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The Lavish Los Angeles Mansions of Dictators' Kids, Plutocrats, and Other Shady Figures

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The saga of the super illegal Bel Air megamansion at 901 Strada Vecchia, and the prolific megamansion developer behind it, Mohamed Hadid, has pitted Hadid against wealthy, exasperated neighbors, and in the process revealed how difficult it can to figure out who exactly owns some of Los Angeles's most extravagant, expensive mansions. The issue, the New York Times points out, is that ownership of these homes often belongs not to a person but to a shell company, usually a limited liability corporation (LLC), that's designed to keep the owner's name shielded from prying eyes and, in the case of Strada Vecchia, litigious ones.

The kind of protection and secrecy that these shell companies offer is very attractive to the monied people who are increasingly buying up real estate in Los Angeles as a kind of security deposit box. The NYT found that "Shell companies were used in three-quarters of purchases of over $5 million in Los Angeles over the last three years, a higher rate even than the roughly 55 percent in New York." There are plenty of regular rich (and often famous) people using these legal entities to buy up fancy LA estates, but there are also buyers who use shell companies to hide ill-gotten wealth, "despite banking laws designed to flag the movement of large sums of money by foreign government figures, their families and close associates," or simply so that no one finds out they're neighbors with someone who's been accused of war crimes. Here we've mapped eight opulent mansions, purchased via shell company, that have been tied to some questionable foreign figures.


· A Mansion, a Shell Company and Resentment in Bel Air [NYT]
· Builder Mohamed Hadid Could Go to Prison Over Bel Air's Most Illegal Megamansion [Curbed LA]

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1. 952 N. Alpine Dr.

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952 N Alpine Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Purchased in 2012 for just $14.7 million, this house is owned by a shadowy company linked to Nigerian businessman Kola Aluko, "a figure in an investigation of that country's former oil minister." Aluko also owns a $23.5-million estate in Bel Air and a now-famous, $50-million "ultra-yacht" that Beyoncé and Jay Z reportedly rented earlier this year to cruise the Mediterranean (for $900,000 a week).

2. LE PALAIS

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904 N Crescent Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Here's one straight from the megamansion mogul himself, Mohamed Hadid. In 2013, a corporate entity connected to Hadid sold Le Palais to a corporate entity connected to Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva, a daughter of authoritarian Uzbek president Islam Karimov—"a ruler whose human rights record is frequently compared to North Korea’s," the New York Times wrote earlier this year. Sources added that "The Karimov family faces corruption investigations in several countries," but Karimov-Tillyaeva is probably not too worried about it, sheltered within the walls of her 48,000-square-foot residence. Records show that Karimova's shell corporation paid $32.75 million for the 1.09-acre property, which boasts a ballroom that can accommodate well over 100 people, a dedicated swan pond, and a 3,800-square-foot rooftop deck.

3. 912 N. Hillcrest

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912 N Hillcrest Rd
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Another Hadid production: this single-level contemporary "with a glowing pyramid in a reflecting pool" is owned by a shell corporation linked to film producer Riza Aziz, the stepson of the prime minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, who's "now a target of corruption investigations at home and abroad." The house sold for $17.5 million in 2010 to a shell company connected to a friend of Aziz's, and then that friend sold the company to a shell company owned by Aziz, the New York Times wrote in a February article. The sketchy part is, "Legally, however, the property itself never changed hands. The same shell company appears as owner in the public property records of Los Angeles County. It is as if nothing ever happened."

4. 1187 N. Hillcrest

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1187 N Hillcrest Rd
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

When the one-time home of late comedian/ St. Jude Children's Research Hospital founder Danny Thomas came on the market in earlier this year in Trousdale Estates, it was a bit of a mystery who exactly its owner was. (The Thomas family sold the property in 2000.) But now we know that the name on the deed, Inch & Meter Limited, seems to be a shell company connected to the family of Gilbert R. Chagoury, "a Lebanese-Nigerian businessman who was a close associate of Sani Abacha, the general who ruled Nigeria with a fierce grip in the 1990s." (It's believed that Abacha stole $4 billion of public money that's yet to be recovered.) Chagoury was convicted of money laundering "in connection with the Abacha family" in a Swiss court in 2000, though it's been reported he paid a fine and his record's been wiped clean. Chagoury's garish hilltop palace, despite a deep remodel and $2.5 million worth of Baccarat chandeliers and handwoven carpets, is a pure teardown, but is nevertheless listed for $135 million.

