Former Thanet District Council leader Sandy Ezekial jailed for abusing position of power over property purchase
A former council chief has today been jailed for 18 months after
being found guilty of acting improperly and dishonestly over the
purchase of property.
Sandy Ezekiel was said 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 claimed 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, denied four charges of
misconduct in public office while Emanuel, formerly of Laleham
Gardens, Margate, denied one charge of aiding and abetting.
However, a jury at Maidstone Crown Court unanimously convicted
both men on all charges after just over 10 hours deliberation.
There were gasps from the public gallery as Ezekiel was jailed.
Passing sentence Mr Justice Nicol said that his "long and
distinguished" local government service would now be overshadowed
by his conviction.
Remarking that people had a right to trust those who hold
office, the High Court judge added: "These are grave offences.
Those in public office sometimes gain great prestige but with that
comes great responsibility.
"The public put their trust in councillors. It is essential....
in a democracy that the public can be confident that those who hold
office and exercise those responsibilities on their behalf do so
with integrity and honesty.
"If that trust is abused, as you have done, you have to
understand that punishment will follow."
Both men were told their offending was so serious that only
custodial sentences would suffice. However, Mr Justice Nicol said
he was "persuaded" to suspend Emanuel's jail term.
"While you were not a public official you were fully aware of
his (Ezekiel's) role and your dishonesty was an integral part of
his dishonest scheme," he added.
Properties at the centre
of the trial of former Thanet council leader Sandy Ezekiel (left
12B and right 12A King Street, Ramsgate)
The judge also concluded that Emanuel, who now lives in France,
had become involved out of loyalty and friendship, and had gained
no financial motive.
When the verdict to the first charge had been read out, Ezekiel
looked over to friends and family sitting in the public gallery.
Thereafter, neither Ezekiel nor Emanual showed any emotion or
During the trial the 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 it.
Alisdair Williamson, prosecuting, said the development had been
delayed for some time at the request of the council, which was then
It then transpired the couple would not be able to develop 12a
in the way they wanted because of flood risk.
"These are grave offences. Those in public office sometimes gain great prestige but with that comes great responsibility..." – High Court judge Mr Justice Nicol
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 that 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.
Sandy Ezekiel was jailed
at Maidstone Crown Court
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, said he
had no personal knowledge of 12b up to 2008. He was not involved,
he said, in the decision to market the house.
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
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
today....He is as close to me as a brother.”
Mr Summers told the court that Ezekiel had not
gained any economic advantage from the purchase of the property and
that it was simply "transferring one asset to another".
He also said that the father-of-three was suffering from various
health problems, including arthritis in his knees, a back
condition, and heart problems which were currently being
The court heard that just days before the start of the trial his
mother had died in Israel. Mr Summers explained Ezekiel did not go
to her funeral as he did not want to delay the trial.
John Traversi, defending Emanuel, said there was unlikely to a
"public clamour" for him to be jailed immediately.
He added that any risk of re-offending was "as remote as could
be" and that a suspended sentence would act as a salutary
"At his age he has lost his good name and that in itself, you
may think, is substantial punishment for someone of his background
for this one singular lapse in his life."
Ezekiel will return to court on June 7 for a confiscation
hearing. The prosecution will decide within seven days whether such
proceedings will also be held in respect of Emanuel.
DS Adrian Brown, from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime
Directorate, said: "Ezekiel abused his position of power and trust
in a public office to wrongly put pressure on the owners of 12a
King Street to sell in an already stressful economic climate.
"This came after he had already deceived his own council, of
which he was meant to be the leader, by getting his close
long-standing friend Philip Emanuel to purchase 12b King Street on
"I'm pleased they have both answered the justice system and this
sends out a strong message to anyone thinking of misusing their
power that they will be investigated and pursued to the full extent
of the law."
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