To the untrained eye, little would seem to link a high-end brothel with the medieval surroundings of Crosby Hall, a sumptuous 30-room mansion once owned by Henry VIII that sits on the banks of the Thames.
Even the Tudor monarch may have met his match with the goings on in Chelsea Cloisters, where the proliferation of prostitutes earned it the egregious title ‘the ten floors of whores’.
But today, as a Hungarian former escort and her ex-special constable husband were convicted of prostitution in the exclusive apartment block in West London, perhaps the most incongruous fact of this tawdry saga is that the two properties are owned by the same man.
Christopher Moran (with Prince Harry in Belfast in 2017) has unwittingly made millions in rent from a high-end Chelsea brothel
Step forward one Christopher Moran, Conservative donor and friend of the royals who, when not enjoying the riverside views from the formal gardens of his 15th-century home, could often be found at the Chelsea office of his property company, his chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce parked outside.
Although there is no suggestion Mr Moran, worth £400 million, was involved in any of the prostitution, he has made millions in rent from the block.
To the enterprising businessman, it was another money-spinning jewel in an already sparkling area of the capital.
To the Conservative Party, however, which received more than £290,000 in donations from Mr Moran — including around £87,000 under the leadership of Theresa May, who has vowed to eradicate human trafficking in Britain by 2030 — it has become a source of acute shame.
The Chelsea Cloisters block (pictured) of 670 apartments – where Mr Moran has an office – earns him millions of pounds in rent and service charges every year
Among those in the know, the plush apartment block in one of West London’s most exclusive enclaves has long been spoken of in hushed tones as a central base for London’s seedy sex trade.
It was said to be a place where ‘rosy-cheeked men with empty wallets’ could slip out of its grand doors onto salubrious Sloane Avenue — and return to their everyday lives anonymously.
There were whispers of scantily clad Eastern European women flitting between its rooms. Others spoke more crudely of the ‘smell of sex’ in the flats.
One escort agency based in the building once gave it the following description: ‘For the punters that know best, the Chelsea Cloisters . . . has always been a notorious place for accommodating sexy London escorts . . . And the tradition continues today.’
Hungarian escort Ivett Szuda and husband, former Met special constable Karl Ring, hasve been convicted of seven counts of controlling prostitution for gain
Yesterday, following a six-week trial at Isleworth Crown Court, former Hungarian escort Ivett Szuda, 32, was convicted of two counts of human trafficking into the UK for sexual exploitation, relating to two women; 12 counts of controlling prostitution for gain, relating to 11 women and ‘persons unknown’; and four counts of arranging or facilitating travel with a view to exploitation. She was also convicted of possessing criminal property.
Under the Modern Slavery Act, the worst cases of human trafficking can warrant a life sentence.
Szuda’s husband, Karl Ring, a former Metropolitan Police special constable, was convicted of seven counts of controlling prostitution for gain, relating to six named women and ‘persons unknown’; one count of arranging or facilitating travel with a view to exploitation; and one count of possessing criminal property.
Judge Robin Johnson said sentencing would take place within the next four weeks.
Quite how Szuda, who is said to come from a gipsy family in Oroshaza, Hungary, became entwined with Christopher Moran, one of Britain’s richest men — and an aspiring knight of the realm — is as tragic as it is disturbing.
Mr Moran, who has rubbed shoulders with the Queen and other royals through his charity work as Chairman of Co-operation Ireland and as a member of the Prince of Wales’s Charities Council, last night said there is a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to prostitution in the block.
As the freeholder to all of the flats, Mr Moran is entitled to levy a service charge on the properties.
However, his lawyers last night said the money was paid into a not-for-profit company. They did not clarify who owned this company. His lawyers also said Mr Moran has no involvement in the day-to-day management of Chelsea Cloisters and that he did not find out about the criminal prosecutions until last November.
That was after Labour MP Gavin Shuker suggested that Chelsea Cloisters could be ‘the biggest brothel in Britain’.
Three women listed on the Divas website as being available in rooms at Chelsea Cloisters
It can now be revealed that the prosecutions followed a covert Metropolitan Police investigation during which officers investigating human trafficking and prostitution in Chelsea Cloisters visited four times between 2016 and 2017. On each occasion, they found sex workers plying their trade.
Last year, the Sunday Times revealed how Chelsea Cloisters had become renowned for prostitution, with regulars reviewing the escorts online and referring to the block as ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’.
The scale of the problem was obvious to anyone who spent time on the building’s upper floors.
