I flew 12 hours and suddenly I’m interesting.

This weekend an article appeared on the BBC website about property scams in Phuket.  Given I’ve owned an apartment in Phuket for the last 5 years, I was interested to see how these scams worked.

British expat Ian Rance and Irishman Colin Vard are now living almost penniless with their children on the outskirts of Bangkok as they struggle against overwhelming odds to recover properties they bought on Phuket. Both men lost all their investments through frauds that neither of them imagined were possible.

Frauds?  Okay, I’m intrigued.

“I’d made my money in England and had enough to retire I thought. I was looking for a place that was warm, a place that had some rule of law, where I could live in safety and peace,” says Rance, a chartered surveyor and professional arbitrator from Hertfordshire, who arrived in Phuket in 2000.

Uh-huh.  With you so far.

In 2001 Rance met and married a Thai woman called Suda and went on to have three children with her.

Uh-oh.  I can see where this is heading.

The prime minister at the time, Thaksin Shinawatra, had started a programme called “Thailand Elite”, through which he hoped to attract wealthy foreigners to settle by allowing them to own small amounts of land, something not normally permitted under Thai law.

Encouraged by this, Rance began investing in property, buying two houses, and eventually a restaurant and two pieces of land.

Sounds promising.

But the Thailand Elite scheme never took off, so in the end he did what thousands of other foreigners did

Pulled out of the deal and invested elsewhere?

he put the properties either in the name of the company he had already formed to run his consultancy business, or in the name of his wife.

Oh dear.

The family home was in his wife’s name, but leased to him on a 30-year lease.

Sounds legit.  I mean, which man doesn’t have his family home in his wife’s name and leased back to him?

The company was nominally Thai-owned but Rance, as a director, had majority voting rights – nothing could happen to the company’s assets without his approval. He was advised by local lawyers that this was legally quite safe.

He didn’t own his company but he had majority voting rights.  What could possibly go wrong?

But unbeknown to him, in July 2008 Suda began transferring the properties out of the company. In September she also removed Rance as a director. On paper none of this should have been possible. In practice, all she had to do was to forge her husband’s signature.

So his wife, who he appeared to have married less than a year after arriving in Thailand with his pockets full of cash, forged his signature and ripped him off.  Aside from the fact that he should have seen this coming a mile off, a wife forging a husband’s signature in the course of fleecing him or somebody else is hardly unique to Thailand, is it?

The Land Office in Phuket, where property transfers are formalised, was willing to accept a simple forged power of attorney from Rance to change ownership of properties worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, and to cancel his 30-year lease on their home.

Presumably the Phuket Land Office should assume ageing expats are being ripped off by their Thai wives as a matter of course and, in contrast with the rest of the world, not recognise power of attorney documents.

To change the control of the company the forged signature had to be notarised by a lawyer – but that presented no problem. A local lawyer did this willingly, without Rance being present. When the BBC confronted the lawyer about this he admitted the signature was his, but claimed it was normal practice in Phuket.

Just as it is normal practice for expats to circumvent Thai ownership laws by running everything through a “local” company while retaining (hopefully) all control.  Funny that expats have few concerns engaging in legal gymnastics in order to set themselves up with a cushy life in Thailand, and then complain about dodgy practices used to strip them of everything a few years later.

But Rance’s attempts to sue the lawyer have got nowhere.

I don’t think we’re in London any more, Toto.

He only spotted the fraud in July 2010, when checking his company’s tax status.

According to the article, she started transferring the properties in 2008.  What kind of director – other than one who is nothing of the sort and became one only to circumvent Thai property laws – would allow fraud on this scale to go unnoticed for 2 years?

He discovered that all five properties, worth well over £1m ($1.5m), had been stolen. What began then was, he says, a nightmare period for him.

No, the nightmare started when you married a Thai girl a year after arriving in Phuket.  You just didn’t realise it.

His wife ran away.

Say it ain’t so!

Four men came into his house and threatened his life if he did not get out of Phuket. His wife phoned him and told him they would kidnap the children if he did not leave the house immediately.

