Thursday 6 October 2016

Land Registry search

Since the freehold of the land was sold I have been waiting for Land Registry to catch up. All land tranfers will appear on the Land Registry portal eventually.

I blogged on this last month

and before that here

Now it seems that the site registry has completed. It throws up some interesting facts.

This is the area subject to the transfer

Price stated £3M which is at variance to the TDC press announcement of £3.515M, I wonder why?

The land cannot be sold or mortgaged without the written permission of Mintal Group Inc which as we know is Colin Hill and his son Robbie.

"(04.08.2016) Option to purchase in favour of Thanet District Council contained in a Option Agreement dated 20 July 2016 made between (1) SPF Ventures (UK) Limited (2) Thanet District Council and (3) Cardy Construction Limited upon the terms therein mentioned"

The above appears on the charges register however it is unclear why Cardy Construction are involved at the deal was made between Cardy Ramsgate Ltd not Cardy Construction. Has TDC's lawyers made a mistake?

Ian Driver blogged on this recently However I'm not sure if he is aware of the Land Registry documents. Neither am I aware whether he knows about the former roundabout which seems to have been removed from the Registry. "The Freehold land shown edged with red on the plan of the above title
filed at the Registry and being Land lying to the south of Wellington Crescent, Ramsgate.
NOTE: So much of the land tinted pink on the title plan as consists of highway maintainable at public expense is excluded from the registration.
So who owns this land?

Interesting that Mike Stannard's Cardy Construction has been granted outline planning on the site of the former Brooke Marine now owned by Flight Services SA which is another Colin Hill company.
The story of how Hill acquired the land is blogged here

Tuesday 27 September 2016

FOI or bust

Back on the 28th July I asked TDC about the £1M they received in September 2009 as follows:
Dear Thanet District Council,
In or around September 2009 SFP Ventures (UK) Ltd paid to TDC the sum of £1M which was to be held as surety against the said company defaulting on the building on the former Pleasurama site in Ramsgate.
Now the site has been sold to Cardy Ramsgate Ltd can you explain where the £1M surety has gone. Is it still in Escrow with TDC and can you confirm whether you still have any control of this money and further who received the interest?

Yours faithfully,
Barry James

Their reply

 Dear Mr James
Thank you for your correspondence of 28/07/2016 requesting information
about SFP Ventures (UK) Ltd paying Thanet District Council £1 million
Your request is being dealt with under the terms of the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 and will be answered within 20 working days. 
If you have any queries about this request, please contact me quoting the
reference number above.
Yours sincerely,

20 days is  25th August

Further reply received 7th September

f No:   91901/3546716
Subject:        SFP Ventures
Dear Mr James
Thank you for your communication received on 28/07/2016  where you made
the following request:
In or around September 2009 SFP Ventures (UK) Ltd paid to TDC the sum of
£1M which was to be held as surety against the said company defaulting on
the building on the former Pleasurama site in Ramsgate.
Now the site has been sold to Cardy Ramsgate Ltd can you explain where the
£1M surety has gone. Is it still in Escrow with TDC and can you confirm
whether you still have any control of this money and further who received
the interest?
I can confirm that Thanet District Council holds the information you are
seeking. Section 22 of the Freedom of Information Act exempts this
information. This is because the information is intended for publication
at a future date. Thanet District Council's Statement of Accounts are
published on its website on an annual basis and the information you seek
will be published in due course. Here is the link that will take you
straight to the correct page of the website.
Having considered the public interest, the Council's decision is therefore
to withhold the information at this time.

This is a silly response seeing as an official announcement had already been made about the sale of the Freehold to Cardy Ramsgate ltd

I asked for an internal review as follows:

I am requesting an internal review. The information has been disseminated via councillors recently so I am bemused by your very tardy response.
Clearly you have no intention of providing this information as you do not provide any timescale and clearly hope I will go away and forget I asked

Yours sincerely,

Finally today I get a proper response apologising for  their obvious fob off response.

