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 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