At which point it dawned on him that the sweet, smiling girl he’d met dancing on that bar back in 2000 was in fact a hardened criminal.

The evidence Rance has amassed is staggering. Document after document shows the same land agent and two moneylenders, transferring the properties back and forth to his ex-wife in a form of pawnbroking, where she was in effect borrowing at astronomical rates of interest, using the properties as collateral.

None of which he was able to spot for two years as “director” of the company which he thought owned the properties.  What’s that saying about a fool and his money?

She was arrested in 2010, and is now serving a four-year prison sentence.

Ah, so justice prevailed after all. What’s the issue, again?

But nothing has happened to any of the other parties linked to the fraud.

I suspect this is because there is no document showing that they knew the signature had been forged when the property was transferred at the Phuket Land Office.  Of course, they would have known, but there is no evidence to show they did.  And Thailand, backward nation that it is, usually requires documented evidence of criminality in order to prosecute.

Rance has filed nine criminal and civil suits against them. He has had to travel to Phuket for every hearing, paying for himself, a lawyer, and a translator – hearings which are usually many months apart, and sometimes cancelled at the last minute.

Unlike everywhere else in the world where fraud cases involving treacherous ex-wives are cheap, simple, and closed out within a week with the utmost efficiency.

Worse, one of the moneylenders has filed a perjury case against Rance, claiming that he knew about the fraud all along.

A reasonable claim, given he was supposed to be the company director.  “Were you corrupt or merely stupid, sir?”

Over five years Rance estimates he has spent the equivalent of £200,000 ($300,000) on legal fees and other costs relating to the legal battle.

Rance has hired five lawyers, some of whom he says have overcharged him and sometimes deliberately sabotaged his cases.

Not content to see his Thai bride walking off with his properties, he’s decided to hand over another £200k to dodgy Thai lawyers.  Has this company director never heard of cutting one’s losses?

The only case he has won resulted in the imprisonment of his ex-wife and the restoration of his company directorship. Yet the same judge ruled that he had no right to sue the moneylenders for the stolen properties, because he had not been a director of the company at the time.

The judge probably thinks that a company director who hasn’t realised for two years that his wife has removed his name and started flogging the properties isn’t a director in any meaningful sense, and that the position was a fudge from the beginning.

Since I started working on this story a number of foreigners have contacted me to tell me about their experience of different kinds of fraud on Phuket.

Colin Vard also invested about £1m in Phuket, after a successful career in Dublin as an author and part-owner of a clothing factory. He lost a total of eight properties, over a similar time period.

Do go on.

Vard’s Thai partner, the mother of his son, has been sentenced to 17 years in prison for the fraud.

I do believe I see a pattern forming here.

Ian Rance has a new wife now, and they have a young baby girl.

Oh, for fuck’s sake!


Another Thai wife.

His main priority he says is to provide a proper home for the four children, and put them through school. With the boys’ mother in prison, and his funds exhausted, this is a huge challenge. He cannot even consider returning to the UK, because of the requirements regarding income and savings, which in his case are now insufficient.

Yes, money was so tight and my situation so desperate that I took another Thai wife and had another kid.

“Don’t. Don’t come here. The system of law is nowhere near as strong as you think it is going to be, there is no protection for you, and there are gangs of people victimising you. The lawyers have very little in the way of ethics or professionalism.”

I think what he means to say is “Don’t come here and hand over everything on a plate to a Thai wife.”

Now I may sound a bit harsh here but this Rance chap, and the other one, should have learned the lessons that were spelled out in Stephen Leather’s bestseller Private Dancer, which I have mentioned before.  Anybody but the willfully blind ought to know that you are never, ever going to meet a decent Thai girl with western values regarding honesty, integrity, and morality in a bar, shop, or restaurant in Phuket – or anywhere else in Thailand.  Difficult though it is to believe, the majority of decent, ordinary Thai girls are not interested in hanging out with fat, ageing, expats who do nothing but drink all day and are effectively long-term sex tourists.  Many expats don’t decide to live full-time in Thailand for the weather and lifestyle, they go because of the young(ish) cheap pussy that is on offer in each and every bar you stumble into between 4pm and 3am.  I know guys who have genuinely moved out to Thailand for the weather and lifestyle, and they generally do not marry a Thai girl within a year of arrival.  Indeed, most of them have their non-Thai wives or girlfriends in tow with them.

