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16,972.  [blows bubbles]  It’s an idiosyncrasy isn’t it?  You cannot be a modern viable psychotic bastard unless you have an idiosyncrasy.  You should watch more crap on the tele, Rab.  Ian Pattison, Rab C Nesbitt, Lord of the Pies, Gangsta to Rab

 

 

99,944.  When they do ride out, the machine they use marks their faith.  For the Mods it’s a scooter.  In the rain they cover up their elegant clothing; their rivals, the Rockers, look the same in any weather … a motorbike can do a ton to a scooter’s fifty.  (Gangs & Gangs: Mods)  Panorama: Mods & Rockers, April 1964  

 

99,945.  ‘You stay up all night, you just gotta take ‘em [Purple Hearts] to keep awake.  Twenty to thirty.’  (Gangs & Gangs: Mods)  ibid.     

 

 

30,428.  In this raid, [Sir Francis] Drake seized eighty pound in weight of gold.  And more than twenty-six tons in silver bars ... It’s one of the biggest heists in history.  (Great Britain & England & Gangstas & Piracy)  The British III: Revolution

 

 

16,973.  Most of us were lazy greedy bastards.  Noel Razor Smith      

 

  

17,005.  The true story that follows is based on official papers, letters, diaries, newspaper reports, contemporary accounts and memoirs.

 

I was first alerted to the existence of the Englishman Eddie Chapman by his obituary in The Times.  Among the lives of the great and good, here was a character who had achieved a certain greatness, but in ways that were far from conventionally good.  The obituary was intriguing as much for what it did not say - and could not know - about Chapman’s exploits in the Second World War, since those details remained under the seal of MI5’s secret archives.  At the time, it seemed the full story of Eddie Chapman would never be told.  (Gangstas & World War II & Spies)  Ben MacIntyre, Agent Zigzag, author’s note

 

17,006.  Zigzag never did go straight.  After the war, he turned to the demimonde of London’s West End, where the wastrels welcomed him home.  During the 1950s he smuggled gold across the Mediterranean.  After buying a share in Billy Hill’s motor yacht The Flamingo, a former mine-sweeper, Chapman and a like-minded crew sailed to Morocco where they became involved in an insane plot to smuggle 850,000 packets of cigarettes and kidnap the deposed Sultan: the plan collapsed when the villainous crew got into a dockside brawl, and they were expelled from Tangiers, hotly pursued by a reporter from the Sunday Chronicle ...

 

Chapman still mixed with blackmailers, high-rollers and low-thieves.  He drove a Rolls Royce (though he never passed a driving test) and wore fur-collared coats.  The newspapers loved him – ‘Eddie Chapman, the gentleman crook’.  He was even, for a time, the ‘honorary crime correspondent’ of the Sunday Telegraph.  ibid.  

 

 

17,007.  When someone comes to write a history of the Great Thatcher Decade (the 1980s), one of their basic texts should be a little book by a former City Editor of the Times, William Kay.  Mr Kay called his book Tycoons, and based it on thirteen interviews with men who made millions in the early 1980s.

 

One of the self-made men was Gerald Ronson, whose Heron Corporation was unheard of when he launched his first ‘brilliant, daring’ take-over bid in 1981.  Ronson told Kay that Heron was a ‘very conservative business.’  He said he didn’t take risks, he just bet on certainties.  What’s more, he kept strictly within the law.  ‘There are plenty of crooks in the petrol business,’ he told Kay, ‘but they don’t come to work for us.’

 

This was surprising because perhaps the biggest crook of them all was Gerald Ronson.  He made his fortune not so much by ‘daring’ bids but by gambling on the stock exchange.  His greatest gamble was in 1986 when his friend, the super-swindler Sir Jack Lyons, asked him to buy some shares in Guinness to boost the share price in the firm’s takeover of Distillers.  Ronson obliged with a cool £25 million.  He lost not a penny on this investment of course, but as a reward for stumping up so much at an awkward time Guinness slipped him a personal donation of £7 million.

