St John’s Wood private hospital stops paying Gaddafi rent
Wellington Hospital withdraws payments “on moral grounds” during conflict in Libya
Britain’s largest private hospital, in St John’s Wood, refused to pay its rent after finding out the money was propping up fallen Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi’s regime.
The Wellington Hospital’s state-of-the-art Platinum Medical Centre site is owned by Jawaby Property Investment Limited, a “distant subsidiary” of Libya’s National Oil Corporation.
After receiving clearance from the British government to continue making rent payments – thought to be in excess of �1million a year – hospital bosses decided to withhold the money “on moral grounds” after violence broke out in Libya.
The hospital invested �33million on the Lodge Road centre, which is the largest private outpatient and diagnostic site in the UK, before it opened its doors earlier this year.
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A hospital spokesman said management were unaware of the Gaddafi link during initial discussions but they acted swiftly when conflict arose this year. “When we first looked at the site in 2008 we weren’t aware of any connection to Gaddafi,” he said.
“Then when we sorted out the leases and signed the contracts in 2009 we found out who owned the building in the UK and where the subsidiary resided but at that stage Gaddafi was an ally so it wasn’t an issue.
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“When hostilities broke out we reported it to the treasury because the government was locking up the assets of the Gaddafi regime over here and we realised we had a tenuous link to the Libyan state.
“We got a licence from the treasury to continue paying the rent but we decided it wasn’t the moral thing to do and we withheld it.
“Throughout the time of the hostilities we didn’t pay any rent because we wanted to go beyond the letter of the law morally.”
With Libya now under the control of the National Transitional Council, the hospital has resumed rent payment.
The Wellington, which is the largest independent hospital in the UK, opened the Platinum Medical Centre round the corner from its main building on Wellington Road.
The centre has a focus on cancer care and is expected to cater for 70,000 people in its first year.
The hospital spokesman said bosses are “delighted” with the building and the reaction from patients has been “fantastic”.
He also confirmed the hospital has a guaranteed long lease on the site.