Posted: Thu 29th Jun 2023

No comment over claims Russian investor involved in asylum seeker hotel plans /
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Jun 29th, 2023

The UK Government is not commenting on claims that overseas investors in a four-star Carmarthenshire hotel where asylum seekers could be placed include a Russian. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Documents suggest that the owners of Stradey Park Hotel and Spa, Furnace, Llanelli, have leased individual rooms to UK and overseas investors after acquiring it. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The Land Registry documents indicate that varying amounts were paid by investors and that the total amount paid for leases for the hotel’s 77 rooms was around £5.3 million. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing in this ownership model, but concerns about the apparent investment from someone with an address in Russia were raised in Parliament by Llanelli MP Dame Nia Griffith during a debate about sanctions placed on the country following its invasion of Ukraine last year. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The amount paid in 2020 for one room by the person with an address in Yekaterinburg – a city 880 miles east of Moscow – was £55,960, according to the documents. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Addressing Foreign Secretary James Cleverly in the House of Commons on June 13, Ms Griffith said: “Consistency in applying sanctions across Government is crucial to maximise the impact on Russia, and the Secretary of State’s leadership in this respect is vital. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“Is the Secretary of State aware that the Home Office is considering requisitioning a hotel whose multiple shareholders include investment from an address in Russia, and will he raise this matter with Home Office ministers to ensure that our taxpayers’ money will not be used to pay dividends to Russia?” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Mr Cleverly replied that it was probably a matter for the Home Office but that he would raise it with all Government colleagues. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Three days later the Local Democracy Reporting Service asked the Home Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office if Mr Cleverly had raised the matter, whether the Home Office knew rooms had been leased to investors, and if so did it ask who they were and whether they’d been made aware of the proposed asylum seeker use. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The departments were also asked if sanctions currently in force would apply to a Russian national investing in a UK business, especially if that business had a commercial arrangement with a Government department or its third party accommodation contractor, Clearsprings Ready Homes, which makes on the ground arrangements, and whether the Government would investigate further. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The Home Office responded with a statement it has issued several times when asked about the Stradey Park Hotel plans, while failing to answer any of the questions. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“We have been clear that the use of hotels to house asylum seekers is unacceptable – there are currently more than 51,000 asylum seekers in hotels costing the UK taxpayer £6 million a day,” it said. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“All asylum seekers in hotels are provided with full board accommodation with three meals a day served as well as all other essentials, including cash payments where eligible. Asylum seekers are not detained at hotels and are free to leave their accommodation.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

An asylum seeker is someone who has left their home country because they face persecution, war or violence. They generally can’t work until their case has been decided. If their claim is successful they receive refugee status. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it had nothing to add. The hotel owners, investment firm Sterling Woodrow and Gryphon Leisure Ltd – the companies have the same address in Essex and the same two directors – were also asked to comment but didn’t respond at the time of going to press. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Ms Griffith said she hadn’t received any further information on the Russia question, but that she and Labour MS Lee Waters had had a meeting with officials from the Home Office and Clearsprings Ready Homes. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

From this meeting it is understood that the Home Office has been carrying out due diligence on the proposed use of Stradey Park Hotel, that the maximum capacity of the hotel is for 241 people, that should it be used it would house family groups, and that onsite security and transport would be provided. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

There has been concern and frustration among residents in Furnace and from Carmarthenshire Council about the proposed use of a popular hotel for a large number of asylum seekers – notwithstanding sympathy among some for their plight – and what they feel has been a lack of Home Office engagement. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The council issued a statement at the beginning of June saying it had received written confirmation from the Home Office, following repeated attempts, of its plan to accommodate asylum seekers at the hotel from July 3 onwards. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

A group called Furnace Action Committee, which objects on the grounds of health and safety, planning, and the impact on public services and the wider community, said it would write to the individual leaseholders to notify them of the asylum seeker proposal, in case they weren’t aware of it, and how it might affect their investment. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

By BBC LDRS ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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