Simon Halabi, a 60-year-old former billionaire property developer who was one of Britain’s richest men, has been revealed as a violent rapist who successfully hid his shameful past for 20 years.
The Syrian-born tycoon who once had a fortune estimated at $3.5 billion owned a stake in the Shard, enjoyed luxury homes and cars, lavish parties, and a thriving Mayfair-based business empire. He however fell on hard times in the 2008 credit crunch and was bankrupt by 2010.
New details have now emerged, according to a report by the Standard, that Halabi was once convicted by a court in France in 1998 for violently raping a young woman who was trapped in his home.
Police records show that he “slapped, punched and attempted to strangle” the woman, grabbing her by the hair and forcing her to his bed. Halabi subsequently raped her after she attempted to run away but found that the gate could only be opened from inside the house. According to the police papers, Halabi also threatened her with death if she reported the attack.
Halabi was eventually sentenced at the assizes court of Alpes-Maritimes, south-east France, to three years in jail – a sentence that was suspended for five years. But even though he had been put on the French sex offenders register, the businessman was able to hide his criminal past as he built his fortune in the United Kingdom and traveled across the world.
At a Magistrates’ court in Westminster, District Judge Michael Snow recently approved a Met police application for Halabi to be the subject of strict notification rules as a convicted sex offender. The Judge rejected Halabi’s claims that the application was made “in bad faith”, as it was 20 years after his conviction, and that it was an attempt to manipulate the system. Imposing notification requirements indefinitely, Judge Snow said that he was satisfied on the balance of probabilities that Mr Halabi was convicted of a relevant offence.
Halabi’s wealth was once estimated at $3.5 billion in 2007 when he appeared in the Sunday Times Rich List. He owned property in Mayfair and Buckinghamshire, as well as the London headquarters of Old Mutual and JP Morgan. He was among the original developers of the Shard, but pulled out after a disagreement with business partners. The businessman was declared bankrupt in 2010 over his failure to pay back a $60 million bank loan, and his wife subsequently sued for divorce.
Dc Alan Morgan who brought the application in court on Monday accused Halabi of hiding his rape conviction from US border officials.
“He has admitted frequent travel to the US, he has property in the Florida area, and from his own admission he lied on a number of occasions. He ticked ‘no arrests’ and ‘no convictions’ on the landing forms … I’m sure he has travelled to many different countries around the world where visa requirements may require disclosure,” the Met investigator said.
The court was told that Halabi was convicted in France under the name Mohammed, but reverted to his birth name of Simon on his passport in 2003. In 2012 when the conviction was disclosed to British authorities under data sharing protocols, investigators were not aware that Mohammed Halabi was the former name used by the business mogul. It was not until November last year that the Met confirmed the rapist’s identity.
Ms. Gudrun Young, the Lawyer representing Halabi, reportedly told the court: “He doesn’t accept the legitimacy of the conviction in France and is seeking to have it struck out.” She tried to stop the Standard from reporting on the hearing by arguing that this would “ruin Mr Halabi’s life”. But Judge Snow refused the request.
After the case, Halabi said he was “extremely saddened by the outcome” and vowed to “appeal it to the highest court if necessary”.