Thursday, July 21, 2005

(Tony, photograph courtesy of Gabrielle Motola)

Issue Date: 22nd August 2005 Issued by Arthur Shuter

As some will already know, Dr. Roger Wratten attended at Little Georgia Restaurant, 2 Broadway Market, London E8 early this morning and removed all of the management and staff.

Tikka, the proposed new leaseholder, who has operated the business for some time, was due to sign a lease on Friday 19th August at £ 30,000 per annum. As she prepared to do so, Dr. Wratten’s legal advisers increased the lease to £ 36,000 p.a:

Without warning, Dr. Wratten attended this morning and turfed everyone out and has closed the place down.

This is an all too familiar event. The previous (proposed) leaseholders suffered a similar fate and one of the partners went to north America and hung himself as a result.

Today, Tikka and 8 staff are out of work, with many of them also now having nowhere to live.

Once again we witness that developers who were gifted properties in Broadway Market by Hackney Council have no interest in promoting successful businesses and are concerned only about bricks and mortar.

Presumably, Dr. Wratten will already have his next victim lined up to take over Little Georgia and they too will go through the same rigmarole. Enquiries are necessary to determine what Dr. Wratten does with the premises whilst this goes on, how many businesses are operating from there (check Lloyds Bank at Windsor & Eton) and how much more tax free new capital investment will be ploughed into this one premises over the next 3 years or so?

In the meantime, another valuable improvement in Broadway Market is idle once again and the local community are to be deprived of one of their most popular venues.

07939 333465


Is It Time For People To Have Their Say?

In the mid-1990s Hackney Council assured its client base that the Council had overcome the financial difficulties and corruption which had plagued the borough for many years. The future looked quite promising – until reality hit home.

The borough’s Auditors woke up one day and decided that they had a job to do, so they audited the accounts. When they did so, they found to their surprise that there was an unexplained £ 17 million black hole in the budget.

Tony Elliston, then Chief Executive went cap-in-hand to Stephen Byers and sought a government hand-out. But Stephen Byers and his colleagues were not in a generous and forgiving mood.

Many local residents and traders will remember government hit squads being sent in to sort out various Council Divisions. A closer examination of the books found that the £ 17 million black hole was a chasm amounting to £ 72 million and the government were not happy that, having recently gained power, one of their Labour Councils had soured their victory.

Even so, there was to be no financial rescue. Under the direction of the D.o.E; Tony Elliston decided that it was ‘inappropriate for a Council to hold a financial interest in commercial property’. The decision was taken to sell anything, which resembled commercial premises. Shortly afterwards, Tony Elliston resigned, collected his golden handshake and disappeared.

Suddenly hundreds of traders who had been leaseholders of the Council, some for many decades, were given 28 days notice that their premises and livelihoods were to be auctioned off by a private auctioneers who had been contracted by Hackney Council to generate sufficient funds to clear the deficit. Many of the shop premises had residential units above and the residents were given little say in what was to happen.

Nelson Bakewell wrote to each leaseholder and advised them that auctions were to be held and that a guide price had been set for their properties. In most cases, the letters arrived 2 days after auction notice boards had been put up on the properties. If they were able to put together the necessary funding within the 26 days that they had left, the leaseholders were assured that they would be given first refusal on the purchases.

The long-and- short of it is that properties with a market value of up to £ 225 million were sold, largely to private developers, for around £ 70 million. The Council and its agents have repeatedly refused to explain why the properties were sold off for a third of their value, generating only 1/3rd of the potential commission for the agents.

When the property sales were well under way, inquiries began to show the true scale of exactly what had been happening.

Whole rows of shops had been sold at knock-down block price to developers who had chosen to operate their businesses from tax havens in the Bahamas and Cayman Islands, whilst the individual traders who had operated their businesses from the same premises for up to 30 years, were left sitting in the auction rooms with their cheque books in their hands, having been denied the opportunity to bid for the individual lots.

In Dalston Lane, London E8 some 14 properties were sold to a south-African/Dubai conglomerate with dubious backgrounds for £ 1.8 million, while the occupiers had prepared to buy the freeholds for up to £ 300,000 each. As a result, a business operating from a P O Box in Nassau bought a complete row of shops in east London for a pittance and have left them to rot. If the leaseholders objected or sought to pursue their legal rights, mysterious fires occurred in their premises overnight.

What the property developers plan to do with these premises remains a conundrum. Various Planning Applications have been submitted to turn the properties into ultra-modern rabbit hutches to house stockbrokers at ridiculous rents, whilst the people of Hackney have been deprived of the potential for market value incomes from these premises, and of affordable housing.

The Fraud Squad, the Joint Shadow Economy Team, the Metropolitan Police and numerous other agencies have been examining the background to these cases for some time. It has become clear that many sections of the national press and media have also been investigating what went on.

In the meantime, shopkeepers are losing their livelihoods. Those who are determined to stay on find their rents rising by up to 1200% and if they can’t or won’t pay, District Judges at Shoreditch County Court evict them onto the streets and they get nothing because the new landlords claim tens of thousands of pounds in backdated rents.

