How you're paying family of Britain's most toxic landlord a fortune

REVEALED: How you’re paying the family of Britain’s most toxic landlord (who has changed his name to Adolf) a fortune to house migrants

  • ‘Britain’s most feared landlord’ changed his name to Nicholas Adolf Von Hessen 
  • Hotels owned through his family are being paid to house vulnerable migrants 
  • Most ‘guests’ at these hotels are migrants, many Afghans airlifted out of Kabul 
  • Children and pregnant women are housed in what many described as squalor

Few people outside his Brighton and Hove ‘manor’ would know that Nicholas Hoogstraten, a man once described as ‘Britain’s most feared landlord’, has changed his name by deed poll.

He now calls himself, on official paperwork at least, Nicholas Adolf Von Hessen. Yes, Adolf.

Some might remember that, back in the Sixties, Hoogstraten began his criminal career by orchestrating a grenade attack on the home of a rabbi.

The man once described as ‘Britain’s most feared landlord’, has changed his name by deed poll  and now calls himself, on official paperwork at least, Nicholas Adolf Von Hessen (pictured)

So you might perhaps assume there was an anti-Semitic or racist motive behind his alter ego. If there is, it is far from straightforward.

The rabbi’s son owed him money and was his former business partner. And Hoogstraten went on to have six children by four mistresses of African heritage.

His reputation and past deeds — including a gangland feud which ended in a rival being shot and stabbed to death in 1999 and, most notoriously, his strongarm tactics against tenants whom he regarded as ‘scum’ — precedes him, even though, at 76, he may no longer be in his pomp.

So his intention in choosing ‘Adolf’ as a middle name was almost certainly to cause gratuitous offence — the equivalent of making a joke in very bad taste — while at the same time serving to mask his modern-day involvement in a complex web of companies.

Because if you thought Hoogstraten, once memorably described by a High Court Judge as ‘a self-imagined devil who thinks he is an emissary of Beelzebub’, had put his property days behind him, you would be wrong.

He still owns properties in Brighton, Hove and other South Coast towns and in London, using a web of aliases, associates and family members.

Among them are three hotels — the Imperial, the Albany and Langfords — in a part of Hove characterised by grand Georgian terraces on one side of the seafront road, and the lively tourist attractions of the beach on the other.

And as we can reveal today, these hotels are being paid huge sums of taxpayers’ money by the Government to house some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

According to the Land Registry, the freeholds of all three buildings are owned by Tombstone Ltd, which declared assets of £58 million in its latest accounts.

Four of Hoogstraten’s children are directors of the company. By all appearances, the hotels remain part of his family business.

 Burly doormen from a private security firm are clearly visible at both Langfords (pictured) and the Imperial, a fine three-star hotel in its heyday but which now has a shabby air

Most, if not all, ‘guests’ at these hotels are migrants, many of them Afghans who were airlifted out of Kabul following the Allied withdrawal last August.

There are also Eritreans, Kurds and Iranians. Most alarmingly, there are unaccompanied children and pregnant women among the diaspora being housed in what many have described as squalor.

‘It is very clear that Nicholas Hoogstraten owns these hotels through his family,’ says Hove MP Peter Kyle, who has been visiting the refugees.

‘I’m sure anyone who knows that name will be appalled that he — or any private landlord — is allowed to take taxpayers’ money to house vulnerable children and young people who have fled war and persecution and need proper supported accommodation.’

When Mr Kyle, Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, raised the matter with the Home Office in a parliamentary question in November 2021, he was informed that ‘accommodation costs are considered commercially confidential’.

But he told us: ‘The room rate would be £150 per room per night in usual circumstances.’

Even if the hotels, which have more than 150 rooms between them, charged half that and were only half full, they would be getting £5,625 per night — which works out at more than £2 million a year of taxpayers’ money.

If so, it might possibly be the easiest money Hoogstraten and his family have ever made.

The Government called its response to the flood of Afghan refugees arriving in Britain — including translators, the focus of a long-running Daily Mail campaign — Operation Warm Welcome.

How ironic that slogan seems here in Hove. Tripadvisor reviews from over a year ago, before more than 100 migrants started arriving, painted a bleak picture of the inside of the seaside hotels.

‘Stayed in this godforsaken hole across 13 days, no idea why my employer chose it [Langfords, where unaccompanied children were subsequently housed and are still being housed] as there are cheaper and better all around Brighton,’ one guest posted in 2020, adding: ‘Dirty towels . . . damp walls and ceilings . . . non-existent hot water, no heating, rattling windows, dubious stains, indifferent staff (mostly), no breakfast (but you would be scared to eat it anyway).’

