In 2001,the 10,000 acre Cluny Estate, near Laggan in Inverness-shire was bought by Mr Alain Angelil for £3.6 million. He put it on the market on 12 August 2013 (media releasesales brochure 10.4Mb pdf).

Earlier this month, the estate was sold for £7.3 million to a company called Cluny Estates Ltd., PO Box 83, Ordnance House, 31 Pier Road, St. Helier, Jersey (memorandum of association here). This company is owned by two shareholders, OH Securities Ltd. and R&H Investments Ltd., both at the same address. As illustrated by a previous blog about Kildrummy Estate, these two companies are in turn both owned by R&H Trust Co. (Jersey) Ltd. which in turn is owned by the two companies that it owns (OH Securities Ltd. and R&H Investments Ltd.) and a third, Woodbourne Nominees Ltd. Who owns Woodbourne Nominees Ltd.? R&H Trust Co. (Jersey) Ltd. See below.

So, who is really behind Cluny Estates Ltd.?

Last week, land agents were on site at Cluny Estate. Asked who had bought it, they said they did not know and did not want to know. They are instructed by an agent in London who, in turn, is instructed by another agent.

I understand, however that the real owner is a member (or members) of the Qatar royal family – perhaps Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al-Missned (pictured above). She and other family members own significant properties in London including Harrods, 95% of the Shard, the Olympic village, half of the world’s most expensive apartment block, One Hyde Park, Canary Wharf and the US Embassy building. See recent reports here and here. Yesterday the family was denied planning consent to create a 17 bedroom palace in Cornwall Terrace, London.

If anyone has any further information, please feel free to share it in comments or directly to me via email mail@andywightman.com. Meanwhile, I have sent an email to the estate office to ask for confirmation.

 

42 Comments

  1. wonder how much land they own in Hallingdal ?

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  2. Plus ca change……

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  3. Andrew McScotland

    All estate’s and land of Scotland must stay and remain under Scottish control, they belong to Scotland, must fully pay all dues of Scotland, to Scotland.

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  4. Sounds like Mr Angelil has made “little or no profit” from being a landowner….bummer.

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    • Given just how much work he had done on the castle and surroundings I rather think that you are right that there will have been little or no profit for him. As you say, “bummer”!

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    • Actually its better to invest in London
      From last week’s Observer Ed Cumming
      ‘in 2002 the average price of a Knightsbridge home was £745,000; now it is £3.4m’

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  5. Doesn’t that set-up just shout out that something is being avoided. Transparent ownership and no tax-dodges please.

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  6. Is’nt Scotland wealthy enough to buy Scotland back from the foreign owners for the people of Scotland who are surely the rightful owners of Scotland in the first place?

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    • Why do we have to buy the land back. Why not just nationalise all land and then it would all be in public ownership. Why pay these people who are probably using as a tax haven or something.

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      • Better still, impose a progressive land tax which on large estates is so high that they’re unaffordable, even for Qatari royals.

        See http://blog.journeyman.cc/2014/12/me-and-you-and-duke-of-buccleuch.html

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        • That would never work under EU law.

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          • Ooh! Good! Argument by blank, unsupported assertion!

            Why not, pray, when exactly the same tax is applied under exactly the same rules to all privately owned land in Scotland?

            It cannot be discriminatory, because it is exactly the same tax, with exactly the same rules, for everyone, rich or poor, resident or absentee, private person or limited company (or charitable trust, for that matter).

            So on what possible legal basis could the EU oppose it?

          • I think you will find that most of the land of the Duke of Buccleuch is farmed and therefore not all his own use. Taxing someone twice isn’t right for any reason.

          • What gives Richard Walter John Montagu Douglas Scott the right to ‘own’ (and charge rent) on other people’s farms? What has he done to earn or merit it?

            In any case I’m not proposing to tax anyone twice. This is a tax on ownership, only; the tenants don’t pay it. Unless, of course, Richard Scott chooses to cede title to them.

  7. Company structures like that are designed to conceal, and there has to be a presumption that the reason they want to conceal it is because it’s really dirty money.