One of the properties which has recently changed hands in Broadway Market, London E8 is run by a Company with a Director who is a Recorder of the same County Court Circuit as Shoreditch. The Department for Constitutional Affairs has investigated but are powerless to act.


Many Hackney residents will be familiar with Broadway Market and the revived street market which began operating again on Saturdays in May 2004 and which has become a magnificent success.

Broadway Market is made up of some 80 shop units with residential units above most of them.

In 1997, the Council sold off 9 of the units to a property development Company based in Moscow for £ 250,000 in total. The premises have a current market value estimated at £ 4.9 million.

A small number of leaseholders were successful in buying the freeholds from Hackney Council, many on the eve of the auction.

One leaseholder who has occupied a small retail unit at 71 Broadway Market, living above the shop whilst he tries to make a modest living, took on the derelict unit and worked with few tools and little support to turn it into a decent unit. He sells fresh fish and root vegetables from the small shop unit and is well known and respected in the local community. He is fondly known locally as ‘Spirit’.

Broadway Investments Hackney Limited – one of the many Companies operating from a P O Box in Nassau in the Bahamas, showed an interest in the freehold of 71 Broadway Market, along with 9 other units in the street.

Having been told by Nelson Bakewell in November 2001 that the property was to be sold at auction on 13th December 2001, Spirit met with senior staff of Nelson Bakewell on the morning of the auction and paid his 10% deposit towards the asking price.

Just hours later, Nelson Bakewell sold the same property to Broadway Investments Hackney Limited for £ 15,000 less than Spirit had already offered.

These issues are still being investigated by the Council’s Audit & Anti Fraud Division and by the police. With negotiations at a delicate stage, it would be inappropriate to make any further comment at this stage, other than to explain, as I have above, what the traders were put through.

Calogero ‘Tony’ Platia has operated an Italian Café/Restaurant from 34 Broadway Market for some 30 years. As a leaseholder, he paid his rent and non-domestic rates to the Council and he made a modest living to keep himself and his family.

In 1999 he sought to buy the freehold interest in the property. When he was close to achieving this, information about his confidential arrangements were leaked to a Kent based property developer who owns adjoining properties and who had been trying to buy 34 Broadway Market.

From this point on, all attempts by Tony to buy the freehold were obstructed. Despite this, in July 2001, a report was compiled to be put before the regeneration Sub-Committee of Hackney Council which recommended the immediate sale of the property to Tony Platia.

The Committee never got to seethe report and the Council continues to ‘try to locate it and to find out what happened to it’.

In February 2003, the property was sold at auction to the Kent based property developer.

An intense legal battle followed (largely fought in – yes, you guessed it, Shoreditch County Court). Surprisingly, Tony lost out and Eviction Warrants were issued in favour of the developer.

Twice the police and bailiffs tried to enforce the Warrants. With local support, both attempts were thwarted.

After the first attempt and some communications between the parties, the locks on the shutters securing the café were cut off at 1030pm on 21st February 2005 and 3 firebombs were thrown into the premises.

Some form of similar action had been anticipated and the police and fire service arrived within minutes. The fire was quickly extinguished and local supporters worked on a 24 hour basis and the business was operating again within days.

On 1st July 2005, a large group of bailiffs, supported by 50 uniformed police officers, stormed the café just as Tony opened up and secured the premises. Demolition has already begun.

Many people accessing this web site will know Tony and the other affected parties.

Now is the opportunity for people to speak out and to give their viewpoints on this and any related issues.

Hackney Council launched a fraud investigation in August 2003. Even so, Max Caller and Penny Thompson have neither the guts nor the inclination to authorise the seizure and examination of Council files, for fear of upsetting the unions, and I am being asked to provide all of the evidence which the Council needs to sort this mess out. But (unless you know otherwise) I have no access to the evidence which is needed.

The Police are actively investigating but this will all take some time yet.

The Joint Shadow Economy Team will soon be handing one of the developers a substantial bill for unpaid taxes, but he can write out a cheque for £ 2.5 million and still carry on as he did before.

It is now suggested that a world renowned media group are about to disclose the results of their investigations which are said to show that three property developers are linked to wholesale money laundering, drug trafficking, embezzlement and fraud and that officials in Westminster and Hackney are implicated.

In the meantime, the residents and traders of Hackney continue to suffer the consequences of the greed and manipulation of people who continue to believe that they are untouchable and who have been waiting for the opportunity to plunder the £8 billion budget which would fall into their grasp when London were chosen as the successful city bid for the 2012 Olympics.

Now that the result is known, Hackney’s Fraud Investigators want to wait 12 months before trying to stop any anticipated fraud!

Now is the time for local people to speak out.

In issuing this web site, local volunteers are providing a forum for residents to have their say and to ensure that people become aware of what has been going on.

If you wish to make a comment please do so below. If you have a similar story then we would be glad to hear from you.

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We look forward to hearing from you.