It is perfectly possible to own a property in Thailand without the involvement of Thais (the hiring of a Thai lawyer to handle the actual purchase notwithstanding), but you are restricted to foreign-freehold condominiums only, i.e. you can’t buy a house and the land underneath it.  Once you decide you want to live in a villa and impress your new Thai bride and start firing out kids and live like a king, then you will need the involvement of Thais who you can trust.  And although some might be lucky and meet girls in Phuket who can be trusted, a foreigner will have absolutely no way of knowing who is or isn’t trustworthy and must therefore keep very much on his toes in the way of looking out for the odd sign of something slightly unusual – like the wife selling off all his properties over a two year period.  Such naivety would not be without consequences in the UK, and so it is also the case in Thailand.  The problem is not so much Thailand being corrupt and the authorities incompetent as there being a seemingly never-ending stream of expat men who are blinded by the availability of young, foreign pussy over whom they wield (temporary) financial power to the exclusion of everything else, including basic common sense.  Little wonder the police don’t take much interest in their plight.


12 thoughts on “I flew 12 hours and suddenly I’m interesting.

  1. It’s not all that different from some of the sob stories from Spain: abroad is a foreign country, they do things differently there.

    Actually, and I am not teasing, we found that even moving from Scotland to England was a bit of a shock when it came to dealing with lawyers. Slow, expensive and incompetent our English ones were, compared to our Scottish ones. As a friend says, it’s not even a matter of differences in The Law; it’s custom and habit. We are now selling a property: we’ll see if they (a different firm) are just as bad as before.

  2. Avoiding lawyers wherever possible is always the best advice. One can’t always manage it, alas.

    As for the story, this guy would have thought anyone who married a much younger woman who he met in a bar (and them presumably immediately paid for sex) and then signed all of his assets over to was completely nuts. As to why it then makes sense when you do it in a foreign and alien country that has much weaker rule of law and where gansterism is rife, who knows?

  3. Hello Tim,

    Have enjoyed your blog for years. Here a few comments / observations ‘from the hip’:

    1. Maybe it is just for the cameras, but the man seems to be a committed family man and really not that old. Trusting someone who seems to have been gambling away the familys money is perhaps human. Maybe she was not decent and sweet to begin. But we know nothing about this particular case, do we?

    2. The woman is in jail. Having a relative doing ‘business’ with the maffia is probably a problem in many countries besides Thailand. The level of corruption is stagering in most countries. For instance the ‘anti drug czar’ in the UK was hinted a knigthood if he did not pursue the anti-pot policy his conciense prompted him. Nordic countries perhaps hide these phenomenas a little better (and try to not involve the public in the specific cases of corruption).

    3. A little judgemental, are we perhaps?? Out of memory I can remember blogposts in which nice girls you meet on your drinking trips have time to take you sightseeing. A man with experience like you of course know it is more likely than not that they have been swaping shifts to make time for this. A decent man with a job is interesting. And in some countries you visit there is a ‘deficit’ in possible husbands… Probably due to lack of jobs caused by detrimental government policies. (and ‘attacs’ on the economy and nation like the Euro which will always case problems since it is not a suitable area for a common currency)

    4. What is the better in the long run, a family with a good wife (perhaps with more of the traits of ‘Beautiful Jelena’ than crazy feminist). Or being a ‘dinkie’ with affluent lifestyle… Since you seem to be hard working, fair and decent, no wonder women in many countries find time for you when you behave like a single… And apparently you are nice when you drink…

    Of course I don’t really know nothing about your particular situation or life, but the things you write perhaps gives some clues. Maybe you are not as content as you think you are… Just a thought…

    Sorry abt bad spelling, typos and bad English in general.

    Best regards

    PS in the movie ‘White sun of the desert’ there is a phenomena that is actually spot on for a lot of guys 🙂

  4. Martin,

    A little judgemental, are we perhaps??

