Radio Sandwell Local News

Millionaire Tory owns houses on Benefits Street

2014-01-27 20:59:25

Paul Nischal
Paul Nischal

A Tory millionaire is pocketing taxpayers' money from breadline families in TV's Benefits Street.

Paul Nischal's Goldfinger property firm rakes in thousands in housing benefits paid to tenants on the rundown Winson Green road.

One of three homes Nischal, an old friend of Baroness Thatcher, rents out has faulty heating and is riddled with damp.

The tenant, whose children sleep in their clothes to keep warm, said: "I've complained for two years but nothing is ever done."

Businessman Paul Nischal - whose property firm is called Goldfinger - owns three houses in the road made infamous by the Channel 4 reality show.

The Indian-born Conservative is believed to pocket nearly £3,000 a month from struggling residents in Britain's street of shame - most of it in taxpayer-funded benefits.

But while the former Tory election candidate lives in luxury in a £750,000 gated house in a smart suburb of Birmingham, at least one of his tenants in James Turner Street is not so lucky.

Symphorien Mbuyamba, 46, and his family of eight have lived in their house for two years. Their four-bedroom home is so damp kitchen cupboards rot on the walls. The central heating boiler is broken, wallpaper is peeling, pipes are leaking and rotten garden fences have collapsed.

Despite claims by a spokesman for Nischal's Goldfinger firm that profits are ploughed back into the upkeep of properties, a report by the Sunday Mirror found only evidence of years of neglect.

Mr Mbuyamba - a refugee from war-torn Congo who works full time in a local factory - pays Nischal £215 a week to live in the house.

He pays £118 himself and the state forks out the rest in housing benefit. He shares the house with wife Claudine, 44, their four children aged five months to 17 years old and two teenage nieces.

"It's damp, freezing cold and the children have to sleep in their clothes," he says. "At night, you can see water running down the walls. A kitchen cupboard was so rotten it fell off the wall and all of our crockery was smashed to pieces.

"I reported it but nothing was done. I have been complaining for two years but nothing ever happens. No one has ever been round to carry out repairs since we have lived here. I doubt a penny has been spent on it for ten years or more.

"It is so damp I worry about the effect on the children's health. I would like to move but I can't afford it."

Mr Nischal, 69, bought the house for £62,000 in 2005 with a mortgage from the Bank of India. It is now estimated to be worth around £100,000 - representing an 'on paper' profit of £38,000. It makes him more than £11,000 a year in rent.

His property empire is worth £7 million. A well-respected figure in Birmingham's Asian business community, he also owns more than 120 mainly run-down houses and flats nearby and across the Midlands, Liverpool and London.

Dad-of-three Mr Nischal, who stood for the Tories in the 1983 and 1987 General Elections, bought two other James Turner Street properties in 2005, both for under £80,000 each. All three now have an estimated combined value of £350,000. The firms he set up to buy and manage the homes are called Goldfinger UK and Goldfinger Securities Ltd.

Last night he was blasted by an MP from his own party. Thanet Tory Laura Sandys said: "This is a big problem in my constituency. Some private landlords don't care about the upkeep of bricks and mortar.

"They're just interested in getting the rent each month. When the house becomes so dilapidated that it is virtually falling down, they just walk away having made a fortune."

Midlands Labour MP John Mann last night slammed the Mbuyamba family's plight. He said: "Private landlords are making a killing from housing benefit payments and often don't care at all about the standard of the property they rent out. For them, it is all about getting rich on taxpayers' money. The Government should limit the amount of rent paid out in housing benefit. It should be a fair amount per property.

"There's no way that nearly £1,000-amonth is a fair market rent for a property in such a poor condition. It's criminal."

Mr Nischal, once an aide to India's assassinated Premier Rajiv Ghandi, is not alone in making money from the misery of James Turner Street.

The Sunday Mirror probe reveals a string of well-off property owners are paid up to £650-a-month by the Government through the housing benefit system.

The owner of homes occupied by two of Benefits Street's main characters is a wealthy dentist who also owns a third property in the street.

Last week, it emerged another of the street's homes is owned by Yvonne Mosquito, 49, Birmingham's Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner.

Benefits Street has divided public opinion over the residents' plight.

Single mum Dee Roberts, known as "Black Dee", and neighbour Deirdre Kelly, called "White Dee", portray themselves as community leaders. But Deirdre is a convicted thief and Dee Roberts is on bail fighting police charges.

Another resident, Danny Smith, demonstrated his skills as a shoplifter and parents of problem kids Mark Thomas and Becky Howe, who had their benefits stopped after fraudulent claims, insist they are victims.

Since the first episode was broadcast three weeks ago, some of the street's older residents have criticised Channel 4 for 'selective editing'. They insist the series has focused on the worst aspects of life in the road ignoring when it was home to hardworking families.

Last night a source close to Mr Nischal said: "Some tenants have no respect for the houses they live in. A number of landlords have to spent considerable amounts on repairs. Not all those rented out to welfare claimants are in a bad state. Some are in really good condition and the tenants are happy."

A Goldfinger spokesman said: "Mr Nischal has worked incredibly hard since he arrived in the UK in the late 1960s. He pays his fair share of taxes."

But that is little consolation to Mr Mbuyamba. He said: "All I know is that I keep asking for the damp to be sorted out but no-one comes."

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