THE secretive owner of a notorious block of flats which has stood unfinished for five years is a businessman who owns three hotels and two golf courses.
An Advertiser investigation has unravelled the complex web behind the 20-storey IYLO building, tracing the ownership of the tower in West Croydon from a tax haven to a million-pound house in Redbridge, east London.
The trail ends with Stephen Hung, the owner of two plush country club and golf courses in Hertfordshire, and another hotel in Newbury, Berkshire.
This week we tracked down the 62-year-old but he refused to answer questions about the IYLO, including why he has left it to become a graffiti-covered eyesore.
The Advertiser has also discovered that the development is being marketed to investors in Hong Kong under the name of London Island, with a completion touted as the end of 2014.
Mr Hung purchased the building for £10million in October 2011 via Minerva Trust, an asset management company based in the tax haven of Jersey. It is held under subsiduary Rosefair.
Records from the Jersey Financial Services Commission list Rosefair's nominees as Derek Vernon Le Brun, the director of Minerva Middle East with contacts in Dubai, and Sylvie Pierre, the an associate director at the company.
Minerva told the Advertiser it was not company policy to communicate with the press and did not respond to requests to speak to the real owner.
Mr Hung owns the Manor of Groves hotel and Shendish Manor Hotel and golf course in leafy Hertfordshire.
His third business is the four-star Regency Park Hotel, near Newbury, in Berkshire. The hotel made a loss of £357,867 between March 2011 and January 2012.
The Advertiser contacted Mr Hung at his home in Wanstead, east London, to ask why he has been so secretive about his Croydon investment and why no work been carried out on the site since June 2011.
In an e-mailed reply, Mr Hung said: "Please kindly excuse that I could not comment at present, nor am I willing to give an interview.
"However, I believe some PR will be announced soon. Thanks for being patience [sic] for a little bit longer."
Paul Scott, Labour spokesman for planning on Croydon Council, said: "How would this bloke feel if someone built that next to his house and just left it there half-finished, gradually getting more and more dilapidated, with the knowledge that the person who owned it used as much secrecy as possible to ensure he couldn't find out who actually owned it and what was going to happen? I think he would be pretty cheesed off.
"People in the immediate area have had to live with it for years. Quite frankly it's disrespectful and rude to leave them in the dark.
"Then you have the offshore issue, of which this is not an isolated example. It's appalling that some of richest people in our society are able to have the benefits of owning property in this borough while contributing as little as possible to it. These loopholes have to be closed."
Construction of the 182 mainly one and two-bedroom apartments, which began in 2007, was initially hampered because developers Phoenix Logistics fired contractors Lancsville for poor performance.
Then, in June 2011, St James's Croydon, a subsidiary of Phoenix, went into administration.
Mr Hung purchased the building from administrators Lloyds Bank four months later, after paying a £100,000 exclusivity fee to secure the deal.
Last July the council said Rosefair had indicated that work would resume by the end of the year, only for that date to pass without any update.
"Block is just 5 minutes from new Westfield"
FLATS in the IYLO are being marketed to buyers in Hong Kong – with an advert highlighting their tax avoidance potential. The website of Centaline Property Agency, one of the region's estate agents, tells investors the development is ideal because they can avoid stamp duty and it is the "right time to absorb British pounds". It claims the development, which it calls London Island, will be finished at the end of 2014 and is five minutes walk away from the new Westfield shopping centre. But the impression given to interested parties in Hong Kong is that the new shopping centre is complete - when planning permission has yet to be granted. As well as a new name and logo, the advert boasts that the 20-store Island will feature "household floor windows with open Yang vision" and will establish a south-east London "lifestyle". The marketing, which lists the developer as Rosefair, also features pictures of local attractions including Wing Yip, the Chinese superstore on Purley Way. It was highlighted to the Advertiser by Tracy Lo in Hong Kong, after her mother was approached by the estate agent with the opportunity to buy one of the tower's 183 mainly one and two bedroom apartments. The price ranges from HK$5,000 to HK$6,000 (£420 to £504) – per square foot. Ms Lo said: "I was told the reason it is cheap is because the previous landowner was bankrupt. "It isn't fair for a Hong Kong estate agent to sell it like normal, when it needs a lot more work."