirely clear, it does seem that he was active as a money lender in those circumstances where the borrower was short of cash but had plenty of security to offer (preferably property). He was never it seems that interested in demanding an excessive interest rate, since the whole point was to wait for the borrower to default so that he could seize the security and thus become "rich by others going skint". It is also pretty certain that over the years much of it came from dealing in property, although here the nature of his business methods led to him being compared to the notorious Peter Rachman. Indeed Hoogstraten once claimed to have made Rachman's acquaintance, which is extremely unlikely given that Rachman died in 1962. (Although the journalist Lynn Barber was sufficiently gullible to swallow that particular fable in 2006.) However unlike Rachman, Hoogstraten was more interested in the prospects of capital appreciation and quite happily allowed his properties to be occupied by tenants who paid little or no rent; the quid pro quo being that they immediately vacated the premises when he wanted to sell. The problems generally arose when said tenants believed that they possessed certain legal rights and failed to do as they were told.
Having been released from prison at the beginning of 1973 Hoogstraten was back in court on the 15th October 1974, when he was fined £2,500 with £1,000 costs, for making a forcible entry to one of his properties at Vere Road in Brighton, and generally trashing his tenants furniture and belongings. These charges related to an incident back in February 1973, sometimes known as the Battle of Brighton which was, as it turned out part of a vendetta he was pursuing against his former accountant David Harris, whose family lived at the property, but was nevertheless pretty typical of the way that Hoogstraten liked to do business. Indeed at the time Hoogstraten informed the press that the 'Battle' was "the best bit of fun we've had for some time", and told another reporter that this was nothing compared to what they'd done to another property in Portslade. Reporters duly attended the property in Portslade where they discovered a family living in absolute squalor thanks to the destruction visited on the property by Hoogstraten. Strangely enough, Hoogstraten was more than happy for such incidents to be publicised for the simple reason that they served as a warning to any other of his tenants.
Indeed over the years Hoogstraten continued to make regular appeareances before the courts. In 1977 he was arrested for threatening a barrister and fined £100 for threatening behaviour and carrying an offensive weapon, being a four inch roofing nail which he claimed to be carrying as a defense against muggers since he was wearing a 2,000 year old Egyptian necklace worth £100,000. Two years later in 1979 he was again fined £200 for assault causing actual bodily harm after punching and kicking a bailiff. Years later in 1988 he was also acquited of nine charges of harrasing tenants in a case brought by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. However it was quite likely that these cases represented merely the tip of the iceberg, as there were frequent occasions where criminal complaints were made against Hoogstraten, only for the witnesses and complainants to later withdraw their testimony and/or disappear from view.
A more serious problem from Hoogstraten's point of view was the fact that he came to the attention of the Inland Revenue in 1979. Hoogstraten was largely living in Liechenstein at the time and was apparently acting under the belief that this relieved him of the burden of paying tax on his British assets. The Inland Revenue were of a different opinion, demanded the sum of £2.5 million and in 1980 obtained a Mareva injunction to prevent him from disposing of his assets. When he later admitted breaching the terms of that injunction in 1982, courts ordered the sequestration of all his assets, an decision which eventually encouraged Hoogstraten to strike a deal with the Inland Revenue in 1983, when is believed to have agreed to an overall settlement slightly in excess of £5 million. (Later claimed by the Guinness Book of Records to be the largest tax assessment ever levied on an individual.) However the experience wasn't a total loss as far as Hoogstraten was concerned, as he later claimed that one Revenue officer had told him that he was being foolish in owning property under his own name, and that he would be much better offer putting his assets in the name of an offshore trust and company; advice that Hoogstraten apparently took note of.
Hoogstraten did very well out of property in the 1980s investing in London and the south east and in Brighton in particular (there were whole streets in Brighton and Hove which were at one time more or less entirely owned by Hoogstraten). Generally speaking he followed the basic pattern of buying up tenanted properties and then persuading the tenants to leave, or 'winkling' them out as he liked to put it. He rapidly gained the reputation of being one of the country's most unscrupulous and aggressive landlords, who paid no heed whatsoever to such trifles as the law. As previously noted, he positively revelled in his unsavoury reputation and was happy to be interviewed by the press and to be featured in the media. Indeed when he was approached by the World in Action team he readily agreed to be interviewed, with the resulting documentary The Violent World of Nicholas Hoogstraten being broadcast on the 27th June 1988. His former accountant David Harris appeared on screen to recount how Hoogstraten had arranged for him to he snatched off a Brighton street in broad daylight back in 1973, and taken to Paris where he was kept hostage for eighteen months, being beaten and maltreated and apparently fed only on sardines. Hoogstraten was present during this interview when he appeared to be "having a whale of a time" and gleefully filled in the details left out by Harris in his account of his ordeal. Hoogstraten was also quite unapologetic about his treatment of his tenants whom he denounced as being "scum" and "filth", and that as a landlord he was quite entitled to take back his property when he wanted to irrespective of what the law said about the matter. He even proudly told World in Action; "I am probably ruthless and I am probably violent", words that were later to come back to haunt him.
