Top Tory donor and IRA Godfather’s ‘friend’ in London vice scandal

Who’s laughing now? Controversial tycoon Christopher Moran (far right) enjoys a joke with former Prime Minister Tony Blair at the Titanic Hotel, Belfast in April 2018

Today’s Sunday Times front page exposes a property tycoon with a personal fortune of more than £400m; a man who boasts of his friendships with the Royal Family as well as late IRA godfather Martin McGuinness; a man who has given almost £300,000 to Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party; yet a man whose flagship London property is packed with prostitutes and has been described as “Sodom and Gomorrah” and the “infamous 10 floors of whores”.

Christopher Moran likes to describe himself as “Dr Christopher Moran” on the basis of an honorary degree from the University of Ulster, though his formal education ended when he left Owen’s Grammar School in Islington with a few ‘O’ levels in 1964.

Christopher Moran obtaining an honorary doctorate from the University of Ulster in 2014: on this basis he grandly describes himself as ‘Dr Moran’

He is a 70 year old businessman whose family home is Crosby Hall, an historic mansion on Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, that was once the City home of Tudor courtier Sir Thomas More, executed by Henry VIII in 1535, but was moved stone by stone to its present riverside location in 1910. Mr Moran is not short of hubris. As part of his controversial £50m restoration of Crosby Hall he had his own initials ‘CJM’ carved in stone together with his pretentious Latin motto Meritum, Pertinacia, Fortitudo et Fideli (Merit, Determination, Courage & Loyalty).

Moran also has a 48,000 acre estate in the Scottish Highlands.

Just a mile from Moran’s mansion is Chelsea Cloisters, a block of 670 apartments on Sloane Avenue owned by Moran’s company Realreed. In addition to the freehold on the entire block, Moran owns the lease on more than 200 of the apartments. Sunday Times journalists investigating Moran made 40 bookings in recent weeks with prostitutes using 23 apartments in Chelsea Cloisters, 15 of which are rented directly from Moran’s company.

Chelsea Cloisters, the apartment block owned by Christopher Moran and described as the “infamous 10 floors of whores”

Realreed Limited is entirely controlled by the Moran family: H&D has established that its three directors are Christopher Moran and his twin sons, 30-year-old Jamie and Charles. The twins’ mother (former Miss Thames Television, Helen Taylor) is not involved – she ran off to the South of France with local flower seller Andrew Maple in 1998 and has since been quoted as describing her former husband thus: “He doesn’t say things in jest – ever. When he wants something he will stop at nothing to get it. He wants people to remember what he has achieved and he’s very persuasive – quite ruthless, really.”

One ‘escort agency’ claims to have 100 prostitutes working at Chelsea Cloisters on any single night. Many seem to have been trafficked to London from Romania, and the Sunday Times has handed a dossier of evidence to the head of Scotland Yard’s anti-trafficking unit. Former anti-slavery commissioner Kevin Hyland confirmed to the newspaper that there had been “previous cases of [suspected] trafficking linked to Chelsea Cloisters”. One such scandal was publicised in 2004 by the London Evening Standard.

Gavin Shuker MP, chairman of a recent parliamentary investigation into the sex trade, said that the Sunday Times findings suggested Chelsea Cloisters could be Britain’s “biggest brothel”. Mr Shuker demanded that the Conservative Party, which has benefited from almost £300,000 in donations from Christopher Moran and his company, should hand the money to “charities that assist victims of human trafficking”.

Christopher Moran’s friend, IRA godfather Martin McGuinness

Last year in an article on his own website Christopher Moran referred to his personal “friend and champion of peace, Martin McGuinness”. Via the charity Moran chairs (Co-operation Ireland) he brokered several meetings between infamous IRA godfather McGuinness and the British establishment. According to the Irish broadcaster RTE, Moran “stage managed” the historic handshake between McGuinness and the Queen in 2012, and in November 2016 hosted an event at Crosby Hall again attended by the Queen and (in one of his final public appearances) McGuinness.

RTE also reported Moran’s claim that former Prime Minister Tony Blair has used Crosby Hall as part of his shadowy business career since leaving Downing St, though the tycoon has always had closer relations with the Tories, including masterminding the £30m sale of Conservative Central Office in Smith Square. According to a report in 2006 by the Independent on Sunday, Moran was one of a group of tycoons who secretly lent a total of £5m to the cash-strapped Tories, who had to pay back the money in 2006 to avoid being forced by the Electoral Commission to publish details.

Moran’s many other high-level establishment connections include his position as Vice-President (and former Vice-Chairman) of the Council of Christians and Jews.

Today’s Sunday Times front page

H&D is aware of numerous previous controversies that marred but failed to halt Christopher Moran’s meteoric rise to business prominence. He began building his empire in the late 1960s, starting as a clerk, then founding insurance brokers Christopher Moran & Co., obtaining approval to conduct business at Lloyd’s of London in the summer of 1972 when Moran was just 24.

A year later Moran paid more than £1m to acquire a Lloyd’s underwriting agency, and in 1976 he obtained a Stock Exchange listing through an £8m ‘reverse takeover’ of existing company Richardson Smith.

In the late 1970s Moran’s company was one of several big names investigated by City of London Police for alleged breaches of exchange control regulations. These ended without charges, but Moran lost a libel suit against the Daily Telegraph in the summer of 1980.

Christopher Moran (right) with Karen Bradley (Secretary of State for Northern Ireland) and Bertie Ahern (former Taoiseach) at the Titanic Hotel, Belfast in April 2018

A few weeks after his failed libel action, Moran’s rapid ascent was stymied on August 1st 1980 when he was arrested and charged with conspiracy to defraud. At a bizarre meeting on October 31st 1980 in a Savoy Hotel function room, the entire board of Moran’s company quit after failing to force his resignation – but in December after a month-long trial an Old Bailey judge instructed a jury to find Moran not guilty.

Nevertheless in September 1982 the Committee of Lloyd’s found him guilty of “acts and defaults discreditable to him in connection with the business of insurance” and he became the first man in the 300-year history of Lloyd’s to be expelled from membership. According to independent arbitrator Andrew Leggatt appointed to assess the case, Moran was a man who “worshipped Mammon”.

Moran never succeeded in winning readmission to Lloyd’s after this life ban, but his fortune continued to expand despite further legal troubles, this time across the Atlantic, in 1992 when he was fined more than £1m by a US Federal court over an insider dealing case brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Christopher Moran’s London home Crosby Hall

Will Moran’s teflon coating survive the latest charges by the Sunday Times? The newspaper has been careful to assert that there is “no suggestion that Moran has any involvement with the prostitution” apparently rampant throughout his Chelsea property, and similarly H&D is not aware of any such involvement, but there are bound to be questions not only as to whether the Conservative Party should hold on to his donations, but about (for example) the position of Sir Malcolm McKibbin, recently retired head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, as a board member of Moran’s charity Co-operation Ireland – and for that matter the charity’s joint patrons, HM The Queen and Irish President Michael Higgins.

Loyal friends of Ulster will no doubt be grateful for the courage of Sunday Times reporters who pursued this investigation, and will surely give their full support by all means necessary if those reporters continue to suffer threats, as reported in today’s newspaper.

 

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