A tailor’s Tale
It all started when a taxi driver told me he had recently had a Russian tailor in the back of his taxi who had asked him to take him to a house on the Bishop’s Avenue in North London. The then President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, had ordered a suit and he was going to his house to get his measurements.
A humble request that even an ordinary man might want once in a while, but the address was far from humble! In fact his house is one of London’s priciest. It is not known what the inside leg or waist size of the President of Nazakhstan is, but (as somebody who has seen him at a distance) I can testify that the amount of cloth required will be considerable.
As the people of Kazakhstan struggle with the doubling of liquefied petroleum gas prices, to the point where they have gone onto the streets of capital of Kazakhstan, Almaty, in the face of gunfire and laid down their lives, I thought I would look into the story of this house and of other London properties owned by the Kazakh ‘Royal Family’.
It is clear — and well known to the supine UK authorities who want to hold onto their wealth and busienss — that Britain remains a safe haven for Kazakh wealth of staggering proportions.
First question: we know that Nazarbayev quit as President on 19 March 2019 but he remained the head of the Security Council. Now his successor, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has removed him and his nephew from their security jobs. Do they lose their London pads as well.
National Crime Agency
I put it in the plural because a recent report from the National Crime Agency shows that they own other properties (in addition to the Bishop’s Avenue Mansion) in London’s upscale Hampstead and Chelsea areas. The total value could easily top £125m in today’s money said one estate agent. For other Kleptocratically owned properties see https://www.chathamhouse.org/2021/12/uks-kleptocracy-problem/annex
I understand the house was called Toprak Mansion and was a home from home when the Kazakh President and his family stayed in London. It has been reported that a Kazakh who was close to the former President was acting on his behalf when he bought the 30,000 sq ft (2,800 m2) property at 46a Bishop’s Avenue for £50 million in January 2008. The seller was Halis Toprak, a Turkish tycoon. The deal was the largest for a domestic property at the time in the UK.
Toprak, who built the house, made his fortune in construction. The mansion has a green copper roof. Its Turkish bath can hold 20 people. It has an 80-foot dining room, and a pool spanned by a translucent glass bridge. It was supreme luxury but Toprak only spent two days in the mansion according to the agents who sold the property. Toprak never swam in the pool, the “Insider” publication reported.
The New Royals
‘Insider’ reports that the new owner’s identity remained secret for many years, until it was revealed to be Kazakh billionaire Hourieh Peramaa. As a 17-year-old, Peramaa (who is also known as Peramam) fled Kazakhstan and (reportedly) walked barefoot to an Iranian refugee camp, her home until she married a wealthy Iranian doctor. Peramaa purportedly built up a £1 billion ($1.3 billion) property empire.
She pulled down the gold lettering spelling “Toprak Mansion” and replaced them with letters spelling “Royal Mansion.”
It seems that the fabulous mansion which dominates the street, was still not quite sufficiently endowed for grandess of this magnitude and Peramaa wanted to make it even bigger, increasing the square footage by 19,000 to 49,000. This would allow it to include a beauty salon, helipad, squash court, spa, and a 35-seat cinema. Peramaa is said to be at least 75, and linked by Panama Papers to Tiquen Investments Limited
Peramaa’s daughter, Yassmin, told the ‘Evening Standard’ newspaper in January 2008 that she was making weekly trips to Italy to discuss ideas with a famous interior designer.
It is not known whether the upgrades were made. Even without them, the value of the property is likely to have doubled, according to an estate agent in the area.
Close to the President
In November 2008, the former head of Kazakhstan’s National Security Council, Alnur Musayev, (now living as an exile in Austria) claimed to “The Times” newspaper that the mansion was actually owned by the then-President Nursultan Nazarbayev, and that Peramaa was simply a front.
Returning to the story of this massive mansion, Hossein Ghandehari, Peramaa’s son, denied Musayev’s claim that Nazarbayev did indeed own it, but accepted that his family does have a personal relationship with Nazarbayev. It appears he said no more than that about his relationship although the cynical will have their opinions.
Insider reported that The Royal Mansion was currently owned by Velocity Investment Holdings Limited, a shell company based in the British Virgin Island and South Africa. A company called Velocity Investment Holdings (Scotland) has also been registered.
British Virgin Islands owner
The house has also been registered to Hartwood Resources Company, also in the British Virgin Islands.
Keeping it in the family
Another Kazakh who liked British property investments was Timur Kulibayev, the son-in-law of Kazakhstan’s President Nazarbayev. He spent more than £70 million on houses on Upper Grosvenor Street and Green Street, in Mayfair and Holland Park, according to a promotional piece published by ES Magazine on 2 July 2010.
The article reported that he was “linked to paying £15 million for Prince Andrew’s Sunninghill folly, notoriously £3 million more than the asking price.”
It has been rumoured that Nursultant Nazarnayev, who is 81 and not well, may be spending more time with his family in Moscow. But if he needs a bolthole, the place on Bishop’s Avenue will be waiting.
This website will be publishing over the following days a number of chapters from an unpublished manuscript about the recent history of Kazakhstan to provide some insights to the current disturbances.