Haringey Council launches investigation into land deal with rapper
- Credit: Polly Hancock
In 2019, Haringey Council handed a business park to a local rapper, Smurfie Syco, at zero rent. Two years on, the site has been decimated and the council's decision-making is the subject of an internal investigation.
“In 2017, I had an encounter with God,” says Teriy Keys. “It was surreal.”
It is Monday, July 19, and Teriy has invited the Ham&High for a tour of a dilapidated yard in Station Road, hidden between a row of shops and Alexandra Palace train station.
Once a rapper, signed to Dizzee Rascal’s record label as Smurfie Syco, Teriy says his “epiphany” came after attending the site to use a recording studio.
He had toured with Dizzee and attended the Brit Awards – but upon returning home and seeing his peers struggling, he says he realised: “I need to be physically in my community doing something.”
Two years later, he was installed by Haringey Council as tenant-landlord at 141 Station Road, tasked with turning it into a youth hub.
“The vision for this is New Eden,” he says. “Ultimately, this is supposed to be a botanical garden with nice, wood made chairs, windchimes, murals that change seasonally, people from the community raising their children here.”
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But today this Eden has, in Teriy's words, been "decimated".
Empty alcohol bottles are strewn all over. Rubbish is piled up. The floor is littered with nitrous oxide canisters, also known as "hippie crack".
Teriy blames the destruction on criminals, who he says are engaged in a “targeted” campaign against him, breaking in, holding parties and even changing the locks.
He claims to have been locked out of his own recording studio since April.
They see him as a soft target, he says, because he is openly religious. It has left him “shattered”.
But, he adds: “This property is a community asset. If I withdraw and give it back to the council, it is going to fall into their commercial portfolio... It will be lost. God didn’t bring me into this space for me to fail.”
Just 24 hours later, the Ham&High will learn that Teriy has already been ordered to return the keys and vacate the site.
He was supposed to be out by July 15 – the same day he invited us on a tour.
Teriy’s tenancy is now the subject of an internal council investigation.
The investigation was sparked by the Ham&High.
In June, we were approached by Eugene Lebedenko, who began renting a unit at 141 Station Road from the previous tenant-landlord in 2018.
Since 2019 he has complained persistently to Haringey Council that the site has become a hub for antisocial behaviour including late night parties, drug use and strangers accessing the yard and behaving in a threatening way.
Twice this year, Eugene sent CCTV footage of criminal activity at the site to Haringey Council.
It showed a series of illegal parties during coronavirus restrictions, where attendees appeared to be snorting drugs.
On New Year’s Day, two men were filmed restraining and beating a third man.
Haringey Council says it missed Eugene’s videos but, after the Ham&High asked about them, it passed them to the Metropolitan Police.
“It was me being attacked,” says Teriy.
He claims he came to the yard on New Year’s Day to pray and was confronted by trespassers.
“These guys are high on cocaine, drugs,” he continues. “Their eyes are glazed over. Slurring speech. And I’m being attacked by them and I’m very sober.”
He says he has been in “constant contact” with police over break-ins.
“I ring the police, I get no support,” he alleges. “On the first of January, police report. On the sixth of April, police report... Nothing. Police won’t arrest nobody.”
The Met Police says it has no record of any incidents being reported at the yard on January 1 or April 6.
A break-in was reported on July 2 – two days after the Ham&High reported on Eugene’s CCTV – but the case has been closed, pending any new investigative opportunities.
Although Teriy denies culpability for the incidents filmed by Eugene’s CCTV, he was responsible for the site.
“We expect all tenants in council owned properties to meet the appropriate standards of behaviour,” says council leader Peray Ahmet.
“Where allegations are made against any individual or organisation, the normal procedure would be for us to investigate and take the right course of action.”
The council has also launched an investigation into how Teriy became landlord in the first place.
In 2017, Teriy appeared in a documentary called TOTTENHAM x TERIY, taking about an organisation he had founded called R.O.A.D. (Righteous Organised Always Determined).
He described it as a music business and social enterprise which offered vocational qualifications in music production, videography, photography and business.
On September 18, 2019, tenants at 141 Station Road were told R.O.A.D. was their new landlord.
But an investigation instigated by the council’s new political leadership has raised questions about the tender process.
In spring 2019, existing tenants were invited to bid to become tenant-landlord.
Eugene has saved correspondence showing that the winner was supposed to pay £10,000 rent per year, plus business rates.
It has since emerged that Haringey gave R.O.A.D. the site for nothing.
It also appears that there did not exist any organisation called R.O.A.D. at the time.
Teriy – registered with Companies House as Teriy-Severo Kiiza – did set up a company called Righteous Organised Always Determined Ltd in 2011.
But it was listed as dormant every year from 2012 until 2015, then compulsorily struck off in 2016 due to inactivity.
In 2016 and 2017, he set up three more companies – R.O.A.D. Visual Arts Limited, R.O.A.D. Academy and Training Centre, and 1 R.O.A.D. Training Limited.
They were compulsorily struck off in 2017 and 2018, having never filed accounts.
Companies House records show that in 2014, Teriy gave his name as HRH Prince Teriy-Severo Keys.
He registered subsequent companies under the name Teriy-Severo Kiiza Esquire.
His LinkedIn profile claims that in 2014 he was granted the Freedom of the City of London by Her Majesty the Queen, entitling him to use the title Esquire.
The royal household says the City of London gives that award, not the Queen.
The City of London has no record of Teriy receiving the award.
Teriy told the Ham&High he would answer questions about these issues in writing, but he has not done so.
Paul Sherring, who ran a Kombucha business from the site, filed repeated complaints about a deterioration in conditions after R.O.A.D. became landlord.
“Surely, you would have thought that the council would actually check someone’s validity before giving them the contract for a piece of land,” he says. “It doesn’t seem to me like they did their homework.”
In addition to not checking R.O.A.D. out, Paul feels the council ignored complaints about the site under its management.
“It just got worse and worse,” he says. “They made more and more noise. There were drunk and stoned people wandering around doing whatever they want, whenever they want. It was just lawlessness. There was no one in control.”
“In 2017, coming to this site, I just had an epiphany,” says Teriy.
“I was making music, I was doing well... But I just had an epiphany and I was like, you know what – closing down all the businesses. Not filing no accounts. No. Just closing it all. Selling stuff. Get the money, buy equipment – I'm opening up a studio and coming to the community and doing something for the people.”
He insists he has “never taken a penny out of this place”, although he then says he has charged rent to a barber and charged for studio time.
Asked how he declared that income, he produces a debit card from an online bank, which he says is his “community organiser account”.
The name printed on the card is “African Development UN”. Asked what the UN stands for, he says he doesn’t know.
“That money was directly reinvested into the site, so there was no profits or anything like that,” he says.
Asked how he sustains himself, he says: “I was successful in music. I still get my royalties and streams. So I take my own money and pump it into it.”
Becoming a landlord, he says, he knew he would encounter “a new level of opposition”.
“New levels, new devils,” he explains. “I know what’s happening is powers and principalities in high places and their goal is not me. They just want this asset.”
“Whenever concerns are raised about the operation of our corporate processes, we will look at whether improvements can be made in future and we are doing that in this case,” says Cllr Ahmet.
“In addition, we have already tightened our property governance arrangements around the letting of properties and their ongoing management.
“We granted R.O.A.D permission to occupy the site at 14 Station Road in good faith back in 2019, as they had carried out positive work with young people in the area.
“The council seeks to support community organisations in different ways, including allowing them to use buildings that would otherwise be vacant pending redevelopment.”
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