The cheerleader for Cor­byn who sup­ports son’s schemes to sell off home­less hos­tels

Labour leader’s ally Jon Lans­man ac­cused of hypocrisy over links to tax shel­ter fi­nance group

The Sunday Telegraph - - NEWS - An­drew Gil­li­gan

THE di­rec­tor of Mo­men­tum, the con­tro­ver­sial Jeremy Cor­byn supporters’ group, is closely linked to a web of property com­pa­nies, some of them off­shore, used for tax avoid­ance and com­mu­nity “as­set-strip­ping”.

Jon Lans­man, 58, a self-de­scribed “vet­eran Ben­nite,” runs a long­stand­ing hard-Left web­site, Left Fu­tures, which cam­paigns against “fat cat tax dodgers” and “as­set-strip­ping pri­vate eq­uity bosses” in “this no­holds-barred era of crooked cap­i­tal­ism”.

Left Fu­tures is based in the Soho of­fices of Foun­da­tion Property & Cap­i­tal (FPC), run by Mr Lans­man’s brother Stephen and son Ben. It spe­cialises in “cre­at­ing small coin­vest­ment ve­hi­cles for high net worth in­vestors,” al­low­ing them to “shel­ter in­come tax,” work­ing in con­junc­tion with a lead­ing pri­vate eq­uity firm. Ben is a di­rec­tor of Ortonovo Hold­ings, also based at FPC, which owns Left Fu­tures.

On be­half of wealthy clients, FPC buys “un­der­val­ued” com­mu­nity as­sets such as pubs and hos­tels for the home­less, which are typ­i­cally closed and their ten­ants evicted, by FPC or the ven­dor.

The build­ings are then con­verted into hous­ing or more prof­itable re­tail. FPC de­scribes it­self as “unashamedly op­por­tunis­tic”. At The Blue Lion in Har­mans Wa­ter, Berks, Trevor Cook had been land­lord for 12 years and lived above the bar when he was made re­dun­dant and given three weeks to leave. The pub was sold to FPC by the Stonegate Pub Com­pany.

Mr Cook told a lo­cal news­pa­per the clo­sure was a “bit of a bomb­shell” af­ter a record week in which the pub had “made more money than we’d ever made be­fore”. He said: “I don’t understand the need for speed. This pub has been my life. Be­ing a land­lord isn’t a job, it’s a life­style.

“Now I’ve got two weeks left to find a new job and some­where to live. I’m prob­a­bly go­ing to have to do some sofa surf­ing.” FPC was de­nied per­mis­sion to turn the pub into homes and a con­ve­nience store but is ap­peal­ing.

At The He­roes of Luc­know pub in Alder­shot, Hants, land­lords Sylvia and Brian Kaup­pila were thrown out af­ter 29 years. Mrs Kaup­pila said: “The deal was all done be­hind our backs. We were first told we had three months to get out then, once it had been pur­chased. They asked us to stay on a tem­po­rary lease, and we did, then they asked if we would be will­ing to get out within a month if of­fered some money so we said yes.

“Be­cause it was a ver­bal con­tract we never got any­thing. In a sense I’m quite re­lieved we’ve left be­cause things were get­ting very hard, our hands were full, but it was our fam­ily home.” The pub is now a con­ve­nience store.

On Can­vey Is­land, Es­sex, FPC bought and closed the King Canute pub, so named af­ter it was one of the few build­ings not af­fected by the dev­as­tat­ing 1953 North Sea floods. Lo­cals still re­mem­ber be­ing res­cued by troops op­er­at­ing from the pub. FPC re­buffed a 400-sig­na­ture pe­ti­tion from res­i­dents ask­ing for the land­mark to be re­opened. It wants to build hous­ing in the grounds.

FPC has also been in­volved in the sale of sev­eral home­less hos­tels, in­clud­ing Cas­tle Lane in Vic­to­ria, Lon­don, which went to the de­vel­op­ment gi­ant Land Se­cu­ri­ties for £22.5mil­lion. West­min­ster hous­ing of­fi­cials said the hos­tel had had “con­sid­er­able suc­cess in work­ing with rough sleep­ers” and its clo­sure “re­sulted in a gap in ser­vice pro­vi­sion”, with the loss of 170 beds.

