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The Abandoned Mansions of Bishops Avenue

Bishops Avenue, in North London, dubbed the “Billionaire's Row” is one of the wealthiest streets in the world. The average value of a property here is around £5 million, but some of the more grander mansions cost many times more. The palatial Toprak Mansion, for instance, originally owned by the Turkish tycoon Halis Toprak, was bought by the President of Kazakhstan in 2008 for £50 million making it one of the most expensive houses in the world.

Bishops Avenue

The entire neighbourhood is owned by the super-rich, ranging from Saudi princes to East European arms dealers to Indian business magnates. Yet, no one ever lives here for more than a few weeks each year. Most have been left to the staff who looks after the properties while the owners are away. Others have never been occupied. Several huge properties have fallen into ruins after lying vacant for more than 25 years. These once expensive homes are in a terribly bad shape with peeling paint, rotting carpets, water streaming down bedroom walls, collapsed ceilings, and ferns growing between broken floor tiles.

One property owner, the developer Anil Varma, called the avenue “one of the most expensive wastelands in the world.”

Among the unoccupied properties are a row of ten mansions, worth £73 million, which was bought by the Saudi royal family during the Gulf War as a place to escape to in case they were deposed. That never happened, and consequently the houses are largely unused. Another house belonged to a Kazakh businessman accused of a $6 billion banking fraud. The property was seized following a high court judgment. The former Pakistani minister of privatisation, Waqar Ahmed Khan, also held a property here, but it was repossessed by the bank. Its windows are now bared with heavy iron bars.

Bishops Avenue

Photo credit: diamond geezer/Flickr

Many properties are registered to companies in tax havens including the British Virgin Islands, Curaçao, the Bahamas, Panama, and the Channel Islands, allowing international owners to avoid paying stamp duty on the purchase and to remain anonymous.

One resident of the avenue, Magdy Adib Ishak-Hannah, an Egypt-born doctor, told The Guardian that he had never met his neighbours and believed as few as three of the properties were occupied full-time.

Another resident from Iran, said: “95% of the people who live here don't actually live here. It is a terrible place to live really. It is very boring and the road is very busy. I don't think many people want to live in such big houses anyway.”

Bishops Avenue

Photo credit: diamond geezer/Flickr

Bishops Avenue

Bishops Avenue

Bishops Avenue

Bishops Avenue

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