The Raja Case
As things turned out the British housing market stalled in 1989 and slumped over the years 1990-1995. However Hoogstraten
had anticipated the downturn, as indeed he had correctly predicted during his World in Action interview, and had therefore dratically reduced his property holdings. Others might have done well to have heeded this advice, such as his business acquaintance, one Mohammed Sabir Raja.
Mohammed Raja was a Pakistani national who had begun investing in property in Britain, and was once described as "Brighton's worst landlord", which was saying something given that he had Hoogstraten as a competitor. (Hoogstraten himself has described Raja as a "slum bedsit landlord and serial fraudster".) Although it appears that Hoogstraten and Raja certainly did business together, it appears that their dealings largely consisted of Hoogstraten advancing money to Raja so that he could acquire property he otherwise couldn't afford. Now whilst Hoogstraten moved out of the residential property market at the right time, Raja continued to buy property, and was badly squeezed during the resulting downturn. When Raja then failed to meet his repayments, Hoogstraten simply used some of the blank property transfer forms that Raja had been forced to provide as security to transfer various properties into his own name. When Raja objected to this treatment and asked that Hoogstraten provide a statement of the monies that he owed, Hoogstraten refused and simply demanded the sum of £300,000. Raja retaliated by alleging fraud and suing Hoogstraten. The threat of legal action was however brought to an abrupt end when Raja was stabbed five times and shot in the face at point-blank range with a shotgun at his home in Sutton on the 2nd July 1999.
The Metropolitan Police eventually came to the conclusion that Hoogstraten had hired Robert Knapp and David Croke to carry out a hit on Raja and charged all three with murder. Their trial opened on the 15th April 2002 before Mr. Justice George Newman at the Old Bailey, and on the 22nd July the jury delivered its verdicts. Whilst Knapp and Croke were both found guilty, Hoogstraten was cleared of murder but convicted of the manslaughter by a majority verdict of eleven to one, and later sentenced to ten years. For good measure he was also ordered to pay a third of the prosecution costs, being the sum of £120,229. The prosecution made much of his previous statement regarding his probable ruthlessness and violence, which undoubtedly swayed the jury against him.
Hoogstraten however continued to protest his innocence and having hired Giovanni di Stefano to replace his old legal team, and duly launched an appeal against his conviction. On the 27th February 2003 he was granted leave to appeal and then on 23rd July his conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal, who nevertheless denied him bail and ordered a retrial. Further legal argument followed with more hearings in the Court of Appeal and at the Old Bailey, which lasted until the 8th December 2003 when Judge Stephen Mitchell agreed with the defence argument that there was no foundation for a case of manslaughter. On the following day Hoogstraten was formally cleared and released. The legal point here being that, irrespective of the fact that Hoogstraten might well have paid Knapp and Croke to frighten and/or injure Mohammed Raja, he could not have reasonably foreseen that the attack on Raja would lead to his death, and therefore could not in law be guilty of manslaughter.
This was not however the end of the matter as the Raja family brought a civil action claiming compensation of £6 million.
The Raja family had earlier won judgement in their favour in December 2002, only for Hoogstraten to have it set aside by the
Court of Appeal in July 2004 after his release from prison. However all that happened was that the case went back to the High Court Chancery Division for a new hearing, and on the 19th December 2005 Mr Justice Lightman ruled that, on the balance of probability, Hoogstraten was involved in the death of Mohammed Raja and ordered him to pay an interim award of £500,000 within fourteen days. It was noticeable however that Hoogstraten did not even bother to contest the case, and when asked about the judgement on BBC News 24's Hardtalk programme on the 2nd February 2006 was most insistent that "they will never get a penny from me".
It seems that in the aftermath of the Raja case that Hoogstraten decided to abandon the United Kingdom in favour of Zimbabwe. He had first visited the country during the mid 1960s, when of course it was known as Rhodesia, and had made the acquaintance of Tiny Rowland who ran Lonrho. It was apparently Rowland that taught him the value of using aliases in general and also advised him on the African way of doing business. As a result Hoogstraten was generally attracted by the prospects for investment in Africa, particularly in South Africa and Rhodesia, and during the 1980s Hoogstraten built up a sizable stake in Lonrho and also brought shares in Willoughby's Consolidated, a company that lay within the Lonrho orbit. When Hoogstraten later moved out of residential property in Britain at the end of the 1980s, he began looking for a new home for his money, and moved much of it into Africa.
