The saga of the super illegal Bel Air megamansion at 901 Strada Vecchia, and the prolific megamansion developer behind it, Mohamed Hadid, has pitted Hadid against wealthy, exasperated neighbors, and in the process revealed how difficult it can to figure out who exactly owns some of Los Angeles’s most extravagant, expensive mansions. The issue, the New York Times points out, is that ownership of these homes often belongs not to a person but to a shell company, usually a limited liability corporation (LLC), that’s designed to keep the owner’s name shielded from prying eyes and, in the case of Strada Vecchia, litigious ones.
The kind of protection and secrecy that these shell companies offer is very attractive to the monied people who are increasingly buying up real estate in Los Angeles as a kind of security deposit box. The NYT found that “Shell companies were used in three-quarters of purchases of over $5 million in Los Angeles over the last three years, a higher rate even than the roughly 55 percent in New York.” There are plenty of regular rich (and often famous) people using these legal entities to buy up fancy LA estates, but there are also buyers who use shell companies to hide ill-gotten wealth, “despite banking laws designed to flag the movement of large sums of money by foreign government figures, their families and close associates,” or simply so that no one finds out they’re neighbors with someone who’s been accused of war crimes. Here we’ve mapped eight opulent mansions, purchased via shell company, that have been tied to some questionable foreign figures.