One resident, a professional woman in her 40s, told the Sunday Times she found it distressing to be surrounded by prostitutes and their clients, ‘to the point where I would not say where I lived’.
A man renting a flat on the fourth floor told how he had been warned about the prostitution by his landlord when he moved in.
‘It’s quite obvious. You see lots of Eastern European girls walking around in dressing gowns and sleazy businessmen leaving at weird times of the day,’ he said. ‘When you’re in the lift with them, you see them putting their wedding rings back on.’
Yet it was only last year that Szuda and Ring’s sordid empire, which earned them more than £600,000, began to unravel.
Their luxurious lifestyle — van-loads of designer handbags and games consoles continually arrived at the door of their £750,000 home in a West London suburb — mystified neighbours.
‘People wondered where on earth their money came from,’ said one.
As well they might. For Szuda had left Hungary with nothing when she arrived in London in 2007 after replying to an online advert for a job as an escort. Initially, she ‘worked’ for other people, but began to work for herself after renting a flat in Kensington, West London, with two other women.
It was in this unsavoury scenario that she met her future husband and co-defendant, Karl Ring, now 34, who worked for the police between 2013 and 2015.
‘He was my client,’ she told the court. ‘We fell in love.’
Chelsea Cloisters has been described as ‘hookers heaven’ and ’10 floors of whores’
It was at this stage that Szuda decided to stop working as an escort herself — but she continued to manage bookings for the other girls. She described this role as that of a ‘receptionist’.
The good times continued until the flat was raided in 2013 — the year Szuda and Ring married — and Szuda decided to take ‘a long break’ from the sex industry. But the allure of easy cash was too tempting and the couple quickly embarked on a new business, running ‘Kensington Angels’ which advertised the services of more than 100 prostitutes from a rented flat in Chelsea Cloisters.
A Twitter page for the business, which is still accessible, flaunts graphic pictures of scantily dressed young women alongside a mobile phone number.
Szuda and Ring flew women in from Hungary on the budget airline Wizz Air after they replied to online adverts.
The women were told they could earn up to £300 a day working as prostitutes serving London’s wealthy elite, but they had to split their earnings with the couple. The girls lived three to a room in the Chelsea Cloisters apartment, with Szuda paying more than £100,000 in rent across seven years in the sex industry.
One woman, a 25-year-old former beauty queen who moved from Hungary to London in 2015 to work as an escort, said she met up with Szuda outside Chelsea Cloisters after making contact online.
She was taken to room 574, where Szuda ‘took sexy photos of me and took my passport’.
She added: ‘You can smell the smells. You can actually smell a lot of people had sex.’
Another said Szuda told them to keep an eye on their ratings on a sex punters’ website, adding: ‘She told me I should pay attention to them because if they don’t write something good about me it would damage the business.’
She said she had arrived at Luton Airport in November 2015 and travelled in a taxi booked by Szuda to Chelsea Cloisters.
The high-end brothel sits next to the medieval Crosby Hall, a sumptuous 30-room mansion once owned by Henry VIII that sits on the banks of the Thames. It’ss also owned by Mr Moran
Once there she was let into the apartment by another escort who was living there. Szuda would take them out to exclusive Chelsea haunts including JuJu on King’s Road — a nightclub and bar which is frequented by cast members of Made in Chelsea.
One girl said Szuda also took the prostitutes on ‘team-building exercises’ to Miami and the Bahamas.
Little wonder the couple took the business so seriously — it funded trips to London’s Dorchester Hotel, holidays in Paris as well as ‘gold jewellery and expensive clothes’.
Szuda told the jury that she did not think there was anything wrong with what she and her husband did because the sex workers were happy with the arrangements.
Ring, on the other hand, gave a ‘no comment’ police interview and declined to give evidence in court.
His barrister, Garry Green, said it was because he did not have a case to answer, likening the prosecutor to a ‘modern George Orwell’, in reference to his ‘Big Brother’ novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, for insisting the couple had ‘control’ over the sex workers.
When police finally raided their home in Hanwell last June, they found £20,000 in a cashbox.
Last night, Christopher Moran, through his lawyers, said that in recent months, the ‘management has been taking further steps to put a stop to any incidences of its apartments being used by escorts. Chelsea Cloisters will continue to remain vigilant and regularly updates its registration processes for residents’.
But yesterday’s convictions undoubtedly expose a seedier side of London which many would rather sweep under the carpet.
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