The Directors of Calpe House said yesterday they are “appalled” at comments made by Independent MP Marlene Hassan Nahon, who they accused of “scaremongering” over issues relating to Calpe House.
This comes after Mrs Hassan Nahon last week called for a public investigation into what she described as a “growing list of discrepancies” following news that the Calpe House Charitable Trust had adopted a new legal structure in the form of a limited company.
Mrs Hassan Nahon had also raised questions relating to the new Calpe House building, including how the site was chosen and how the charity had dealt with delays relating to asbestos.
But in a stern statement, the Directors of Calpe House yesterday said the MPs remarks were based on “inarticulate grounds, misinformation, innuendo and scaremongering”.
The Directors of the new limited company include Lord Hoyle of Warrington, Albert Poggio, Charles Marfe, Olga Zammit, George Desoisa, barrister James Neish QC, Commissioner of Police Eddie Yome, former Commander British Forces Commodore Ian McGhie and Deborah Huxley.
According to them, Mrs Hassan Nahon’s remarks reveal an “inexcusable lack of knowledge about what she was saying”.
They empathised that Mrs Hassan Nahon had not, to their knowledge, ever visited Calpe House, nor had she ever formally directed any questions or asked for any information from them.
“Had she done so, we would willingly have provided her with the information required even though we are not legally answerable to her but to the Charity Commissioners in Gibraltar and in England,” the Directors said in the statement.
“How can Mrs Hassan Nahon complain about lack of clarity when she has never officially asked the Trust for any information?”
The Directors of Calpe House also alleged “underhand” influences stoking concerns about the charity’s work.
“The issues to which Mrs Hassan Nahon so vaguely refers are the same issues which an anonymous detractor of the trustees, hiding under the pseudonym ‘leviticus1913’, has been peddling underhand for some months,” they claimed.
The Directors have met with and written to the Charity Commissioners in Gibraltar and written to the Charity Commissioners in England to inform them fully about those issues.
They challenged Mrs Hassan Nahon to disclose whether her source of information on Calpe House is ‘leviticus1913’ “or whatever this person’s real name may be”.
Addressing some of the specific points raised by Mrs Hassan Nahon, the charity stated the following:
– Reason for buying a new building
“This is blindingly obvious. The existing building had become too small and inadequate for the charity’s needs.”
– Why the new building is owned by a company
“The new building was acquired through a company on the advice of our lawyers, Lewis Silkin, and our accountants, Grant Thornton. Companies limited by guarantee are regularly used by not for profit organisations and charities and their use is actively encouraged by the Charity Commissioners of England and Wales. The company is a registered charity in England and Wales and is subject to the same degree of regulation as the previous trust. The charity remains the same, it merely operates in a different legal form.”
– Value of the Purchase and Commissions
“The property was purchased for £8.4 million. The fee paid to the management agent was 2% of the purchase price of which the management agent donated 0.5% to the appeal fund as a gesture of goodwill. The management agent also provided, at no extra cost, additional services leading to the purchase. The purchase was conducted transparently with regard to all concerned. We believe the value of the property has appreciated substantially since we purchased it.”
– Why purchase 19-23 Norfolk Square?
“The property is very well located for the trust’s requirements being within walking distance of St Mary’s Hospital and two minutes’ walk to the underground station. It comprises an attractive, unbroken terrace of three properties, is in an area which is gentrifying and its value likely to appreciate more as a result. It provides the space required. Many buildings in London are listed buildings and it should be pointed out that the existing property, 47 Princes Square, is also a listed building and underwent a stringent refurbishment when it was purchased.”
– Restrictive Covenant
“The title deeds to 19-23 Norfolk Square contained “nomination rights” entitling NHS to require the property or parts of it to be made available for occupation by members of its staff. This was discovered during the investigation process prior to purchase. The trustees did not accept this and were asked to pay £2 million to NHS to surrender its rights. After robust negotiations and intensive lobbying the NHS surrendered its rights at no cost to the Trust.”
“The property has been duly cleared and certified as such by Lambeth Scientific Services Limited on 25.10.16 and 31.10.16 and by GJ Browner (Waste Disposal) Limited on 01.11.16. A clean air certificate was also issued from the Health & Safety Executive. It is inexcusable that 9 months after the last of these certificates was issued, Mrs Hassan Nahon should still be scaremongering on asbestos. Had she done her basic homework she would have known that there is no asbestos problem.”
– Change of Use
“There is no intended change of use. There is nothing sinister about the amendment of the planning application. This was done on advice by our advisers that the application in its original form would impede our prospects of having a reduced VAT rate applied on certain matters. All the trustees/directors were and continue to be prominent citizens of Gibraltar who gave and are giving of their time on a voluntary, non-remunerative basis. We are striving hard to provide Gibraltar patients and their escorts with accommodation in London which may help ease their troubles at difficult moments in their lives. This facility is much valued by the community, as evidenced by the widespread support given by all sectors and the amazing fundraising feats which have been performed. We would invite Mrs Hassan Nahon not to impede our efforts but, if she feels compelled to make public statements about the trust, to please ensure that what she says in the future is well informed and intelligent. We are open to provide Mrs Hassan Nahon with any information which she may reasonably request and she is welcome to meet the trustees if she so wishes. The Trustees feel Mrs Hassan Nahon’s unjustified statement cast an unacceptable aspersion on us. We reserve all our legal rights in respect of any defamatory statement which she may make in the future.
The Trustees are committed to transparency and are open to answer any query or clarify any matter which any member of the public may raise formally with the trust.”