In 1998 he took control of Willoughby's Consolidated from Lonrho for about £5 million, and thereby became the owner of the Central Estates, which in itself encompassed an area larger than that of Greater London, as well as various smaller properties including the Eastdale Estate at Gweru and the Essexvale Estate near Bulawayo, and so became the largest private landowner in Zimbabwe. Hoogstraten spent millions of pounds developing the infrastructure of his estates and generally restocking the land whilst he developed a safari business at Central Estates, and also moved in ostrich farming. He began distributing free milk to his employees and building schools and so acquired a reputation for benevolence quite at variance with that which he's obtained back home in Britain. Such benevolence may well have been an indication that he was mellowing in his old age, or that he was seeking some kind of redemption, or was simply as a calculated attempt to curry favour with the Zimbabwean government. Certainly Hoogstraten was an open supporter of both ZANU PF and Robert Mugabe (whom he described as "100 per cent decent and incorruptible"), secured a number of government contacts, and was rumoured to have underwritten a number of arms deals, including the acquisition of some Russian MIGs in contravention of the supposed international arms embargo against the country.
There were indeed indications that Mugabe may well have favoured Hoogstraten, as although the Central Estates was invaded by more than 5,000 'war veterans' whilst he was serving his time in HMP Belmarsh, the army simply evicted the settlers on his release, and Hoogstraten retained possession of much of his landed property. As things presently stand, he is a more or less permanent resident in Zimbabwe and has purchased significant shareholdings in the Hwange Colliery, First National Merchant Bank, CFI Limited, and Rainbow Tourism Group. However it has not been all plain sailing for Hoogstraten in Zimbabwe as his home was raided by police on Thursday 24th January 2008 and he was arrested on charges of violating currency exchange rules. Specifically the allegation was that he was charging rent on his properties in foreign currency, and Zimbabwean law prohibits the payment of foreign currency for local goods and services. Since the Zimbabwean police found that he had 37,586 US Dollars and 92,880 South African rand in his possession at the time of his arrest, there may well have been a prima facie case to be made out, although this may well be simply what Hoogstraten considers to be spare change. He also faced charges relating to the discovery of "pornographic material" in his house, apparently being some photographs of himself and his most recent girlfriend. However it seems that the police failed to bring him before a court within the specified time limit, and he was therefore released without charge.
Hoogstraten and his women
Hoogstraten once described himself as a "confirmed bachelor with three or four mistresses". His most notable relationships were with the British born Rosemary Prouse, who was the mother of his son Rhett Maximillion and his daughter Eugene, followed by the Nigerian Caroline Williams, the mother of another two boys named Louis and Seti. Hoogstraten was later married to Agnes Gnoumou from the Ivory Coast who bore him another son named Orrie, although this marriage did not last long. Indeed Hoogstraten was later to refer to her as the "mad woman", although this reaction wasn't typical of his attitude towards his various ex-girlfriends, many of whom were often to be found occupying 'grace and favour' accommodation at his Uckfield estate, whilst other such as Caroline Williams, who also featured as one of the directors of Willoughby's Consolidated and various other Hoogstraten companies over the years, were to be found acting as the nominees for sundry Hoogstraten assets. It is also worth noting that whilst Hoogstraten did once have a white girlfriend for a time in the 1970s, all of his relationships have been with women of African origin.
The Uckfield estate in question was, for many years, Hoogstraten's main base in Britian. It was acquired sometime during the 1970s, when Hoogstraten came into possession of High Cross House, a nineteenth century mansion set in forty acres of parkland near Uckfield in Sussex. Once run as the Parklands Rest Home, that venture was partly financed by Hoogstraten through his company Getherwell Finance Ltd. When the owners fell behind with their repayments Hoogstraten later took steps to obtain possession of the property, which in his case meant sending down Rodney Markworth to lay siege to the property until East Sussex Social Services came to remove the residents and the owners abandoned it all as a lost cause. The property was one of those sequestered by the Inland Revenue, but mysteriously burnt down in 1983. The police decided it was arson; Hoogstraten agreed and blamed "left-wing anarchists".
