Property tycoon accused of threatening lawyer

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The Independent Online
OUTSPOKEN property millionaire Nicholas van Hoogstraten faces the possibility of a fine or imprisonment after allegedly threatening a lawyer in a county court action brought by a group of disgruntled flat- owners.

Mr Van Hoogstraten, no stranger to controversy, has been taken to court by residents of 2-6 Palmeira Square, Hove, Sussex. They claim he used a variety of aliases, including Nicholas Adolph von Hessen, and the names of ex-girlfriends to register interests in the flats in an attempt to block a property deal.

In a bid to frustrate the residents' plans to buy it, Mr Van Hoogstraten, it is claimed, acted as a shadow director of Saga Properties, the company that owned the freehold of the Palmeira Square flats when it came up for sale in 1991.

As one of Britain's richest men, rumoured to be worth up to pounds 200m, Mr Van Hoogstraten has luxury homes in Britain, the South of France, St Lucia, Barbados, America and Zimbabwe.

The Hove residents, known as 2-6 Palmeira Square Limited, are claiming repayment of the pounds 200,000 legal bill they say they ran up during a three- year battle to secure the deal, which they eventually won.

Last month Mr Van Hoogstraten, who claims to have a girlfriend for every home, was report- ed as saying that women should never have been given the vote.

At Hove County Court yesterday, Judge Suzanne Coates was told how the businessman threatened the barrister acting for the residents, Graham Campbell QC, at the end of Tuesday's hearing. Interrupting proceedings, Mr Campbell told the court he had been warned he was "going to have it". He said: "Mr Hoogstraten uttered threats to me. I didn't hear them or register they were made. I registered some abuse in the background."

He said his supporting solicitor, Oliver Maland, had taken a note of the exact words, which were: "You dirty bastard. In due course you're going to have it."

Judge Coates said: "It's inexcusable that counsel doing the job, and doing the job to the best of their ability, should be subject to any kind of threat. I've noted it."

She made clear she would consider whether to bring a contempt charge against Mr Van Hoogstraten later, adding: "I sincerely hope there's no repetition of anything of the sort."

In an attempt to give Mr Van Hoogstraten his say, his counsel, Robert Leonard QC, told the court: "He has taken the way certain aspects of this case have been presented against him personally and seriously. It has unfortunately introduced an emotive element into the proceedings."

Later in yesterday's hearing, Keith Duncan, one of the named directors of Saga, denied any links with Mr Van Hoogstraten and said he was only in court under duress.

When asked by Mr Leonard if the tycoon had ever been involved with Saga, Mr Duncan, who was subpoenaed to appear, said: "You are joking. I wouldn't get involved with him. I would never ever get involved with that man."

He added: "It might help if I just say I don't want any retribution whatsoever."

At this point, Mr Van Hoogstraten interrupted the proceedings, saying: "Am I supposed to sit here and say nothing about that?"

The case will continue on 5 October for a three-day hearing.