#29leaks: someone leaked 15 years' worth of data from London's most notorious shell-company factory

Formations House is a London "financial services" firm that has been implicated in some of the world's most notorious money-laundering and fraud schemes, a company that has formed more than 400,000 companies, trusts and partnerships for its customers, many of them prefabricated, anonymous "shelf companies" that have been used to disguise the parties behind breathtaking frauds, some perpetrated by corrupt heads of state. Read the rest

After the Oliver Twist poorhouse became luxury housing with a segregated playground, London bans segregated play-areas

The world is full of corrupt oligarchs looking to smuggle their money out of their countries and put it somewhere where the rule of law that they have helped to dismantle at home still reigns; a favourite safe asset class is luxury housing in major cities, which is viewed as easy to sell on short notice due to the large supply of other money-laundering oligarchs. Read the rest

The Oliver Twist workhouse is becoming a block of luxury flats with a "poor door"

The incredible human misery on display at the workhouse attached to central London's Middlesex Hospital inspired Charles Dickens to write "Oliver Twist"; now, Camden council has granted a developer permission to develop the site into luxury flats (just in time for the luxury flat crash!), in exchange for a commitment to build some below-market-rent social housing flats, which will be accessible through "poor doors." Read the rest

British jury ignores judge and frees self-represented climate activists based on the "necessity defense"

In 2017, climate activists Roger Hallam and David Durant painted the words "divest from oil and gas" on a wall at King’s College London in chalk paint; they were facing £7,000 in fines and up to 18 months in prison, and did not qualify for a legal aid lawyer. Read the rest

London cops switch off wifi in the tube to make it harder for climate protesters to organise

This morning, the British Transport Police has ordered Virgin Media to switch off the wifi to some undisclosed London Underground stations in a bid to make it harder for climate protesters to organise their activities. Read the rest

Brexit is cratering London house prices

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors' latest UK house price survey blames Brexit for continued declines in property prices in London and the southeast, "the worst slump since the financial crisis," with far more supply than demand. (via Naked Capitalism) Read the rest

Edward Snowden to keynote London's ORGCON!

ORGCON19 is the annual conference put on by the UK Open Rights Group (disclosure: I co-founded ORG and volunteer on its advisory board); it is "the UK’s largest human and digital rights conference," and this year's conference -- held on July 13 in central London -- is centred on "Data and Democracy, Digital Privacy, Online Censorship & the Role of Algorithms," so it only follows that the whistleblower Edward Snowden as its keynote speaker! Read the rest

London developer makes last-minute changes to lock poor kids out of "communal" playground

Henley Homes got permission to build a 149-home development on the site of the Baylis Old School complex on Lollard Street by promising to include some subsidised, below-market-rent units and "a network of courtyards and open spaces ... which will provide attractive areas for informal play. This will emphasise the sense of community within the scheme stressing that the common areas are there for the use of all the residents." Read the rest

Majority of London's newly built luxury flats are unsold, raising the spectre of "posh ghost towers"

Property developers in London built more than 1,900 luxury flats in 2018, the majority of which have so far failed to sell; all told, there are 3,000 luxury flats on the market, a high-water mark for a city whose property market was hijacked by offshore oligarchs and criminals who converted much of the housing stock into empty safe-deposit boxes in the sky. Read the rest

London's awful estate agents are cratering, warning of a "prolonged downturn" in the housing market

London's estate agents were notorious profiteers of the property bubble, listing on the stock exchanges and rewarding investors with soaring share-prices that reflected the human misery of a city where life got harder and more expensive every day, where communities were shattered, and where subprime lending and other sleazy financial practices helped to destroy the global economy in 2007-8, triggering more than a decade of crisis from which we have yet to recover. Read the rest

"London Cries": the merchants' patter of 19th Century London

One genre of 19th Cen illustrated pamphlet was the "Cries of London" (previously), which celebrated the market traders' characteristic sales patter, which were catalogued as a kind of urban birdsong. Read the rest

London Heathrow airport departures halted after drone sighting

First Gatwick, now Heathrow. Departures at London’s Heathrow airport were stopped for some time on Tuesday after a drone sighting was reported to authorities. Read the rest

760 flights diverted from Gatwick airport after drone scare, affecting 110,000 passengers

On Wednesday night, in a "deliberate act of disruption" (but not "a terror attack") someone flew a drone of "industrial specification" into the airspace of London Gatwick airport, the city's second-busiest, causing all flights in and out of the airport to be suspended; the disruption has affected 760 flights carrying 110,000 passengers (so far) and the ripple effect is expected to last for "several days." Read the rest

London cops are subjecting people in the centre of town to facial recognition today and tomorrow

People in Soho, Piccadilly Circus, and Leicester Square are being told by the London Metropolitan Police to submit to a trial of the force's notoriously inaccurate, racially biased facial recognition system, which clocks in an impressive error-rate of 98% (the system has been decried by Professor Paul Wiles, the British biometrics commissioner, as an unregulated mess). Read the rest

Archaeologist dug up a 500-year-old skeleton wearing boots

Archaeologists at an excavation site for London's Thames Tideway Tunnel (the "super sewer") dug up a 500-year-old skeleton who died with his boots on. Based on the location of the find, the boots, and other signs, the fellow may have been a fisherman or sailor. From National Geographic:

"It’s extremely rare to find any boots from the late 15th century, let alone a skeleton still wearing them," says Beth Richardson of the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA). "And these are very unusual boots for the period—thigh boots, with the tops turned down. They would have been expensive, and how this man came to own them is a mystery. Were they secondhand? Did he steal them? We don't know."..

The position of the body—face down, right arm over the head, left arm bent back on itself—suggests that the man wasn’t deliberately buried. It’s also unlikely that he would have been laid to rest in leather boots, which were expensive and highly prized.

In light of those clues, archaeologists believe the man died accidentally and his body was never recovered, although the cause of death is unclear. Perhaps he fell into the river and couldn't swim. Or possibly he became trapped in the tidal mud and drowned...

Read the rest

London's new high-rises: speculators' luxury flats designed never to be occupied

London is the epicentre of the British affordable housing crisis, and while there are over 500 high-rises under construction in the capital, consuming nearly every available lot, virtually every one of these towers is designed to serve the high-end luxury market (despite plummeting prices in this category), whose anonymous offshore buyers often never occupy or rent out the flats they buy, merely holding them to flip them later. Read the rest

Bram Stoker's reference materials for Dracula discovered at the London Library

Bram Stoker's working notes for Dracula were discovered in 1913 (but not published until 2008); now researchers at the London Library have pulled the titles Stoker referenced and shown that these were the very books that Stoker used -- they can tell because he defaced the library books, circling the phrases he later made notes on. Read the rest

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