Family of murdered businessman lose court fight over unpaid costs

Property baron Nicholas van Hoogstraten has fought off a bid to recover costs relating to a damages action brought by the estate of a murdered business rival.

But at London's High Court on Monday, Mr Justice Morgan described the tycoon's conduct as "wholly deplorable and contemptuous".

Mr van Hoogstraten was cleared in the criminal courts of killing Mohammed Raja but faced a £6 million civil damages claim after a High Court judge said, in 2005, that he recruited two "thugs" to murder Mr Raja.

Mohammed Raja was killed at his Sutton home (PA)
Mohammed Raja was killed at his Sutton home (PA)

Mr Raja, 62, was stabbed and shot after answering the doorbell at his south London home in July 1999.

Mr Justice Morgan said that the damages payable to the estate over the unlawful killing had not been paid and neither had a "penny" of the £1.6 million costs bill.

Mr van Hoogstraten had often boasted about his wealth, he added, but his case now was that he had no significant assets.

The judge ruled that Mr van Hoogstraten had no beneficial interest in two properties in Hove and Brighton, East Sussex, with the result that they cannot be sold to go towards the costs due.

Contesting the action brought by Mr Raja'a widow on behalf of his estate, Mr van Hoogstraten's six children argued that they were the sole beneficiaries of the properties.

In his ruling, the judge described 73-year-old Mr van Hoogstraten, who was not in court, as a "deliberately difficult witness" whose inappropriate conduct lengthened the case.

Ordering that the estate should pay a third of the costs of the action and Mr van Hoogstraten should pay the costs involved in the claim initially proceeding against him, he said: "Mr van Hoogstraten deserves no sympathy from the court.

"His entire conduct out of court and in court has been wholly deplorable and contemptuous.

"However, as my judgment shows, I have to decide this case in accordance with legal principles.

"I am not able to give what many people would regard as his just deserts.

"His children are entitled to their legal or equitable rights."

The judge added: "If there was any way I could make Mr van Hoogstraten pay for all this, I would gladly do it.

"But I am not sure it is open to me in accordance with the principles to take quite so bold a stance."

The estate was refused permission to appeal although it can still apply directly to the Court of Appeal.

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