Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 March 2018

London’s new ‘Fort Knox’ gives super-rich a safer alternative

For those super-rich for whom a home or hotel safe is simply not safe enough, a new facility in the British capital should allay their conerns.

Dubbed London’s Fort Knox, a new £30 million (Dh110.1m) bunker complex has just opened deep below the city’s West End providing ultra-secure bank-style vaults.

Constructed by Amazon Property, the concrete and steel complex is called The Armitage Vaults and covers 10,000 square feet over three floors at up to 40ft underground where the capital’s wealthy, business people and tourists can store their high-value possessions. The complex is encased in one metre thick concrete and the roofs and floors are steel lined.

At one metre, the walls are double the thickness of the 50 centimetre walls of the Hatton Garden Safety Deposit, which thieves broke into over the course of a weekend in 2015.

The heist is one of the largest in British history. Police say some 70 safety deposit boxes – with a value now estimated at £21m after an unnamed woman this month claimed she had only just realised some £7m in gold was also taken – were prised open by a gang of crooks, breaking into the vault after disabling the alarms. The robbers broke through a wall using industrial drills and somehow squeezed in and out of the 3ft hole to steal jewellery, gold and other valuables.

As a result of the break-in, demand fell away for the facility and in September 2015 the company operating Hatton Garden Safety Deposit went into liquidation.

The Armitage Vaults are designed to be virtually bomb-proof, fire-resistant and water-tight, the storage vaults are protected by layers of physical security, alarms and video cameras; with each unit being individually alarmed and accessed via a state-of-the-art electronic fob and mechanical lock.

Approached through a discreet “secret entrance” off Bolsover Street, at ground level special video entry security doors, monitored by security, lead into a manned security room, cameras and loading bay. The bay opens on to a special goods lift which goes down to the underground facility.

“We were inspired by the famous Fort Knox vault in Kentucky and there is nothing else like it in Central London,” said Charles Gourgey, the chief executive of Amazon Property.

“The episode over the Hatton Gardens Depository brought into the spotlight the urgent need for a modern storage facility in London where day to day valuables can be stored on a short or long stay basis.”

Six of the Hatton gang who carried out what is the biggest burglary in British history were later jailed for a combined 40 years.

“The burglary at the heart of this case stands in a class of its own,” Judge Christopher Kinch said at the time of sentencing.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, in the light of the robbery, The Armitage Vaults have attracted much attention already.

“The facility is new, however we have already had significant interest and the vaults are already 20 per cent let, with 75 per cent of users being from the UK, the remainder are international,” said Tom Archer, the operations director at Amazon Property. “Around 50 per cent of the tenants are wealthy private clients, the balance are businesses.”

In a strange coincidence, some of the items already stored in the facility hark back to the complex’s history. The original Edwardian-era basement stored the medical records, glasses and sight testing equipment for the blind and partially sighted.

Today, according to Chris Lanitis, the director of Amazon Property. “Corporate clients include private medical outlets and hospitals storing sensitive documents and equipment. There are also luxury retailers storing stock.”


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