5. 10 Beverly Park

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10 Beverly Park
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

This place is owned by the Dastel Corporation, which "traces to the family of Mikhail Lesin," a pal of Russian President Vladimir Putin and a major player in the country's media who served as press minister from 1999 to 2004. The "Colonial"-style house sold in 2011 for $13.8 million, according to Redfin. (Dastel is also listed on PropertyShark as the owner of 321 S. Bristol Ave. in Brentwood Park; it purchased the property in February 2012.) Possibly the subject of an investigation (or impending investigation) by the Justice Department at the behest of a Mississippi senator, Lesin turned up dead in a Washington, DC hotel room just last month.

6. 73 Beverly Park Lane

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73 Beverly Park Ln
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

The official owner of this sprawling, 26,000-square-foot residence, TBN Holdings, is connected to Turki bin Nasser, a Saudi prince who, during his tenure in the upper echelons of the country's military, "was involved in arms deals with the aerospace company BAE" and, according to multiple reports, received bribes. He wasn't charged with any crime, though the company who gave him the bribes was.

7. 58 Beverly Park Court

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58 Beverly Park Ct
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

The NYT found this lavish estate is owned by a company with ties to a former Russian senator named Alexander Sabadash, who received a sentence of six years in prison in Russia for trying to steal public funds. (Property records show New Albion Property Limited as the owner.) Of course, even convicted embezzlers have multiple residences, which is maybe why "A man who answered at the phone number listed for the shell company said the Sabadashes might be renting the house."

8. 27 Beverly Park Terrace

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27 Beverly Park Terrace
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Looking to engage in a business transaction with the family of a dictator who presided over a regime that the LA Times once said was "widely regarded as one of the 20th century's most brutal and corrupt"? What luck! 27 Beverly Park Terrace—owned by a shell company with connections to Bambang Trihatmodjo, the son of the Indonesian ruler Suharto—is on the market for $36 million. Trihatmodjo "amassed great wealth during the reign of his father," who died almost seven years ago. Last year, the Supreme Court of Indonesia ruled that the late dictator's family had to return $324 million that was supposed to have paid for education for poor Indonesians, but was instead embezzled. Uncanny timing on that mansion sale, Trihatmodjo.

1. 952 N. Alpine Dr.

952 N Alpine Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Purchased in 2012 for just $14.7 million, this house is owned by a shadowy company linked to Nigerian businessman Kola Aluko, "a figure in an investigation of that country's former oil minister." Aluko also owns a $23.5-million estate in Bel Air and a now-famous, $50-million "ultra-yacht" that Beyoncé and Jay Z reportedly rented earlier this year to cruise the Mediterranean (for $900,000 a week).

952 N Alpine Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

2. LE PALAIS

904 N Crescent Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Here's one straight from the megamansion mogul himself, Mohamed Hadid. In 2013, a corporate entity connected to Hadid sold Le Palais to a corporate entity connected to Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva, a daughter of authoritarian Uzbek president Islam Karimov—"a ruler whose human rights record is frequently compared to North Korea’s," the New York Times wrote earlier this year. Sources added that "The Karimov family faces corruption investigations in several countries," but Karimov-Tillyaeva is probably not too worried about it, sheltered within the walls of her 48,000-square-foot residence. Records show that Karimova's shell corporation paid $32.75 million for the 1.09-acre property, which boasts a ballroom that can accommodate well over 100 people, a dedicated swan pond, and a 3,800-square-foot rooftop deck.

