One of the greatest obituary writers of all time was Hugh Massingberd. This is what he had to say about Lord Moynihan
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His chief occupations were bongo-drummer, confidence trickster, brothel-keeper, drug-smuggler and police informer, but ‘Tony’ Moynihan also claimed other areas of expertise – as ‘professional negotiator’, ‘international diplomatic courier’, ‘currency manipulator‘ and ‘authority on rock and roll’.
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If there was a guiding principle to Moynihan’s life, it was to be found on the wall of his office in Manila, where a brass plaque bore the legend, ‘Of the 36 ways of avoiding disaster, running away is the best.’
Moynihan learnt this lesson at an early stage. The first time he ran away was in 1956, to Australia. There were two reasons for his flight. The first was to elude his father’s fury over a liaison with a Soho night-club waitress.
Soho nightclub found here
The second was to escape his wife, an actress and sometime nude model; they had married secretly the previous year, and she had now taken out a summons against him for assault. Her father had made a similar complaint – ‘I regret to say I gave him a swift right upper cut,’ Moynihan announced from Australia.
The idea was that he should work on his uncle’s sheep farm in the bush, but after five days he ran away to Sydney, where he made his debut as a banjo-player and met a Malayan fire-eater’s assistant who was to become his second wife.
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The next year he returned to London, where he effected a reconciliation with his first wife and found a job as manager of the Condor, a Soho nightclub. The job did not last, and in 1958 he married the former fire-eater’s assistant, by now a belly-dancer working under his management.
Soon after the wedding he made his first court appearance, accused of the larceny of two bedsheets. He was found not guilty, but as he walked from the court he was presented with another summons, this one over a lease. It was time to run away again.
With his new bride, Moynihan moved to Ibiza to set up a nightclub; when this failed he left his partner to pick up the pieces and fled to the mainland, before returning home once more.
His next venture was a coffee bar called El Toro, with a Spanish bull-fighting theme, at premises in Beckenham, Kent. But that, too, failed, so Moynihan set off with his wife on a belly-dancing tour of Europe and the Far East.
Manolete, the bullfighter found here
In Tokyo he challenged an American journalist who had disparaged his wife’s dancing; the critic elected martinis or cold noodles as weapons. In 1960s London Moynihan cut a rather ridiculous figure in kaftans, and worked for a time for Peter Rachman, the slum landlord, driving his maroon Rolls Royce.
After he succeeded his father in the peerage in 1965 Moynihan took the Liberal Whip in the House of Lords, where he was principally concerned in arguing that Gibraltar be given to Spain. The House was not impressed.
In 1968 Lord Boothby interrupted one of Moynihan’s speeches: ‘The noble Lord has bored us stiff for nearly three-quarters of an hour. I beg to move that he no longer be heard.’
Moynihan’s business career and personal finances had meanwhile given rise to a number of misunderstandings. By 1970 he faced 57 charges – among them fraudulent trading, false pretences, fraud against a gaming casino and the purchase of a Rolls Royce with a worthless cheque. To avoid disaster he fled once more, this time to Spain.
Rolls Royce motor-home found here
‘I knew of my impending arrest 48 hours in advance,’ he claimed. ‘I’d been approached by a CID man who told me that for £50,000 the case against me would be dropped. Because I believe in God and England I told him to get stuffed.’
His extradition was sought from Spain, but he disappeared, to resurface the next year in the Philippines. In 1968 he had married for a third time – another belly-dancer, this one a Filipino – and the new Lady Moynihan’s family had a chain of massage parlours in Manila, where Moynihan remained for much of the rest of his life.
As the 1970s wore on Moynihan found employment in the narcotics trade, as well as in fraud and prostitution. The first hint of this came in 1980, when he was named by an Australian Royal Commission as an associate of Sydney’s ‘Double Bay Mob’, engaged in the import of heroin from Manila.
No charges were brought, however, and Moynihan continued his life as a Filipino pimp under the patronage of President Marcos – ‘my drinking chum,’ as he called him. At one stage he ran a brothel within 100 yards of the British Ambassador’s residence.
Grandson of President Marcos found here
After the coup against Marcos in 1986, Moynihan’s position became exposed, and the next year he was forbidden to leave the Philippines pending investigations of his links with drugs and prostitution.
He was then vulnerable to pressure from Scotland Yard and the American Drugs Enforcement Agency to help them catch Howard Marks, a Balliol man who at that time controlled an estimated sixth of the global market in marijuana, and with whom he was already on friendly terms.
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He approached Marks with a bogus offer to sell him an island in the Philippines, on which he could grow marijuana; and in return for his own immunity agreed to wear a secret tape-recorder to ensnare his friend.
Marks was convicted in Florida, with Moynihan as chief witness for the prosecution. The DEA gave him refuge and protection in the United States for a time, and hailed him as ‘a hero, one of the good guys’. Marks saw things differently. ‘I feel terribly betrayed,’ he said. ‘He’s a first-class bastard.’
In Manila, to which he returned after his sojourn in America, Moynihan had as his base in the city a brothel named the Yellow Brick Road. ‘I just sit back and collect the money,’ he said. ‘The girls do all the work.’
Real Yellow Brick Road found here
He frequently spoke of returning to England – ‘to clear my name,’ as he put it. ‘I miss things like decent roast beef and good newspapers, the civilised way of life.’