Ref No:91901 / 3546716
Subject:Sfp Ventures
Dear Mr James
Thank you for your communication received on 7 September 2016  where you
requested an internal review of a previous decision regarding disclosure
of information about SFP Ventures.
Thanet District Council has now conducted the review and the decision is
In reviewing the case, the council had regard for the use of the Section
22 Exemption and the supply of a link to the council's 2015/16 statement
of accounts.  It is found that Section 22 was not applicable in this case
as it was unlikely that the statement of accounts would have given you
sufficient detail to answer the original enquiry.
The council would like to give you the following information which is
hoped will satisfy your request:
The council received £3.515m for the site. This was made up as follows: a
sum of £550k was paid in 2009 by SFP Ventures Ltd in 2009 (under the 2006
agreement); a sum of £1m was paid as a deposit by SFP Ventures limited in
2009 (this deposit together with accrued interest formed part of the
purchase price); the balance of £1.96m was paid by Cardy Ramsgate Limited
in 2016.
Following completion, the deposit passed to the council and is no longer
in escrow.  The council, therefore has complete control over it. It was
the purchaser who received the benefit of the interest on the deposit.
If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have
the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a
decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: Information
Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9
Yours sincerely,
Information Governance and Equality Team 

 Now I have it confirmed that TDC received £1M in 2009 from a shell company set up as a single issue development company. It is now incumbent upon TDC to show that they identified the source of this £1M. because this money has been past into general funds it has effectively been cleaned.

So a new request has been made

Thank you for confirming what I already knew; that is the original request was correct and the response incorrect.
There is a further request whilst the files are in your possession. If you would prefer I restart the FOI process I will do so. In case you are amenable to carrying on with this as it a continuation of the original request.
The £1M surety was paid in September 2009 from a shell company SFP Ventures (UK) ltd. a device used by money launderers to pass funds to public companies which will be returned after a period of time in a clean state, which is why the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 Act was enacted.
With regard to the above act and the fact that SFP Ventures (UK) Ltd was only set up in 2006, and is a single purpose shell company, did Thanet Council make any attempt to discover the original source of the £1M passed to yourselves and placed in escrow.

Let's see what they do now.

Tuesday 6 September 2016

Why didn't Labour follow through with terminating SFP's involvement

There has been much speculation and political hand wringing over the reasons why Labour, under the previous administration, didn't terminate Shaun Keegan's (SFP Ventures (UK) ltd) attempted landbanking scheme on the Pleasurama site.

The brief details are a Development Agreement (under Ezekiel & the Tories) in September 2006 and its variation in September 2009. The variations meant that the building had to be completed on the 28th February 2014, Something that was apparent was never going to happen and pressure was applied to Labour and TDC in Winter 2013 to serve notice of default and take back the land.

There were members of the local community that attended the Overview and Scrutiny that requested advice from Pinsent Mason LLP as to the correct procedure. When February came and went we all assumed the default notice had been served it came as a kick in the teeth when discussions resumed with Keegan and Cardy and to date no reason has ever been given as to why the advice from the lawyers changed.

The purpose of this blog is to speculate as to why from December 2013 when the legal advice seemed to be to "serve notice" to March 2014 "we have changed our minds"

One area that has always been clear is that the DA's didn't have a "Long Stop Date" incorporated within them. Could this have been incompetence by TDC lawyers (Eversheds LLP) or were they asked not to incorporate such a date (It would have meant that failure to complete would have meant an easier job of removing SFP). It should have led to TDC having set dates to manage the project against, something they had been heavily castigated for not doing in the District Auditors report in 2001/2
I repeat "Effective project management procedures should be adopted for all projects as early as possible in the life cycle of a development scheme"
In the summary of the 2004 report the auditor is satisfied this is being addressed

Now you would have thought that this was a priority especially in view of the "materiel defect" of failing to incorporate a "long stop date".
At many of the O&S meetings we attended we asked whether there was one officer tasked with overseeing the project and the answer was always NO.

Could it be that TDC's failure to keep on top of the project influenced Pinsent Mason's advice and that when engaged TDC didn't fully brief Pinsent Mason.

I wonder what else TDC might have not told them?

It was said at the time that SFP had complained that they wouldn't be able to use Marina Drive because of the weight limit (personally they had 9 years to discover this fact) but maybe they decided to use this material fact as an excuse. It was certainly cited by O&S as an excuse given by Keegan.

There was also much speculation that Keegan was prepared to cite an ex-councillor for attempting to sabotage the negotiations whilst he was a serving Councillor.

In the end Labour TDC didn't follow through with trying to remove Keegan an act that has upset many in Ramsgate and possibly led to their failure in the May 2015 elections.

