Property tycoon is charged with killing associate

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The Independent Online

One of Britain's richest men, the property tycoon Nicholas van Hoogstraten, has been charged with murdering a former business associate.

Mr van Hoogstraten is due to appear at Bexley magistrates' court today charged with murder and conspiracy to murder Mohammed Sabir Raja. Mr Raja, 62, a landlord in Brighton who had been convicted dozens of times for breaching housing regulations, died after being shot in the head and stomach at his home in Sutton, south London, in July 1999. David Croke, 58, from Brighton, was charged with his murder in February and is due to stand trial at the Old Bailey next month.

Mr van Hoogstraten was arrested in connection with the murder last July and released on bail. He was charged when he reported at Bexleyheath police station in Kent yesterday under the terms of his bail.

The son of a shipping agent, Mr van Hoogstraten built a fortune by buying property in Britain, America, France, the Caribbean and Zimbabwe, and is now worth an estimated £200m.

Mr van Hoogstraten, 56, was born in Shoreham, West Sussex and joined the navy at 16. He launched his business career with his savings and £1,000 from the sale of a stamp collection. By the time he was 22, he owned more than 300 properties in Sussex and went on to build a worldwide empire of more than 2,000.

Much of his business is in Zimbabwe, where he has interests in farms and mines and is the largest foreign landowner. He is a supporter of President Robert Mugabe and recently described the country as being safer than Britain despite the violence triggered by Mr Mugabe's supporters seizing land.

He earned a reputation as the scourge of Britain's ramblers by using barbed wire to block paths through his High Cross Estate in Uckfield, East Sussex, where he is building a £30m mansion.