Jury out in ex-Thanet District Council leader Sandy Ezekiel's misconduct trial
A jury has today retired to consider verdicts in
the trial of a former council chief accused of acted improperly and
dishonestly over the purchase of property.
Sandy Ezekiel is alleged to have "hidden behind" his best friend
to disguise the true nature of transactions when buying a house in
Margate and an adjoining derelict shop after using his influence to
ensure the owners were persuaded to sell.
The 59-year-old small businessman claims he had only loaned the
friend, Phillip Emanuel, 64, the money to buy the Thanet District
Council-owned house in the old town near the seafront.
Ezekiel, of Crow Hill, Broadstairs, denies four charges of
misconduct in public office. Emanuel, of Laleham Gardens, Margate,
denies one charge of aiding and abetting.
Maidstone Crown Court heard "small but attractive" 12b King
Street had been empty for about seven years. It was renovated, but
a dispute with contractors meant it had not been sold.
Next door was 12a, which had traded as This 'n' That. The
owners, Alan Douglas and his wife, had bought it and obtained
planning permission to develop.
Alisdair Williamson, prosecuting, said the development had been
delayed for some time at the request of the council, which was then
renovating 12b and whose offices are pictured below right.
It then transpired the couple would not be able to develop 12a
in the way they wanted because of flood risk.
In October 2008, the council put 12b on the market for £149,995
but Mr Douglas was not told. It was difficult to sell because it
had no garden or parking.
The price was dropped in January 2009 to £135,000 and the only
interest came from Margate resident Sandra Blackgrove, who made a
number of offers from early 2009.
She was eventually led to believe that an offer of £117,500
would be acceptable, but she heard nothing.
"Frustrated, and with her heart set on this property, on
September 22 2009 she emailed Sandy Ezekiel as leader of the
council to ask for his help," said the prosecutor.
Ezekiel contacted council officer Justin Thomson and asked to be
copied in to any correspondence on the matter. Mr Thomson told Miss
Blackgrove that at least £120,000 would be needed and she increased
her offer to that figure.
Mr Williamson said it was no coincidence Ezekiel's best man
at his wedding, Emanuel, became involved.
A man purporting to be Emanuel's brother David viewed the
property on September 27. But David Emanuel, who has since died,
gave a statement to police that he had never viewed the
On September 28, Phillip Emanuel, who had never been in the
property, made an offer of £121,500.
Mr Williamson said Ezekiel used the information from Miss
Blackgrove and the council officer.
"As leader of the council, he could not be seen to be buying
council property, so he needed a proxy," he said. "He persuaded his
friend Mr Emanuel to put in offers and pose as the buyer when he
was the true purchaser."
When Miss Blackgrove increased her offer to £123,000, Ezekiel
was informed. On September 30, Emanuel increased his offer to
£125,001. It was accepted on October 2 and the sale was completed
in March 2010.
Ezekiel, who resigned as council leader in March 2010 but
remains a councillor, said he had no personal knowledge of 12b up
to 2008. He was not involved, he said, in the decision to market
He said of Emanuel, whom he had known for about 35 years: "We
have been good friends. We had a bond between one another. He has
been very good when I haven’t been as well off as I am now.
"He had a room in my house when I was with my first wife and he
has a room now I am with my second wife. He comes as a package."
"The truth is you put your head together with Mr Emanuel in order to hide your involvement..." – Alisdair Williamson, prosecuting
His lawyer Benjamin Summers suggested it was a case of "love me,
love my wife".
Ezekiel replied: "I am just lucky. We have had business
together. We had a successful motorcycle shop. Without his
knowledge and expertise I don't think I would be where I am
"We were in a poor state. He helped refurbish a launderette from
top to bottom. He is as close to me as a brother."
Ezekiel said he became aware of Emanuel having an interest in
12b in 2009, when the former Merchant Navy seaman was talking about
moving back to Margate from his home in France.
"He said he had found a little property he was interested in,"
he added. "He wanted to view it when he next came over. He didn't
have the funding in place. I had excess funds for various
"I had money set aside for various uses. I offered it to him. I
didn't have a problem with it at all. It was a cottage in the old
town. It was not a business or on an agenda of any kind."
Ezekiel claimed when he received the email from Miss Blackgrove
about 12b, he did not know it was the same property that Emanuel
was interested in.
It was his normal procedure, he said, to be copied into such
matters on emails.
Sandy Ezekiel is on trial
at Maidstone Crown Court
Ezekiel said Emanuel's brother David definitely visited the
property to view it, despite him claiming he hadn’t and that he did
not really know him.
"I have known him for years and we spoke after, regarding the
premises," he said. "He did go to 12b. I just find it completely
bizarre. His health was very poor."
The next day Phillip Emanuel offered £121,500 for the house. "I
was not aware of him putting that offer in," said Ezekiel. "It was
around that time I became aware it was that cottage."
He understood Emanuel planned to live in the property once he
had sold his French home.
"I was quite prepared to lend him the money," he said. "He was
going to repay me when he raised sufficient funds. It was not an
issue. There was no detail about interest. I didn't want interest.
It was just short-term as a loan.
"He owned several properties in the USA and had shares there."
Emanuel increased his offer to £125,001. "I didn't discuss with
Phillip the level of offer he should make," said Ezekiel.
"I said I would pay all the bills as we were going along," he
continued. "Phillip was not in the country. The insurance was in
his name. A deed of trust was recommended to protect my money. If
Phillip died I would have the right to the property or money from
"I was very secure if he died. It was a simple transaction as
far as I was concerned. He could borrow the money and pay me back.
I didn't regard myself as being one of the buyers."
Asked about his obligations as a council member about disclosing
information, he said: "I did not have any obligation at that time,
because all I did was lend Phillip the money. I was not a partner
"I didn't consider my duty of disclosure had changed at all. I
had never considered owning the property."
The prosecutor told Ezekiel: "The truth is you put your head
together with Mr Emanuel in order to hide your involvement in
buying 12b and you put your head together with him again to hide
your involvement in 12a."
Ezekiel replied: "No, I didn't."
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