Labour (in my opinion) need to come clean with why they took the way out they did and totally screwed over those who had campaigned to remove Keegan & Hill from interfering with Ramsgate Seafront.

BUT nothing will excuse the failures within TDC to manage this project whether it be deliberate actions or just plain incompetence but what it really shows is Hill and Keegan are so much cleverer at levering money out of Thanet District Council. I really wonder if this is the real reason TDC do not want the Pinsent Mason report made public. No one wants to be seen as an easy mark.

I know which view I prefer

Tuesday 23 August 2016

Post freehold purchase

If you cast your mind back to a previous blog

"What is abundantly clear is TDC complete on the sale of the Freehold thereby absolving themselves from any further interest in the ownership of the site. Now all they have to do is hope the Development Agreement to build is watertight and that Mike Stannard can actually build out the site because if he cannot the ball is firmly back in TDC's hands assuming they have a watertight Development Agreement. (Something they have a poor track record of enforcing)"

Well further information has arrived in my mailbox and a quick check on Companies House has given up the following information.

 Seems that Stannard has resigned from SFP and Colin Hill's tame accountant has taken over. The Company has changed name and the registered address has gone back to where it started from. So what happened to Cardy Ramsgate Ltd the real owner of the freehold
Well Colin Hill has finally stuffed TDC, Stannard has gone and it's all in Colin Hill's hands so how will TDC enforce the built.

Q 4. What provisions are in place to ensure that the site will be developed? 

In the agreement, there is a long-stop date of three and a half years with measurable milestones, by which the site must be developed. If it is not developed then the council has an option to buy it back. The first milestone relates to the completion of piling (and certified practical completion of that piling) for the hotel within two years. The second milestone relates to completion of the building works so they are ready to be fitted out within three and a half years. If those milestones are not met, the council has an option to purchase the site back from Cardy Ramsgate Limited. 

 Note the agreement signed by the previous Labour administration forces TDC to buy their own site back if it isn't developed. Now remind me isn't that what happened to Peterborough Council in 2010. It cost them £8M to get their land back and it cost Hill nowt. Nice little earner.

From this

To this

A prediction Hill will not build and he will hold out for the next 3 and a half years and force TDC to pay him circa £10M to get the site back.

I would like to say a belated well done (sarcasm) to Iris Johnson, David Green and Rick Everitt for selling TDC and the people of Ramsgate down the river. For what? circa £3.5M over 7 years. what will it cost in lost revenue? who bloody knows.
For Stephanie, this is the conservation area. Pleasurama is outside of it

Wednesday 3 August 2016

The gift that keeps on Giving

Today the latest on Companies House shows a charge secured on the recently acquired Freehold (Land Registry ref K838703) by a company registered in Panama. Another well known tax haven but also infamous for hiding the details of ownership from us lesser mortals. In this case however they may have made an error because all charges are now available for download from Companies House. And guess what? Who owns Mintal none other than the moneyman Colin Hill first identified as behind this lash up in June 2013 

 So it seems that promises made by Cabinet members verbally have been wiped out by people far cleverer than the TDC officers tasked with ensuring everything is above board. Now it seems there are two stories doing the rounds firstly that Colin Hill has stumped up the £3M so the freehold can be purchased and along with the £5M already invested has increased his stake to £8M. The Second story, which I favour, is that far from actually buying out Keegan/Hill Mike Stannard has done a deal with Colin Hill and still owes Hill £5M which had already been invested into SFP Ventures (UK) Ltd and that sum is what Hill wants to protect hence the charge on Cardy Ramsgate Ltd.

What is abundantly clear is TDC complete on the sale of the Freehold thereby absolving themselves from any further interest in the ownership of the site. Now all they have to do is hope the Development Agreement to build is watertight and that Mike Stannard can actually build out the site because if he cannot the ball is firmly back in TDC's hands assuming they have a watertight Development Agreement. (Something they have a poor track record of enforcing)

Interesting choice of lawyer to witness especially to those that followed the Ezekiel trial.