At the Imperial, one couple wrote on Tripadvisor that they were put in a damp room with mould on every wall, only to be woken at ‘06.30 with water coming through the hatch in the ceiling on our second morning’.

It is not clear who is responsible for the day-to-day management of the Hoogstraten hotels, but such reviews make grim reading.

Hoogstraten, a one-time associate of the infamous slum landlord Peter Rachman, quite possibly views migrants with the same contempt as tenants (‘scum’) and the homeless (‘filthiest burdens on the public purse’) and would probably approve of the conditions.

At the Imperial, one couple wrote on Tripadvisor that they were put in a damp room with mould on every wall, only to be woken at ‘06.30 with water coming through the hatch in the ceiling on our second morning’

Burly doormen from a private security firm are clearly visible at both Langfords and the Imperial, a fine three-star hotel in its heyday but which now has a shabby air.

There are at least three pregnant women at the Imperial, and families of five or more in one room with no cooking facilities or space for children to study.

One migrant staying there, who was too scared to give his name or even say where he was from, admitted he felt unsafe, hungry and miserable.

‘The food is not our food and there is not enough. We are hungry. There are many children and they are unhappy.’

Last week, the migrants say, they had to stay inside for three days with no explanation from the guards.

A volunteer who runs an unofficial service delivering hot food to refugees added: ‘We were asked to take food on Christmas Day to nine young Eritreans at the Imperial.

We cooked them curry from recipes from their country. When we arrived, about 60 people all poured out, desperate.

‘Five security guards appeared, made them go back in and questioned us. We went inside and it was very run-down.

‘It was like feeding refugees in a camp, not a hotel in Hove. The children and some adults seemed distressed.

‘I hate to think how much the Home Office is giving these hotels and how much they are making.’

We do know the overall bill, in fact. The Home Office was forced to admit last week that it is spending £4.7 million every day on housing 25,000 asylum seekers in ‘hotels’ such as those in Hove.

Current rules do not require hotels to prove they meet strict health and safety requirements before children move in.

In a letter to the Commons Home Affairs Committee last November, Home Secretary Priti Patel admitted it was simply ‘an expectation that hotels meet the statutory health and safety requirements, and the Home Office can request copies of the relevant health and safety certificates’.

Isn’t this a scandal in itself? The three Hove hotels are the last link in a toxic chain.

In 2019, the Home Office awarded contracts worth up to £4 billion to three ‘outsourcing’ companies, to provide accommodation and transport for asylum seekers.

The contract for the South of England (and Wales) went to Essex-based Clearsprings Ready Homes.

Langfords, The Imperial and The Albany (pictured) could be receiving as much as £2million a year in Government funding

According to filed accounts, the firm generated a £4.4 million profit last year on sales of £163 million, most of which comes from its work for the Home Office.

Clearsprings, run by the King brothers — Graham, 54; and Jeff, 62 — has paid out £10 million in dividends since 2019.

‘Our team on the ground works closely with all our stakeholders in a way that is sensitive to community cohesion issues and guided by provable sustainable and ethical trading policy,’ it says on the Clearsprings website.

Yet standards at some establishments subcontracted to house migrants have been criticised by both the refugee agency UNHCR and the Home Office, with asylum seekers at one London hotel complaining of bed bug infestations, water leaking through the ceiling and electrical faults.

So the Imperial, the Albany and Langfords would seem not to be isolated cases.

Hoogstraten began signing over his companies to his family nearly 20 years ago, shortly before he was sentenced at the Old Bailey to ten years for setting his heavies on rival landlord Mohammed Raja, who was executed at his South London home in 1999. The manslaughter conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal in 2003.

Tombstone Ltd, which now holds the freeholds of the Imperial, Albany and Langfords, was one of the companies put in the names of his children.

Among the directors is Hoogstraten’s eldest son, 36-year-old Maximilian Rhett Hamilton (whom his father originally liked to call Maxi-million).

His siblings and fellow directors — the product of Hoogstraten’s affairs with four mistresses, two of whom were pregnant at the same time — all share the surname Hamilton, after the capital of Bermuda, which Hoogstraten is particularly fond of. It is one of the many places where he has a home (Cap Ferrat, Barbados and Zimbabwe are among the others).

In a TV interview with his father after the manslaughter conviction was quashed, Rhett was asked if he had plans to follow his business style. ‘I should hope so,’ he replied.