    Jersey is out with the EU. If the government’s current proposals became law, it would be impossible to pull this stunt in future, but Cluny, Kildrummy and all the others whose ownership is currently obfuscated would be unaffected. We can’t allow that to happen. If by no other means, we must tax these estates out of existence.

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  8. some one is buying up Scotland by the looks of it

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  9. no matter who has the land ownership . do you think any of these so called landowners will ever stop us from roaming our lands ? get it up ye ! who the hell said the queen could sell any land ? she owns nowt even in england !

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  10. The obscure holding company structure does not inspire confidence, but in principle it is not entirely a bad thing for foreigners to come to Scotland and spend their money here is it? Its not as if they can throw a rope around it and drag it away. The owners still have to abide by Scottish law, so surely that is where we should put our attention? To me at least this is the point that resonates through Andy’s writings

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  11. Sarah-Jane Laing

    Scottish Government actively targeted Qatar as potential investor in Scotland, with Mr Salmond apparently even sounding them out about buying Hearts and funding new Forth Crossing. So are comments saying that as as a nation we want their cash but they shouldn’t be able to own anything – hardly the fairness that many claim to espouse.

    Also lets be clear that lack of transparency of ownership and foreign investment are 2 entirely separate issues. And as Andy has highlighted before, it is wrong to suggest that this is a rural land reform issue. Business structures of this sort as common for the office blocks and retail premises in our cities across UK – not defending the practice (which is of coyrse legal) but too many people try to claim that this is solely a Scottish Highland Estates practice.

    Haven’t seen anyone taking stance against increased transparency of ownership – but of course without the continuation of the perceived veil of secrecy there would be no demand for ‘Who owns Scotland’ or ‘exposes’ of landownership. Some might claim that you yourself Andy have a vested interest in the continued lack of transparency or at least in amplifying the problem. Or once we have full land registration and clear transparency will you feel that ‘your job is done’ on the issue?

    I usually resist the urge to comment on your blogs – many of which I find very fascinating – as the comments in response inevitably veer away from the subject matter into personal or organisatiinal attacks and insults to all those who own land or businesses in rural Scotland.

    Simon has made suggestion again that individuals who own estates in Scotland are ‘money laundering’ – there is no suggestion of any illegal activity as far as I am aware. Simon – what evidence is this serious accusation of criminal activity based on?

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    • “Some might claim that you yourself Andy have a vested interest in the continued lack of transparency or at least in amplifying the problem”

      Who are these people that might claim this? Are they real or imaginary? And what vested interest do I have in the continued lack of transparency?

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    • I used, for my sins, to work for the Geneva branch of a major bank. I know therefore, a more than I really want to about the sorts of people who transact business through obfuscated ownership structures, and all I’m prepared to say about it is that there are no honest reasons for doing so.

      In the particular case of Qatar, there is strong evidence that that Qatar has been, and in all likelihood still is, funding jihadi groups. Whether one considers these jihadi groups are warriors of Allah, or Islamic terrorists, depends somewhat on one’s world view and legal framework; but however that may be, do we really want Scottish estates used as vehicles to launder money for such purposes?

      Of course, we would never be able to establish, given the obfuscated structure, whether or not the particular unsavoury purpose that the benefial owners sought to hide behind the obfuscation was the financing of terrorism or not; but that is, it seems to me, sufficient reason for refusing to tolerate the obfuscation of ownership.

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  12. Whoever owns it, its a really lovely estate.

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  13. Alistair Mathers

    Of course we don’t need land reform, with honourable custodians like these looking after our country for us.

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  14. All buyers of land should have an ag qualification and must work it .
    That is the law in denmark and it is long overdue here.
    There is far more potential economic activity from 100 farmers farming the same land as one absentee laird.

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  15. This is precisely the evidence for the argument to tax land; through systematic taxation of the value of land (annual levy based on valuation) and its increase in value a (sale price less purchase price) absentee land owners find such land economically unattractive. They are also put off by locally based government institutions which scrutinize purchase and demand transparency viz ownership.