Details of the last unaudited accounts by Keegan's accountants no less

Here is a link to Ian Driver's Blog 

 Any further news I will add to this later
Council Statement
Thanet District Council can confirm that the sale of the former Pleasurama site on Ramsgate seafront completed on Wednesday 20 July 2016 with Cardy Ramsgate Ltd.
The council has received the monies from this sale.
The site has transferred to the south-east based firm who will be responsible for delivery of the scheme.
Once complete, the development is set to include a hotel, residential apartments, leisure/retail facilities, cafes, shops and a playground. This is in line with the existing planning consent.
The scheme is expected to employ up to 200 people. This would include opportunities during construction and jobs in the hotel trade, commercial units and in the servicing of the residential areas.
The council understands separately that Cardy Construction Ltd. has filed a notice of intent to appoint an administrator. The council does not have any further information in relation to this process at this stage.
The Sale Agreement for the site was completed on 13 March 2015. This marked the exchange of contracts binding the council to complete the transfer of the land.
As with the original development agreement, the council retains ownership of the cliff wall and completed works here in April 2016."

Last May this is what an FOI asked
Dear Thanet District Council,
Please provide details of any payments the developer(s)/buyer(s) of the Royal Sands Development, Ramsgate is/are contractually bound to pay Thanet District Council as per any legally extant planning permission, development agreement, contract of sale, memorandum of understanding OR any other document which might contain this information.
Where payments have or will be made please provide the following information for each amount:
(a) Name of organisation providing the payment
(b) Purpose of payment
(c) Date funds paid/will be paid to the council
(d) Details of any conditions attached to payment
Yours faithfully,

and the response

Thank you for your communication received on 15/04/2015 where you
requested information about contractual payments regarding the Royal Sands
I apologise for the delay in responding to your request, it is the
councils intention to publish this information once the legal process
concludes so this information is exempt under section 22 of the Freedom of
Information Act and is therefore being withheld.

Whether anyone believes the current statement from TDC or not it hasn't gone nearly far enough to answer the above FOI.

Tuesday 26 July 2016

A perfect storm

Thanet's beleaguered UKIP council are currently finding life tough at the top. Firstly they are in danger of losing Dreamland (where they own the freehold) to receivership.
Secondly the saga of Manston airport rumbles on and yesterday they announced spending another £50K of ratepayer's money on another viability study which they say will feed into the proposed Local Plan. This despite spending £100K already.

Thirdly the latest news coming out is that Cardy will be appointing an administrator as they are likely to be looking for a buyer "Workers for Cardy Construction Ltd, based in Canterbury, report they were told to collect their tools due to a stop on works this morning." Full story here

For regular readers of this blog will know that after the 2009 Development Agreement ran out in February 2014 TDC have put their faith in Cardy buying out Shaun Keegan's ltd company SFP Ventures (UK) Ltd and this has recently occurred See here 
It seems now the carefully constructed change over has started to unwind. So where does that leave Ramsgate? And TDC?

The current situation is Cardy Ramsgate Ltd (Mike Stannard) owns SFP Ventures (UK) Ltd which in turn owns 3 leases sold for £550K by Sandy Ezekiel's Tory administration in 2009 and further to that £1M was paid to TDC as a surety. 
SFP's accounts show that just over £5M has been deposited into the company by means of director loans, so it seems likely Cardy have input some of that money (into the tombstones) and the rest by Shaun Keegan.

Has this been paid back to Keegan when Cardy Ramsgate bought out SFP?

Has the surety money (£1M) been used for the deposit to TDC?

The state of play with TDC and Cardy is explained here
So contracts may have been exchanged but the purchase of the freehold has yet to be completed so it seems Pleasurama is in the same position as Dreamland that is TDC still hold the Freehold but the leases are held by a company in financial difficulties.

What hasn't changed is there is extant planning for 107 apartments which remains on the site in perpetuity.
It is possible that a new buyer comes forward and takes over the development however if any new buyer takes over Cardy Ramsgate Ltd and decides to 1. continue the current incomplete deal with TDC 2. Decides to put in New Planning (which would trigger an expensive Flood Risk Assessment) Either way the losers are the tourist industry and by extension the people living in the area.
It was May 1998 when the Pleasurama site caught fire and in looks like the people of Ramsgate have a 20 year anniversary fast approaching without resolution of the site.

What next aliens taking over?
On the 20th July 2016 Mike Stannard, owner of SFP Ventures (UK) Ltd via Cardy Ramsgate Ltd completed on the deal with TDC by payment of approximately £3M. TDC then would have handed over the freehold and taken back the 3x199 year leases issued to Shaun Keegan in 2009.

We await a statement from TDC as to the development agreement and its long stop date. When TDC issue a statement I will update.