‘I’ve got the best teacher, so if I learn his ways I won’t go too far wrong.’

It is hard to believe that he and his five brothers and sisters are not still busy envoys for their father, who also made headlines over his friendship with the late Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe and the dilapidated state of Hamilton Palace, his vast, copper-domed, neo-classical vanity project near Uckfield, East Sussex, which he began to build in 1985 as Europe’s largest private residence but never completed.

I and my colleague Justine Smith know Hoogstraten from our days on the Evening Argus newspaper in Brighton and have met him on numerous occasions.

He was a man who revelled in his own infamy, real or imagined, ever since swaggering into court all those years ago in a ‘dark striped suit with a velvet collar and lapels and diamond and gold rings on his fingers’, for causing the explosion at the rabbi’s home.

It isn’t trivialising his long, disturbing list of criminal convictions to say that Nicholas Hoogstraten could have walked off the set of a Guy Ritchie gangster film — a ‘stage villain’, as someone once called him, who can be both charming and menacing, often in the same sentence.

Our paper linked Hoogstraten, via a network of companies, to 11 Palmeira Avenue, in Hove, where five people died in a fire in 1992. Three jumped to their deaths because there was no fire escape.

Hoogstraten, who was enjoying a sybaritic lifestyle on the French Riviera, eventually agreed to be interviewed over lunch and supper at the five-star Carlton Hotel overlooking the harbour on Boulevard de la Croisette.

Hoogstraten holding construction plans for a palace on his estate near Uckfield, East Sussex in 1998 

On his right hand he wore a ring worth anything up to £250,000. On his left wrist was a watch given to him by an Arab sheikh. He referred to himself in the third person as ‘Mr H’ or ‘we’.

By his side was a 27-year-old Sudanese student — he was 47 at the time — whom he introduced as his wife in all but name.

He admitted his connection to 11 Palmeira Avenue (his property agents acted for the company that owned the building, among other things) but denied any involvement in the fire.

‘I’m not going to hold any grudges against you,’ he said. ‘But let’s make something very clear. If I had the needle for you or anyone else, I would let them know. I’d say ‘you’re a goner’. If that happens . . .’

Afterwards, with the tape recorder running, he proceeded to tell us how an accountant, whom he believed had stolen money from him while he was in prison, found himself being bundled into the boot of a car by his henchmen one day and shipped off to France to work off his debt in isolation.

But he insisted: ‘I don’t pick on innocent people.’

His tenants would have something to say about that, particularly in Brighton and Hove, where for over three decades, the name Hoogstraten was shorthand for intimidating behaviour.

He once admitted removing tenants by setting German Shepherd dogs on them.

In the Seventies, he was fined £3,000 for evicting a family from their home and smashing up their furniture in what became known as the ‘Battle of Brighton’.

Not long afterwards, heavies from a company of which he was a director barricaded 12 elderly people in a nursing home as they attempted to take possession.

Hoogstraten, born to working- class Catholic parents, specialised in buying tenanted properties, treating Hove, to quote one report, ‘as a real-life Monopoly board, though his tastes were more Old Kent Road than Mayfair’.

Hoogstraten would then set about forcing the occupants to leave, reselling the empty houses as vacant possession at a profit.

Hoogstraten in 1967. He still owns properties in Brighton, Hove and other South Coast towns and in London, using a web of aliases, associates and family members

He acquired the recession-hit Hove hotels cheaply in the 1990s when, it is believed, they went into receivership, helping to build a legacy for his children thought to be worth about £800 million. Some of that fortune, it seems, has come from the taxpayer.

‘Under the new contracts, providers will be required to have proactive maintenance plans, to make sure that they regularly inspect properties and report back to the Home Office on the findings of these inspections,’ the Home Office said in a statement.

‘When issues are identified, providers will be expected to resolve them within set timescales.

‘We consulted extensively with local authorities and NGOs to make sure that the contracts not only protect vulnerable asylum seekers but also deliver value for money for the taxpayer.’

Clearly, something has gone badly wrong.

Neither Hoogstraten nor his sons were prepared to confirm or deny their involvement in the hotels, nor how much money they might be receiving.

‘The whole system of using hotels is operating in such a legally and ethically grey area,’ says Hove MP Peter Kyle. ‘No one should be profiting from this.’

Least of all Nicholas Hoogstraten and his alter ego, Nicholas Adolf Von Hessen.

  • Additional reporting: FRANK LE DUC

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