Other Lon­don home­less hos­tels sold, de­scribed by FPC as “re­dun­dant” and “mono­lithic,” in­cluded 7 Dock Street, near Aldgate – sold for around £10 mil­lion and now used by back­pack­ers, Princess Beatrice House in Earls Court, which be­came stu­dent ac­com­mo­da­tion in a £15mil­lion deal, and Judd House near Old Street round­about which has been turned into 20 “ware­house-style apart­ments for af­ford­able and mar­ket rent”.

FPC promotes it­self to in­vestors as a means of avoid­ing tax. Public­ity for its Con­ve­nience Stores In­come and Growth Lim­ited Part­ner­ship, seen by

The Sun­day Tele­graph, states it of­fers “tax ef­fi­ciency” with “sub­stan­tial cap­i­tal al­lowances” which “should shel­ter in­come tax for the first two years of in­vest­ment”.

FPC is held through a com­plex net­work of more than 40 com­pa­nies and part­ner­ships, mostly in the UK but some off­shore. Most of FPC’s oper­a­tions are in the UK but the com­pany’s main funds do not ap­pear to be held in Bri­tain. None of the UK com­pa­nies which has re­ported ac­counts con­tains sub­stan­tial sums and those which have filed do so as “small com­pa­nies”.

Part of FPC’s property port­fo­lio is held un­der off­shore mort­gages and other ar­range­ments with Foun­da­tion Property & Cap­i­tal SARL, a sis­ter firm in the tax haven of Lux­em­bourg. Direc­tors there in­clude Mark Pear­son and Wil­liam Oliver, se­nior man­agers in the gi­ant Fo­rum Part­ners pri­vate eq­uity com­pany. FPC de­clined to an­swer when asked if it or its clients avoided tax by us­ing a shell com­pany in Lux­em­bourg. There is no sug­ges­tion that FPC or its clients have done any­thing il­le­gal.

Left Fu­tures, Jon Lans­man’s web­site, rails against “the murky in­flu­ence of Tory money on Bri­tish pol­i­tics via such de­vices as fam­ily trusts, non-dom ar­range­ments [and] off­shore mort­gages”. It at­tacks “let­ter­box com­pa­nies that are used to route prof­its through coun­tries such as the Nether­lands and Lux­em­burg [sic] to take ad­van­tage of favourable tax treaties,” con­demn­ing them as “ar­cane de­vices to de­feat tax jus­tice for the world’s other 99.9999 per cent”.

One Lon­don Labour MP said: “Jon Lans­man’s fol­low­ers are go­ing round try­ing to un­der­mine de­cent Labour MPs, like Stella Creasy, who have ac­tu­ally achieved things for the poor.

“Mean­while, while preach­ing hard-Left right­eous­ness, he is tied in with a com­pany that ap­pears to profit from the as­set-strip­ping of com­mu­nity fa­cil­i­ties such as pubs and home­less hos­tels. It is hyp­o­crit­i­cal, to say the least.”

Mr Lans­man, a vet­eran of 1980s hard-Left fac­tion-fight­ing, was key to Mr Cor­byn’s suc­cess­ful lead­er­ship bid and is sole di­rec­tor of Mo­men­tum Cam­paign Lim­ited, based at his £1mil­lion flat in But­ler’s Wharf, Shad Thames, next to the cap­i­tal’s Tower Bridge. He cre­ated Mo­men­tum to “con­tinue the en­ergy and en­thu­si­asm of Jeremy’s cam­paign” and in­sists it is not about de­s­e­lect­ing mod­er­ates.

How­ever, the group has been de­scribed as “ag­gres­sive” and a “rab­ble” by mem­bers of the shadow cab­i­net and sev­eral Mo­men­tum activists ap­pear to sub­stan­ti­ate fears by mod­er­ate Labour MPs that it is tar­get­ing them.

Jon Lans­man said last night he sup­ported his brother and son: “FPC is an en­tirely eth­i­cal com­pany. I have ab­so­lute con­fi­dence in that.

“Nei­ther my brother or my son have any­thing to do with any of my po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties,” he added.

Jon Lans­man and FPC de­clined to com­ment fur­ther.

‘Preach­ing hard-Left right­eous­ness, he is tied in with a firm that ap­pears to profit from as­set-strip­ping’

Fam­ily af­fair: Mo­men­tum’s Jon Lans­man with sons Max, front, and Ben, whose FPC firm sold a home­less hos­tel in Cas­tle Lane, Vic­to­ria, above, to property de­vel­op­ers for £22.5 mil­lion

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