Mystery surrounds the collapsed company that houses billionaires' private jets at Stansted
PUBLISHED: 13:37 14 January 2019 | UPDATED: 09:24 15 January 2019
Liquidators have been appointed to dissolve a company describing itself as "London's one-stop shop for anything that a private jet needs", one of whose directors is a Nigerian billionaire oil tycoon.
Diamond Hangar Limited operates the £20m ‘Diamond Hangar’, Europe’s largest independent commercial-aircraft maintenance centre at Stansted Airport.
The company is challenging the liquidation order and a court hearing takes place later this week in Birmingham to hear the case. The list of creditors includes Stansted Airport itself as well as Uttlesford District Council.
Although the liquidator appointed, Paul Appleton, managing partner of David Rubin & Partners, declined to comment on how much money Diamond Hangar Limited currently owes, according to its accounts in April 2017 more than £8m was owed to creditors.
The company also had outstanding commitments of more than £50m for future minimum lease payments under non-cancellable operating leases. Diamond Hangar also had investment properties worth more than £20m.
Based on the south side of the airport, the vast hangar measuring 8,720 square metres (93,863 square feet) is capable of housing all but the biggest passenger-carrying aircraft.
One of the six directors is Prince Al Eze, a Nigerian oil tycoon, who is considered the eighth richest person in Africa with a net worth of more than $5.8bn. He has a fleet of Rolls Royce cars as well as a private jet and an interest in Nigerian politics.
Last January, Mr Eze appeared in court in London when he pulled out of a £5m property deal and had to pay £1m in compensation to the couple that owned the North London house.
When designed and built in 1989, the hangar was required to accommodate two 747s or up to nine 737s, all housed under a 107m clear-span parabolic space-frame roof.
It claimed to be the largest of its type in the world. There are no roof supports to intrude into the diamond-shaped floor plan, giving the structure its name.
The Diamond Hangar has since been reinvented as an aviation hub geared around the General Aviation market, with ten tenants ranging from a bespoke fixed-based operator, aircraft spares and personnel training to its own in house engineering company (EBAS) which specialises in Bombardier and Challenger Maintenance.
Diamond Hangar took over the premises in 2013 after Uttlesford District Council, the local government body in the Stansted area, took legal action against its former operator, Eighteen Aviation, to recover £1.12 million ($1.71 million) in unpaid taxes.
One of Eighteen Aviation’s former directors listed on Companies House is Michael Patrick Foley, who was also (until September 2017) a director for Diamond Hangar Limited.
And one of the hangar’s former directors (from 2008 to 2014) is Mukhamed-Ali Kurmanbayev, a Khasakstani lawyer listed in numerous UK and British Virgin Island companies controlled by the President of Khasakstan’s grandson, Rakhat Aliyev. Mr Aliyev is alleged to have “used his position as the former deputy head of the country’s secret police to amass a vast business empire,” according to London-based watchdog Global Witness. He was held in Austria on murder charges where he was found hanged in jail in 2015.
Unravelling the details of the company’s business dealings is a mystery worthy of Sherlock Holmes, so it’s apt that Mr Kurmanbayev documented his address as being 219 Baker Street, London - part of the property complex that made up Sherlock Holmes’ fictional residence and the museum on Baker Street. He was the nominal director of the UK-based holding companies that co-owned the £130m Baker Street development, and Diamond Hangar Limited’s former name from 2008 to 2013 was Greatex Limited, one of the companies listed as owning the Baker Street properties.
Petitions to wind up Diamond Hangar limited had been lodged by creditors including Stansted Airport and Guarding UK of Ilford in the past, but each time were eventually dismissed.
In November, a petition lodged by Abacus Lighting Limited in Nottinghamshire was successful, and Diamond Hangar Limited was wound up on December 20.
A source at Stansted said that there were “numerous issues about subtenants of the Diamond Hangar being treated poorly” and that the airport keeps itself “at arms length” to the company. “It has been brought to the brink on a number of occasions, but then a few months later, we find ourselves in the same place. It’s a constant struggle.”
Stansted Airport is the owner of the land, but Diamond Hangar Limited has a 70-year lease on it and owns the building.
The Diamond Hangar’s directors were contacted by this newspaper and a response has not yet been received. But a member of staff at the hangar said that “no changes have happened yet” with regards to the liquidation.
An Uttlesford District Council spokesman said: “Diamond Hangar Ltd currently owe the council an amount of Business Rates for the year 2018-19. However, if the company is dissolved, this may change due to the resulting re-assessment of their Business Rate liability as an insolvent company.
“Should Diamond Hangar Ltd be liquidated, the council will work with any other companies that are affected to try and ensure that they are able to continue operating as usual.”