    Guilty as charged, I’m afraid. Yes, I am aware I am pretty judgemental on this blog, and I might have been doing these particular individuals a disservice. But my general points I’ll stand by, mainly because I’ve seen the behaviour of expats in Thailand up-front and – while there are plenty of exceptions – it’s not very pleasant.

    What is the better in the long run, a family with a good wife

    Which is precisely what a lot of Western men throw away in an instant when they meet a Thai girl for the first time in a Phuket bar.

    Your other points are interesting though, and quite accurate in places! Thanks for commenting. 🙂

  5. As to why it then makes sense when you do it in a foreign and alien country that has much weaker rule of law and where gansterism is rife, who knows?

    Anglo-Saxons tend to go a bit soft in the head when they encounter Asian women for the first time. The crude term used by expats in the region is “Yellow Fever”.

  6. Reading the BBC article I wish they’d have spoken to his ex-wife to get her side of the story. She ended up penniless in jail. Seems a good chance that she was played by the lawyers just as much as the Brit was. And it makes sense, all the lawyers would have needed to do was apply some pressure, perhaps on her family, and get her to play along. They get the cash, she gets the blame. Perfect.

    I came across this blog while looking for experiences of moving with a Thai wife to Dubai and landed on a blog you wrote several years ago. I met my wife here in the UK ten years ago while she was studying for a Masters at the same University at which I was completing my bachelors. We moved in together (in the UK) five years later and were married two years ago. We have a young daughter who is growing up bilingual. I’m dreading my daughter going to school in the UK, due to the negative perception of British/Thai relationships, based largely on arguably racist cheap stereotypes and the reports of ‘expats’ such as yourself – living in areas rife with sex tourism such as Patong and using your narrow experience to cast judgement upon an entire nation of people.

    Granted, I’ve only read two of your blogs, but both have contained strong negative prejudice towards British/Thai relationships. Other than that you seem like a decent enough chap, so perhaps it might be appropriate once in a while if you’d acknowledge that living in Patong gives you a heavily distorted picture of what the rest of Thailand and Thai people are like? Afterall, you wouldn’t dismiss every British woman in existence as a gold digging prostitute who will definitely end up stealing all of your money on the basis of a late night trip to a soho massage den, would you? So why do you do practically exactly that for Thailand, in doing so making life needlessly difficult for people like my daughter who will have to face your prejudice in her formative years?

  7. Move then:

    Difficult though it is to believe, the majority of decent, ordinary Thai girls are not interested in hanging out with fat, ageing, expats who do nothing but drink all day and are effectively long-term sex tourists.

    I assume you missed that?

  8. Hello again Tim,

    Thanks for your reply!

    You of course know from the inside about these particular issues since you seem to be in this strong marriage with the right person (a match made in heaven for short).

    Don’t laugh out to loud… Some people think a like about a lot and also complete each others strenghts. And their relatonships seems to last longer also when they have the diffeent cultural background…

    Like a liftime, or at least until the kids leave the home (and the spouses might find that they have grown in different directions a lot, but it for sure had been a good run being a happy family).

    But truth be told, being from the same nation/people/culture is a great advantage in long term relations. The young should perhaps be informed about the advantage in a common sense approach to these matters. But the popular culture paints a different picture entierly.

    A few thoughts on bi-national relationships and sterotyping/negative sentiment:

    1. That the end of a relation turns ugly is not uncommon… Universal phenomena for sure… This does not necessarily say anything about the nature of the relationsship or paint the full and true picture of the participants in the unfortunate fighting. But can of course give many people an biased view on so called ‘mail-order’ brides, not based on actual facts (like today most probably meet a lot IRL before they take the plunge).

    Also a divorce is of course less problemtic with a decent person caring about how she is wieved in the local community. But hurt people as we know can go quite far. And local girls are known to be able to take ex-hubby to the cleaners for purly materialistc reasons, using the kids as a tool to get want she wants and/or revenge.

