Captain Moonlight: Your secrets are safe in Luxembourg

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The Independent Online
THE Princess of Wales likes her privacy. So too does Oliver Hoare, the Islamic art dealer and recipient of a spate of pest calls from Kensington Palace. Perhaps Mr Hoare likes his privacy more because two of his companies owe a great deal of money.

Mr Hoare hasn't been seen in public since the scandal broke a week ago. A photographer lurking outside his office in Pimlico was still there on Friday, sick by then of the sign in the window that reads 'No to the Red Route'.

Behind the glass, a suit of armour made of chain-mail partly obscured a dusty typewriter and a pile of carrier bags from Peter Jones. So what exactly goes on at 17 Eccleston Street?

Mr Hoare runs three businesses from there. Ahuan UK Ltd, Islamic Art Services Ltd and Oliver Hoare Ltd. His partner, other than his wife Diane, is David Sulzberger, a scion of the family that owns the New York Times.

Ahuan is the name of Mr Hoare's art gallery. It was established in 1975, at the height of the market in Islamic works. What should have been money for old rope then was actually uphill work. In the year to 31 March 1976, Ahuan did only pounds 11,060 worth of business and the company made a loss of pounds 2,906.

To be fair, a small business must be given a chance to grow. By 1993, Mr Hoare's business had expanded. But so had its debts. Ahuan's assets totalled pounds 72,188, but its debts were nearly 10 times as high. Some pounds 677,386, to be precise.

Matters at Oliver Hoare Ltd, are even more serious. Mr Hoare's accountants, Silver Levene, recently declared that there was a 'fundamental uncertainty' about the company. Assets of pounds 350,313 were outstripped by debts nearly pounds 40,000 higher. Dun & Bradstreet, the financial experts, say: 'Anyone thinking of investing in Oliver Hoare Ltd is advised not to without some kind of guarantee.'

What is one to make of this state of affairs? It is always assumed that Mr Hoare, who has charmed many women (from Talitha Getty, J Paul Getty Jnr's young wife, who died tragically young of a heroin overdose in 1971, to the Princess of Wales), is rich. That may be because he lives well. On the other hand, it may also be that he conducts part of his business in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

The main shareholder in Mr Hoare's businesses is a Luxembourg company, Ahuan SA. And the owner of his mansion in Tregunter Road, valued at pounds 2.5m, is another, Clarksdale SA.

Luxembourg is not a place that woos the poor. It does, however, offer privacy and an escape from British taxation. If the Prince of Wales had married Princess Marie-Astrid of the Grand Duchy - religion was a barrier here - he might have escaped so many of his present troubles.