We understand that you have received, or are about to receive, a Section 53 application from a company called RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) for access to a privately owned site in the UK belonging to Stone Hill Park. It appears RSP is a newly registered company with absolutely no previous experience in airport operations, yet it is proposing to apply for a Development Consent Order (DCO) to build a huge air cargo hub in the South East of England at the former Manston airfield. Further, by its own admission, RSP is not affiliated to a similarly named company, RiverOak Investment Corporation of Stamford, USA, which company previously had discussions with yourselves for such a project. Furthermore, it now appears that 90% of RSP ownership is held by another recently formed company, M.I.O. Investments, registered in Belize. I’m sure I do not need to remind you that:
• Belize is a tax-free, secret and secure Tax Haven –
“Privacy barriers have progressively weakened in traditional tax havens such as Switzerland and Luxembourg, opening the door for countries like Belize to establish their status as the next generation of tax havens.” (1)
“To extend confidentiality for account holders, Belize places no restrictions on currency movements in and out of the country.” ….. “Belize also has no tax treaties with other governments, which have been used to weaken financial privacy protections, particularly in Europe.” (1)
• Belize is a centre for money laundering –
“There are strong indications that laundered proceeds are increasingly related to organized criminal groups involved in the trafficking of illegal narcotics, psychotropic substances, and chemical precursors. The government of Belize continues to encourage offshore financial activities that are vulnerable to money laundering and terrorist financing, including offshore banks, insurance companies, trust service providers, mutual fund companies, and international business companies,” (2)
• Belize attracts drug trafficking –
“But Belize remains a pushover for the powerful drug barons. The country does not have a radar system that can track unauthorized flights. Its military lacks helicopters, let alone other basic hardware. Belizean police don’t even have the ability to intercept cell phone communications.” (3)
• “Belize is vulnerable to money laundering due to the lack of enforcement of its laws and regulations, strong bank secrecy protections, geographic location, and weak investigatory and prosecutorial capacity. The sources of money laundering in Belize are drug trafficking, tax evasion, securities fraud, and conventional structuring schemes.” (4)
Whilst not suggesting that RSP might be involved in money laundering or drug trafficking, nonetheless the Belize connection must raise significant questions about the propriety of these arrangements.
(2) 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) published by the US State Department
(3) The Washington Post
(4) United States Department of State Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs ‘International Narcotics Control Strategy Report: Volume II’
My question is:
Can the Planning Inspectorate consider this a sensible, serious and credible application for an s53 access to privately owned land in the UK, let alone, maybe later, to be considered for a Development Consent Order?
Through functions delegated by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the Planning Inspectorate is the decision-maker in respect of applications for authorisation to access private land under s53 of the Planning Act 2008 (as amended) (the PA2008).
Section 53(1) of the PA2008 permits the Secretary of State to authorise entry for the purpose of surveying and taking levels or to facilitate compliance with the provisions in subsection 53(1A) in connection with an application for an order granting development consent, a proposed application for an order granting development consent, or an order granting development consent that includes provision authorising the compulsory acquisition of that land or of an interest in it or right over it.
If authorisation is sought in relation to a proposed application for an order granting development consent (subsection 1(b)) section 53(2) of the PA2008 states that:
(2) Authorisation may be given by the Secretary of State under subsection (1)(b) in relation to any land only if it appears to the Secretary of State that—
(a) the proposed applicant is considering a distinct project of real substance genuinely requiring entry onto the land
In granting authorisation under s53 of the PA2008 on 16 December 2016 for entry onto land in connection with a proposed application for an order granting development consent for Manston Airport, the Secretary of State found that the proposed applicant was considering a distinct project of real substance genuinely requiring entry onto the land for the purposes of the s53 authorisation.
Any subsequent application(s) for authorisation to enter land at the former Manston Airport will be considered and decided against the same statutory tests as the 2016 application.
Any subsequent application for a development consent order will be considered for acceptance against the statutory tests in s55 of the PA2008.