    Guys that have good relations with the spouse relatives are at huge advantage here, especially when they are not the main culprit, or at least decent and interested in their kids. Also when the partner is from another country. People who rush in or leave their head switched off when courting a foreign national with a different Culture, and also a different legal system, do have quite high rate of divorce. Also when it is not someone with ‘challanges’ as a spouse. Too often nasty ones also to add to the injury. So there you are of course absolutely right about falling for the first nice looking girl you meet.

    And in a place like Phuket were the odds of course not are not the best in the gamble to find the right person. Especially since many women can just give you what you look for, are attracted to, and on some level need in a partner. Maybe this is what we all do, to some extent, when we are interested in someone. But it can for sure be a deliberate deception and very manipulative until the main objective has been achieved.

    2. About the numbe of kids. The children in the picture seems quite happy and well cared for. After having two boys, to have one more is normal. Most want 2-3 children. And trying for a girl if you have two boys s quite normal. Or they just wanted three. Or they just wanted a large family, and this with the wife gambling out of control stopped them.

    That a nice woman in the Thai society finds a family man that can provide for it, and has right attitude attractive is no mystery… And that she will want at least one child of her own is also not strange. About this new wife, we really know nothing, but we have no reason believe she isen’t genuine.

    A famliy with 4-6 children is quite normal and fit in a minivan. A regular couple can make it without backing from social services also here in the west. Maybe it is the so called ‘breed for greed’ phenomena that colours your sentiment.

    Three boys and a girl was totally standard just a generation ago in the west too. The only child is at risk of having problems later in life with personal relations. Kids born close togheter can need extra attention growng up. Non of this seems to be the case here (and isn’t it peculiar that mothers of several kids can be smoking hot…).

  9. 3. Since nice guys with a potential for scoring a job not only finish first, but actually are considered some what like a ‘prince’, this can cause problems. It is possible the female will bend and push herself to try ‘make the fit work’, without being anything like Cinderellas evil stepsisters. Just not ‘miss Right’. But in the long run you can’t really be someone you’re not.

    The shortage of possible husbands in many areas without a strong economy is a way stronger motivation than materialism or the foregin passport. Especially for nice and decent girls, who often only reluctantly can convince themselvs to move from friends and family.

    Especially when they also have a job/career they like. But it can of course be wieved as packet-deal too. A good husband, and new posibilities… Many simply go back when it does not work out as intended. With the child/children.

    And if most family oriented girls locally are taken, and the rest are even busy fighting the ‘gender war’ with the express goal not ‘fair and equal’, but ‘everything exactly the same’ between the sexes*. Then a sweet and caring female can be irresistable, even if the man somewere knows that there is too big diference both in values and culture.

    * just so you know, contrary to experience and sience: Differences between the sexes are only a cultural thing and some minor tecnical details like the genitals… So there has been a shift from opposing stereotypes to promoting the absurd…

    4. Students from different countries have a high rate of divorce. It may be due to the fact they meet in a short and intense period were so much is alike. The man in charge of the introdutionary course litterally warned against marryng the fellow students in our field. It does of course work out great for many, but the divorce rate is high also without cultural challange. The Eurasmus-program has ’caused’ international custody battles, and quite a few unfortunately… So all fingers crossed and all the best to the British/Thai meeting at the university.

    5. About a generation after the war (were engineers had made the wapons so effective they can not be used*), it seems there was a big push to attack with propaganda. Late 60-ties kids should not pop down to the pub for a pint, but smoke theirs brain useless and women should not try to find the husband for her, but try drugs and multipel and at best meaningless ‘relations’ /advetures. Most still continue the natural and catious search for a long term partner. This is ridiculed in popular culture, but old habits die hard, and it is also the way to personal hapiness for the wast majorty…

    * Alfred Nobel made low smoke gunpowder, hoping the guns would be developed to a level were wars would not be possible. The mutual assured destruction seems to help us here at least.

    Mass migration seems to be a part of a big push to dismatle the nations. A unit that can and still does provide material necessities for all in developed economies like ours (historically run with decent leadership, like UK and Sweden was).

    And letting everybody get a fair chance of course does not only create a positive climat in society, but pays off nicely economically.