 

Ronson and Lyons were only caught when the biggest swindler of them all, the American stock exchange gangster Boesky, grassed on them to save his skin.  The crooked transactions by which Ronson and Lyons rigged the institutions they loved could not possibly have been exposed by ordinary journalists since there was no public record of them whatsoever.

 

Ronson and Lyons were not ‘rotten apples’ in the capitalist barrel, as has been pretended.  On the contrary they were both very close to the grandest apple of them all, the prime minister.  Lyons was a personal friend, and Thatcher’s two closest advisers, Tim Bell and Gordon Reece, both in their own right entrepreneurs of the kind she admires, were paid advisers to Guinness at the time.

 

The ruthlessness with which Thatcher and her cronies pursued the values of free enterprise did not extend to obeying the rules laid down by that free enterprise.  Indeed, in a way, one of the central tenets of that free enterprise was that its devotees should feel free to make up their own rules.  (Gangstas & Business & Corporations & Stocks & Shares & Pension)  Paul Foot, article All Fall Down November 1990

 

 

17,008.  If I had not already been a socialist, the astonishing events at the Daily Mirror in the last few days would have quickly made me one. They are calling the Maxwell Robbery the greatest financial scandal of all time.

 

He robbed some £300 million from the workers at the Mirror, either from their company or from their pension fund.

 

All around there is a great tut-tutting.  Newspapers which only weeks ago were describing Maxwell as a ‘swashbuckling buccaneer’ now fall over one another to denounce him for what he was – a revolting crook.  Nowhere is the embarrassment greater than in the City.

 

In 1971 a distinguished lawyer and a distinguished accountant declared after a careful examination of Maxwell’s relations with a company called Leasco that Maxwell was not fit to chair a public company.

 

In the early 1980s Maxwell became chairman of one of the biggest public companies in the country, the British Printing Corporation.

 

In July 1984, on what we on the Mirror called Black Friday, he became chairman of the Mirror Group of Newspapers – which ran five national newspapers with a combined circulation of four million copies every weekday and six million every Sunday.  How could this happen?  (Gangsta & Press & Newspapers & Corporations & Theft & Company)  Paul Foot, They All Knew He Was a Crook, article December 1991

 

 

17,009.  These obituaries were written in the sort of reverential tone which might have been reserved, say, for the prodigal son.  The general theme was that here was a man who had strayed and should be pitied by all decent upper class people.

 

The real reason for the sympathy was, however, not that Poulson was a crook but that he was caught.  Tories are always singing the praises of self-made men and John Poulson was certainly that.  His background was the very essence of stout-hearted English self-help.

 

... He was a Tory, but he noticed that Tories often charged more (and expected higher bribes) than Labour politicians, so he built his practice on the bribery of Labour councils in the north of England and Scotland.

 

Of course if a greedy Tory came his way Poulson snapped him up.  He welcomed with open wallet a Tory cabinet minister, Reginald Maudling, and a prominent Tory backbencher, John Cordle, whose membership of the Synod of the Church of England in no way precluded him from accepting generous bribes from John Poulson.

 

Poulson built one of the biggest architectural practices in Europe by the simple device of bribing politicians, council officials, sheikhs and sultans.

 

No Labour chairman of committees was too lowly for Poulson.  Vast inedible dinners in hotels were his speciality for Labour councillors.

 

There was no reason at all why John Poulson should ever have been knocked off his pedestal.  The business world then (and now) was full of gangsters and charlatans who lived out their life in the full glow of their contemporaries’ high regard.

 

Poulson was done down by his own greed.  Like Robert Maxwell in a later period, he became obsessed with obtaining riches which were beyond his grasp.  He borrowed too much and spent too much.

 

When he finally went bankrupt, journalists who had honoured him and fed at his table turned on him to gloat at the ‘greatest corruption story of the decade’.

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