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  16. Let me see. I could buy an estate like this, enjoy playing at “Lord Toffingham” for 15 years, collect £350k/yr from my renewable energy “investment” (plus other state hand-outs) and then sell it off (tax-free natch) for £4m profit?

    Sounds interesting, but I’m sure I heard media reports that Scotland is plagued by a “Something-for Nothing Culture”. Could I trust my local employees to match my enthusiasm for honest hard work?

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  17. Oh god, an article to read when feeling strong with no sharp, heavy objects nearby.

    O/T sorry, but reading up on sustainable development for an art project/competition and came across this;
    https://www.gov.uk/government/news/thousands-get-ready-to-claim-basic-payment-scheme-2015

    I cannot figure out just what the payments are for and it seems this is a GovUK thing, but only applies to England, which is the UK really.
    If anyone knows what the payments are paying for, out of our taxes, it would be interesting to hear.

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  18. How can you have two companies owning another company, which in turn owns them? Is this some sort of ownership merry-go-round? The logic defeats me.

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    • That’s the whole idea, no doubt. And any profits will obviously only accrue in the tax-haven registered bit, while all costs will fall on the UK resident bit. All hocus-pocus that Revenue Scotland should have the powers to squash.

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  19. In the nineteenth century the world used to be dominated by national countries; now it’s dominated by large multi-national corporations. In this respect the Qatar Royal Family is just another multinational.

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  20. Here is an interesting article on Qatar and it’s royal family ; http://www.newrepublic.com/article/119705/why-does-qatar-support-known-terrorists

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  21. Simon – if I were a criminal trying to conceal dirty money by investing it in UK real estate, it wouldn’t be a very smart move to buy a splashy Scottish sporting estate, the change of ownership of which will inevitably attract media attention: I might as well walk in to the Civil Recovery Unit and leave a bag marked “swag” with seven big ones in it on the reception desk! Rather, I think I would buy an anonymous block in the middle of London, changes of ownership of which would go totally un-noticed.

    The infinitely more likely explanation than criminality for holding land (especially sporting estates) in offshore companies is tax avoidance which – whatever one may think about it – is perfectly legal (although MUCH more difficult than it used to be as the government progressively closes more and more loopholes). The circularity of the shareholdings in the companies which are the members of Cluny Estates Ltd is not to be wondered at because they are corporate trustees – they don’t trade and are merely passive vehicles to hold title to assets and do the bidding of their directors who are employees of Rawlinson & Hunter, a Jersey based wealth management firm which administers the trusts. (The same goes for Kildrummy, except its trust is administered by Coutts’ Jersey office.) There’s nothing sinister about it and indeed it’s not so different from the way some really very ordinary folk appoint a bank to be the executor in their will.

    None of this is to say that there should not be disclosure of beneficial ownership and I do happen to agree it seems a bit off-ish of the Qataris not to give something back to the land of their new holiday home by paying its taxes which I expect they’re well able to afford.

    BTW, your proposed exponential tax resulting in Buccleuch Estates having to pay trillions of pounds would not survive an ECHR A1P1 challenge because a tax deliberately designed to be unaffordable rather than a genuine attempt to raise revenue (as you concede in your blog) is no more than state expropriation.

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    • Nonsense, ECHR has a public interest bypass. Although our parliament are disinterested in the public interest argument.

      Just reading a book by cosmo innes,
      QUOTE
      “that the scottish assembly never fulfilled the highest end of a parliament in possessing the confidence of the country. Certainly, at no period of her history can it be said that the people of scotland looked to the parliament for redress of grievances, or as a defender of their rights”

      No change there then.

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  22. Simon – sorry but one other point. As you don’t approve of argument by unsupported assertion, would you join me in calling upon Andy to publish the list to support his assertion that 432 people own half of the privately owned land in Scotland?

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  23. We’ve got to remember that our great (ex) leader has gone to significant efforts to seduce such nations so who can blame them for wishing to invest in our great nation?

    http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/top-stories/salmond-scotland-is-remarkably-like-qatar-1-1939339

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