    Traditionally immigrants for reasonable resons are welcomed and fit in well. But now there is a huge back-log of unemloyment and ‘un-british’ behavior to deal with. And it just can’t be that many, especially if it is people not interested in adjusting to the host country.

    Strong economies all around

    It is true that all nations must have a business to pay their bills. But indscrimnate and brutal off-shoring is not the way. Guest workers on a rota, is totally different from the current model were everybody seems to work in their neighbouring countries…

    And a common sense approach of a mix of investment in all ‘workable’ countries and the flexibilty of guestworkers / travelling ex-pat experts like yourself, seems difficult to get. But it for sure would benefit both the nations and the individuals.

    The participating in the ruining of a country while having ones family abroad should not be as cosy, or anonymous for tht matter. And the having the family in let say the south of France, and with the frequent R&R trips should not be facilitated like today…

    Life would not be quite so enjoyable if stories and pictures appeared on the intenet of the indivisuals spending these ill gotten gains. The global village can bring back some of the social control of the physicl village. Might actually work…

    You have written some really informative on Lagos and the benefits, open and hidden, to the Nigerian elite. But as you are open with your identity, and a professional in the global oil and gas industry, there are of course limits to what you can publish.

    Bombing perfectly viable contries to rubble without even a realistic plan to get them up and running again may be the extreme form of this.

  10. ‘Un-British’

    About ‘un-british’; it must for sure be deemed highly ‘un-british’ to turn a blind eye to asian men of certain origin grooming young girls in their early teens to barter sex for drugs and alcohol. For sure a shame and a huge stain on the brittish banner. And weren’t many of the girls deemed ‘at risk’ by social workers, still they choose to stay put and not make sure this outrage was made known to the public.

    Maybe some in the upper echlons of society are racist since foregin girls do not even have to stay ‘correct in an anatomical sense’. It says a lot of the leading feminist and women in power that this savage practizes are not stopped for girls walking our soils.

    It’s not like the school nurse can have a yearly chat and examination or something of this nature. Impossible and outrageous! But it would probably make a huge impact. I know for a fact that a former Swedish deputy primeminister has shed tears about the shortcommings in this regard. But done little else.

    Cultural Marxism

    Of course cultural marxism is not new to you… But since it has succeded largely not only to influence the harts and minds of many, but to become government policy it is drastic for sure.

    The non-supporters of this, who by the way live closer to the down side, make their sentiments known. Totally innocent children risk being subject to derogatory teasing and what not. Older kids live in a war-zone in many ways. Including physical.

    Threats and violence in many schools, rapes and drugrelated shotings are everyday in certain areas. So there is a reason for cameras in schools and outdoors. Liberalism in this sphear would simply mean an even nastier ‘jungle’.

    The etnic Swedish are to large extent left out of a lot of the worst, but confronted with a lot that would have been deemed totally unaceptable just generation ago. Especially the kids who can’t limit or ‘opt out’ of the interaction. This would have made not just healines, but prompted resolute action in the old days. Like the more than 200 yearly shootings in Gothenburg, not even a large city really…

    Not really racist / prejudict

    So in short, British people, just like the vast majority in the Nordics, are tolerant and friendly. And has always been. Move then:s little girl is at risk for unpleasantnesses, probably depending on in what community they choose to live. That rural and middle class areas in UK should be riddled with rampant rasism seems higly unlikely.

    Well I better stop now before Tim, and quite correctly if he chooses to do so, indicates that starting ones own blog is an alterntive to long comments… And just so you won’t think I just stick to writing and ponering when intoxicated, in my small community I do try to promote ‘harmony and common sense’

    Please excuse the ‘excursions’ left and right 🙂 But it s difficult to make a point were the subject might me deemed sensitive. But your blog for sure is known for tolerance. Also for us who belive the british public just have been pushed to far. Just like here.

    Best regards

    PS this is based mostly on experience from life an work in Sweden, but I, just like you, have lived, worked and visited in other countries.

    PPS had I found an e-mail adress to you I would of course have asked you about this first, since it perhaps have left the normal comment and become like an un-solicited blogpost in itself…

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