The New York Times reported yesterday that a luxury home at 901 Strada Vecchia in Bel Air has been under construction for more than year. The palatial mansion is known as “The Starship Enterprise” because of its resemblance to something out of a sci-fi movie. Its cost is estimated at over $100 million. Who could own it? A movie executive? A socialite? A business mogul?
The strangest thing about it is that nobody can prove for sure who owns it. It was developed by Israeli-born real estate exec Mohamed Hadid. His daughters, celebrity models Gigi and Bella Hadid, have been splashed across the Internet and gossip columns for their edgy fashion sense and romantic couplings. Meanwhile, the “Starship Enterprise” sits there, under construction.
The house contains underground bedrooms and an IMAX theater. Hadid labels it with hashtag #themodernhouseofhadid. However, records show it belongs to a shell company known as 901 Strada LLC.
As the New York Times Reports, shell companies are becoming more and more prevalent in the United States as foreign millionaires and billionaires buy up real estate stateside. Especially in Los Angeles, jaw-droppingly luxurious homes are cropping up under shell companies linked back to people like the daughter of the president of Uzbekistan, who is linked to corruption charges in her home country.
According to an analysis by the New York Times, shell companies were involved in three-quarters of purchases of over $5 million in Los Angeles in the last three years.
The luxury home belonging to Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva, the daughter of the Uzbekistani president, is known as Le Palais, resambles a fairy-tale palace, complete with swan pond, Turkish bath and Egyptian columns.
The other buyers using shell companies in L.A. include foreign businessmen, dictators, their children. In Beverly Hills, there’s a $14.7 million home owned by Kola Aluko’s shell company. He’s a Nigerian business mogul who is tied to the former oil minister, who is also under investigation for corruption. The iron-fisted dictator Suharto of Indonesia has a son who also owns several properties in the area linked to a shell company.
Although the companies, and the people they are linked to, deny any wrongdoing, it’s hard not believe that they aren’t involved in shady business dealings, coverups, and corruption. U.S. banking laws are set up to catch such wrongdoing, but shell companies help them avoid being flagged.
“It’s another one of these — you walk in, and you’re at the Forum or something,” investigator John Kelly told the New York Times about the Strada Vecchia house.
In the Trousdale Estates section of Beverly Hills, there’s a mansion with seven bedrooms and 10 baths. It also has $2.5 million worth of crystal chandeliers and is listed at $135 million.
“It’s the single best view in all of Los Angeles,” Stephen Shapiro of Westside Estate Agency told the Times. “I think most people would consider tearing it down.”
A big selling point with these mansions is the“daylight basement,” which is a basement built into a hillside.
The Stradia Vecchia neighbors have been documenting violations on the house for some time now.
Neighbor and Ticketmaster executive Fredric D. Rosen wrote in an email to city officials, “We all want to know how that house got to be the size it did. We all feel that we are being gamed.”
Hadid said he understands the neighbors’ concerns about the ongoing construction, but he also called them “extortionists.”
But there’s no denying that the construction has gone far beyond what the city considers legal. The problem is, give the shell company, there’s no way to get at Hadid or any of the other wealthy, corrupt owners.
When the New York Times attempted to investigate the LLC, Hadid denied that it was his, and calls to the LLC’s direct number weren’t returned, so there’s no way to confirm whether Hadid actually owns the luxury home or merely developed it. In any case, for the time being, these shell companies are here to stay, and so are the foreign super-wealthy.