904 N Crescent Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

3. 912 N. Hillcrest

912 N Hillcrest Rd, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Another Hadid production: this single-level contemporary "with a glowing pyramid in a reflecting pool" is owned by a shell corporation linked to film producer Riza Aziz, the stepson of the prime minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, who's "now a target of corruption investigations at home and abroad." The house sold for $17.5 million in 2010 to a shell company connected to a friend of Aziz's, and then that friend sold the company to a shell company owned by Aziz, the New York Times wrote in a February article. The sketchy part is, "Legally, however, the property itself never changed hands. The same shell company appears as owner in the public property records of Los Angeles County. It is as if nothing ever happened."

912 N Hillcrest Rd
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

4. 1187 N. Hillcrest

1187 N Hillcrest Rd, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

When the one-time home of late comedian/ St. Jude Children's Research Hospital founder Danny Thomas came on the market in earlier this year in Trousdale Estates, it was a bit of a mystery who exactly its owner was. (The Thomas family sold the property in 2000.) But now we know that the name on the deed, Inch & Meter Limited, seems to be a shell company connected to the family of Gilbert R. Chagoury, "a Lebanese-Nigerian businessman who was a close associate of Sani Abacha, the general who ruled Nigeria with a fierce grip in the 1990s." (It's believed that Abacha stole $4 billion of public money that's yet to be recovered.) Chagoury was convicted of money laundering "in connection with the Abacha family" in a Swiss court in 2000, though it's been reported he paid a fine and his record's been wiped clean. Chagoury's garish hilltop palace, despite a deep remodel and $2.5 million worth of Baccarat chandeliers and handwoven carpets, is a pure teardown, but is nevertheless listed for $135 million.

1187 N Hillcrest Rd
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

5. 10 Beverly Park

10 Beverly Park, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

This place is owned by the Dastel Corporation, which "traces to the family of Mikhail Lesin," a pal of Russian President Vladimir Putin and a major player in the country's media who served as press minister from 1999 to 2004. The "Colonial"-style house sold in 2011 for $13.8 million, according to Redfin. (Dastel is also listed on PropertyShark as the owner of 321 S. Bristol Ave. in Brentwood Park; it purchased the property in February 2012.) Possibly the subject of an investigation (or impending investigation) by the Justice Department at the behest of a Mississippi senator, Lesin turned up dead in a Washington, DC hotel room just last month.

10 Beverly Park
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

6. 73 Beverly Park Lane

73 Beverly Park Ln, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

The official owner of this sprawling, 26,000-square-foot residence, TBN Holdings, is connected to Turki bin Nasser, a Saudi prince who, during his tenure in the upper echelons of the country's military, "was involved in arms deals with the aerospace company BAE" and, according to multiple reports, received bribes. He wasn't charged with any crime, though the company who gave him the bribes was.

73 Beverly Park Ln
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

7. 58 Beverly Park Court

58 Beverly Park Ct, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

The NYT found this lavish estate is owned by a company with ties to a former Russian senator named Alexander Sabadash, who received a sentence of six years in prison in Russia for trying to steal public funds. (Property records show New Albion Property Limited as the owner.) Of course, even convicted embezzlers have multiple residences, which is maybe why "A man who answered at the phone number listed for the shell company said the Sabadashes might be renting the house."

58 Beverly Park Ct
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

8. 27 Beverly Park Terrace

27 Beverly Park Terrace, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Looking to engage in a business transaction with the family of a dictator who presided over a regime that the LA Times once said was "widely regarded as one of the 20th century's most brutal and corrupt"? What luck! 27 Beverly Park Terrace—owned by a shell company with connections to Bambang Trihatmodjo, the son of the Indonesian ruler Suharto—is on the market for $36 million. Trihatmodjo "amassed great wealth during the reign of his father," who died almost seven years ago. Last year, the Supreme Court of Indonesia ruled that the late dictator's family had to return $324 million that was supposed to have paid for education for poor Indonesians, but was instead embezzled. Uncanny timing on that mansion sale, Trihatmodjo.

27 Beverly Park Terrace
Beverly Hills, CA 90210