Saturday 9 July 2016

What's a million between friends

For those who have not followed the twists and turns of this saga a brief resume of the shenanigans in 2009 under leader Ezekiel.

The former legal eagle at TDC concluded in 2014 that TDC did little "due diligence" on SFP Ventures (UK) Ltd and even though they paid TDC £1M surety in September 2009 the risk to TDC was too great and the Chief Finance officer was right to recommend not to agree the 2009 amendments.

So where did this £1Million come from. According to the Finance Officer it was via the UK clearing banking system however when pressed she said they had NEVER identified the source of the funds. However it is clear from the letters in TDC's possession this money had arrived via Tortola, one of the British Virgin Islands. A tax haven in anyone else's eyes, however sadly not in TDCs.
SFP Services Ltd is really SFP Services Inc based in Tortola and run by Colin Hill the money man behind Shaun Keegan.
Now where is this money now?
It seems TDC doesn't want to answer this question although it seems likely this is the same £1M referred to by Lin Fairbrass in her answer to "What's happening with the Cardy build"
It seems the money has already been partially spent however the money seems to have passed through many hands so identifying the true source seems to be a moot point as it has effectively been well washed.

Monday 4 July 2016

Sean Keegan- an obituary

When SFP Venture Partners based in Tortola (In the British Virgin Islands) created a UK Ltd Company in 2006 it was done to satisfy the need for a UK entity in negotiations with Thanet District Council. Its ownership (1 share) has always been in the hand of Shaun Patrick Keegan, the father in Law of Colin Hill the money man controlling this land banking scheme.
This company was called SFP Ventures (UK) Ltd (registration number 05666803) and until recently has been the owner of 3 leases but not the Freehold.
On the annual return in 2015 Shaun Keegan was still the owner of the one share however when the return was sent to Companies House on the 7th January 2016 this had changed.
Which means on the 31st December 2015 Shaun Keegan relinquished control of SFP to an entity called Cardy Ramsgate Limited. So who controls Cardy Ramsgate Limited?
So the takeover of SFP was in the favour of Michael Stannard a director of Cardy based in Wincheap, Canterbury and the builders taken on in 2009 by Shaun Keegan. Now according to the TDC Portfolio Holder completion on the new development agreement brokered by the previous administration is imminent and building can commence
So some good news for the eyesore that is Pleasurama, however Thanet's finest (sic) detectives are again alleging that there is a restrictive covenant on the site despite all of their investigating and conspiracy theories no one outside their very small circle can come up with any shred of evidence and even an FOI has produced a zero response
My last blog on this was last July ( link here) so they have failed to find any trace of this phantom piece of paper and so the conspiracy goes on unabated

I won't go into why there is no covenant as it was all detailed in the July 2015 blog however after having a chat with a Councillor who was in the original Cabinet who made the decision to award the build to SFP he did point out the following facts.
1. There is no knowledge of a restrictive Covenant stating the land had to be for leisure*1
2. No Local authority would fetter their actions by creating a restrictive Covenant on land they might sell*2
It seems that the conspiracy theorists are having a field day because something that doesn't exist is subject of various theories of how it has vanished.
Kandy knows full well that Janet Woods had lent me her folder and it was copied and returned. If Janet moved and thrown her papers away so be it, What I had was before FORS even existed as it wasn't a constituted group until November 2013. The paperwork to which she refers is the treasurers stuff (cheque book, final accounts, and a cash box) and nothing to do with any files which have been collected over many months and clearly scanned and posted into the files section of the FB page for anyone to download.
The paperwork given to me with a promise not to pass them to Kandy and her co-cconspirators were returned to David Green before I left Ramsgate. I presume he has shredded them after he lost his seat in the 2015 election.

*1 There is a RC covering the view from Wellington Crescent which any developer's solicitor would discover in a local search
*2 This would preclude Ramsgate Corporation and TDC from creating one.

I will point out one thing for the latecomers into this conspiracy John Davis will have NO personal knowledge of FORS prior to March 2015. He wasn't part of the original steering group created at the beginning of 2013, neither was he at any time part of the constituted group. Original group members were Bayo, Duncan Smithson and myself. Even Kandy didn't put herself down for any of the main jobs for reasons only known to herself. Duncan came off as secretary because he couldn't pass Money Laundering for the bank account. John Davis only wheedled his way in after March 2015. To date no accounts have ever been published not even the interim ones I left with the treasurer's stuff.