The millionaire owner of Ambassador House is not paying hundreds of thousands of pounds in business rates because of a legal loophole.
A Chronicle investigation has uncovered that Sajid Bashir whose company Red Wing is the head leaseholder of the empty building is not liable for the business rates after using a legitimate rates mitigation scheme to avoid paying non domestic rates.
According to council documents, a real estate management company based in Manchester called Kirkstall Properties Ltd, which has gone in to liquidation, had been liable for the rates on Ambassador House.
Many local small businesses are struggling to pay rates which go towards the cost of local services and will rightly be angered by these revelations.
The nine storey office block which has sat empty for six years has a market rateable value of £581,250 with annual business rates of £292,000 due.
In March in the Court of Appeal, a local authority brought a test case against a similar business rates avoidance scheme but judges ruled it was valid.
Estimates suggest these schemes are responsible for millions of pounds of unpaid rates, which council’s are not able to collect. Similar cases are pending before the courts.
Kirkstall was incorporated for less than a year before going in to administration. How the scheme works is the property owners grant leases of empty properties to companies set up with no assets or liabilities which when wound up are exempt from paying the charges. The sole director of Kirkstall, Nicholas Gough is also listed as being the director of 30 similar property management company’s, including one called Mothball Ltd, some of which have gone in to liquidation in similar circumstances.
The Chronicle has tried to contact Mr Gough for comment and understands Croydon Council is looking at ways of recouping the money.
The only occupants living in Ambassador House in the last year weren’t paying any rent and were removed on a High Court eviction order this month.
The group of artists, some homeless, had been occupying the empty block over the Winter creating a hub called CR7 Studios. Two men overseeing the eviction operation (pictured) refused to comment when asked if they were the owners.
Mr Bashir, who is a friend of the Pakistani Prime Minster Imran Khan runs a property development business. His company Red Wing, which is based offshore, had the squatters evicted.