Hoogstraten then decided that the ruins would make the perfect site for his proposed Hamilton Palace, a copper-domed neo-classical mansion designed by the architect Tony Browne, or as The Times once called it, "Hoogstraten's folly". With a six hundred foot long ground-floor gallery and a frontage longer than Buckingham Palace, Hoogstraten's building was designed to house his collection of Louis XV furniture and £200 million art collection, as well as his own mausoleum. (Although the whole mausoleum idea may well have been a joke played on yet more gullible journalists.) Unfortunately work on Hamilton Palace came to an abrupt end with Hoogstraten's manslaughter conviction, and it appears that building work has now been abandoned leaving the uncompleted edifice at the mercy of the elements. This was good news for the Ramblers' Association who fought a long running dispute with Hoogstraten regarding a public footpath that crossed the land around the mansion. Back in 1990 Hoogstraten arranged for the footpath to be blocked with a shed, barbed wire, old fridges, and whatever else came to hand, all of which was eventually cleared in 2003, as he now appears to have lost interest in the whole project.
How rich is rich
Over the years various estimates have been made as to Hoogstraten's wealth, and it has been claimed that he is worth £100 million, or perhaps as much as £500 million, and whilst he has often appeared in the Sunday Times Rich List it is not clear whether their figures are anything more than guesswork. He has claimed that his art collection was worth £200 million on its own, and over the years news reports have referred to his being in possession of homes in various locations such as Cannes, Monte Carlo, Maryland, Florida, Barbados, St Lucia and Zimbabwe.
The problem is that Hoogstraten has often gone to some lengths to disguise his ownership of assets. From the very beginning, many of his property investments were made in the names of nominees, with various current and ex-girlfriends and sundry business associates lending their names, whilst he also built up a network of various companies, none of which showed any apparent link with the Hoogstraten name. Later, thanks to the alleged advice received from the Inland Revenue, he also made extensive use of various offshore trusts and companies to further muddy the waters. Indeed he once claimed to have brought a property before lunch, and within an hour arranged for it to be transferred through eighteen different companies, with the intention that no one would therefore be able to identify him as the owner. In fact there were occasions when Hoogstraten himself sometimes forgot what it was that he owned: on his release from prison in 1973 he went to Geneva to gain access to some £2 million he had deposited in a bank there, and was forced to spend some time wandering the streets of Geneva before he could remember the bank in question, together with the relevant account details in order to gain access to his money.
Oddly enough, notwithstanding his supposed multi-millionaire status Hoogstraten received the sum of £1.12 million in legal aid to fund his successful fight against the manslaughter charge, since he insisted that he was penniless given that all his assets had been frozen. He has since claimed that "I’ve got no assets at all now in the UK" and that each of his five children has a trust fund which he set up in 1986 and that "They’ve got hundreds of millions". In a BBC2 documentary broadcast on the 27th October 2005 he claimed to be worth £800 million, and that he was grooming his eldest son Rhett van Hoogstraten to take over his empire in due course, although he admitted it was "a difficult task", because "I keep everything close to my chest, nothing's in writing, there are no records of anything". The documentary also featured his claim that he was "not interested in spending money", and revealed his predilection for re-using stamps and envelopes whenever possible, and for buying Marmite at a discount.
The major source used is the book Nicholas van Hoogstraten: Millionaire Killer by Mike Walsh and Don Jordan (John Blake, 2003) which was as the title suggests was written and published before Hoogstraten was acquitted on the manslaughter charge. It is probably the only entirely reliable source of information on his career, since although Hoogstraten has happily given a number of interviews over the years, and supplied much information, a lot of it is inaccurate. Hoogstraten does have his own website at http://www.nicholasvanhoogstraten.com/main.html, although this only contains information regarding his struggles over the Raja case, and does not appear to have been updated since 2004 in any case. The legal technicalities regarding the quashing of Hoogstraten's manslaughter conviction are summarised in the press release issued by the Crown Prosecution Service, R v Van Hoogstraten, 8 December 2003 found at http://www.cps.gov.uk/news/pressreleases/archive/2003/137_03.html.
Some account has been taken of the following interviews;
however terms of updating the story from the Walsh-Jordan book, the main reliance has been placed on various reports from BBC News, such as;
- Even nastier Nick, The Guardian, September 8, 2000
- Nasty Nick, The Observer, January 15, 2006
- Jane Kelly meets Nicholas van Hoogstraten, The Sunday Times, January 8, 2006
together with the following sources regarding Zimbabwe;
- Van Hoogstraten footpath finally cleared, Sunday, 2 March, 2003,
- Hoogstraten grooming replacement, 12 October 2005
- UK tycoon 'arrested in Zimbabwe' 26 January 2008
- Van Hoogstraten's life of controversy, 26 January 2008,
- Angus Selby, Losing the Plot: The Strategic Dismantling of White Farming in Zimbabwe 2000-2005
QEH Working Paper QEHWPS143 December 2006
- RW Johnson, Van Hoogstraten seeks land deal with Mugabe, The Sunday Times, January 25, 2004
- British tycoon consolidates grip on Zimbabwe’s anaemic economy
Source: Zim Online, Date: 15 October 2005