HUA HIN, AUGUST 07 2010 (Updated Sept 05 2010)
Gunshots in the night, a man screaming in pain floundering in a swimming pool, an armed police raid, murder threats, and some tasty and violent characters from the British crime scene. These are episodes from the continuing soap opera at a housing project for foreigners in Thailand.
According to a local real estate agent's blurb at the launch of this project in Hua Hin on the Gulf of Thailand:
For once an estate agent's blurb is quite credible.
"It is hard to believe that less than a year ago, this was grazing farm land where the only movement was that of an elephant taking tourists through the stunning foothills of Hua Hin".
For once an estate agent's blurb is quite credible.
Sheer terror near 'Far from Worries'
'Avalon', the legendary place where King Arthur's sword 'Excalibur' was forged , is also an estate in the town where Thailand's King Bumiphol Adulyadej has his palace called 'Far from Worries'.
But perhap closes to sheer terror have been the mix of Britons, Dutch, Scandinavians, and Asians who have bought homes in the estate. And this story is the stuff of legend.
It seems scores of residents were withholding large sums of money for a variety of reasons because either they don't have it or they are complaining of shoddy worksmanship, leaking pools, failed promises - allegations which of course the company strenuously denies.
From early this year, claim residents, a reign of terror began on the estate, perpetrated by the new enforcer whose house overlooked the one and only exit road.
Jason Coghlan is a man not to be messed with. He is a man with a very violent past. For most of his prison time, including his last prison sentence, he served as a 'Double Category A' prisoner. This is reserved for terrorists and the most violent criminals in Britain.
When he was last released from prison after being sentenced to a term of 12 years for armed robbery he was, as is customary, escorted to the gates by police dog handlers with Alsations.
But he is better known in gangland as the north of England's 'Sword of Damocles'. Altogether, including remands, he has been jailed seven times.
Jason Coghlan is the elder brother of Arran Coghlan aka 'The Teflon Don', or 'Teflon Godfather', reportedly leader of one of Britain's most influential international crime syndicates - and a man who has a very long arm.
Arran Coghlan was released in Britain a week ago after being acquitted of his third murder charge
Forced to drink petrol and burned alive
Arran Coghlan had already been cleared in 1996 of murdering 'Mr. Big' Chris Little, who was shot dead at the wheel of his Mercedes in Stockport, Manchester. In fact Jason Coghlan initially stood in the dock for this murder but he was cleared at the end of proceedings committing the case for trial
In 2003 when Arran Coghlan stood trial for the murder of drug dealer David Barnshaw, who was kidnapped and forced to drink petrol before being burned alive in the back of a car in Stockport, Manchester, he was again cleared. The case collapsed when it was revealed police had failed to pass on important information about another possible suspect.
Coghlan's successful legal battles with the police have earned him his nickname. Nothing of course sticks to Teflon.
A smart man like Hendrikse a 'pillar of the community' should be circumspect about whom he employs. But Jason Coghlan turned up in a suit with a couple of dodgy references he was instantly taken on.
Some people could be forgiven for believing Hendrikse thought he had just the man for the job, for 'Dinkie' has also admitted that he had seen articles on the internet about Arran, later finding Jason himself on the web with reference to his latest armed robbery - but only 'after two months'. By this time of course things were getting into full swing.
Jason Coghlan set to work with alacrity and claimed Dinkie was soon 'impressed' with how he dealt with a Thai intruder on the estate, apparently an ex-guard. His method was of extreme violence. The intruder, who was breaking into houses, had to be carried out unconscious.
Coghlan learned his trade while with 45 Commando of Britain's Royal Marines but even they had to discharge him for being 'too violent' while on leave. His unit were alerted to his appearances in court.
Hendrikse denies he was impressed with Coghlan's dismissal of the 'Avalon intruder. In fact he appeared a little bit miffed. He said it was a currently employed 'guard' who had been attacked.
While violence is Jason's stock in trade, he attaches an old fashioned villain's morality to his work. He says he allows his 'customers' to think and present a solution before dealing his coup de grace.
As to Jason's employment Hendrikse said: "He presented himself as a lawyer desperately looking for work".
But Coghlan does not have the law degree he had on headed notepaper, even though no doubt he has read many law books, and he certainly does not have the look of the Inns of Court about him.
Had Hendrikse had the chance to look at the label inside Coghlan's suit jacket he would have seen that the tailor's label had been replaced with one saying 'Gangster'.
'It saves words', Coghlan told friends. But the signs would have been visible anyway in Coghlan's manner.
Hendrikse gave him office space at his rather empty 'Business Centre' in Hua Hin Soi 23, above the Hua Hin Immigration office.
Thus the die was cast in a game which seems far from over. 40-yr-old Coghlan was presented with a list of Dinkie's troublesome foreigners and creditors and set to work with enthusiasm. The first to pay up were two brothers from Leicester, England, who owed in the region of £6000. They were holding cash back because, they claimed in correspondence I have, that their swimming pool , among other things, leaked.
'Don't come with the wrong attitude'
However it appears that if they wished to keep their good health they should settle quickly:
"I told them to come around to my house and discuss it. But if they came with the wrong attitude they would not be leaving", Coghlan told friends.
"They came politely and paid up and Dinkie laughed his head off when I told him the story."
Letters were drawn up by Coghlan warning residents holding final payment that they 'should be fully aware that the developers would be seeking to be awarded your property'.
Residents were perhaps intimidated by the gunshots at night as Coghlan reportedly fired at blow-up plastic crocodiles and sharks in his swimming pool.
And when one resident pompously said he was not scared of the likes of 'low life' Coghlan he was told to put on his running shoes as Coghlan would be at his house in as long as he took to do so. Coghlan seemed a pretty good debt collector albeit rather noisy and one who might be jailed elsewhere.
A story, which I cannot confirm as the bar is now closed, also alleges that Coghlan shot a bar owner from Bintabat, Hua Hin's main girly 'Street of Shame', who had the 'bloody cheek' to call and collect 10,000 baht for an unpaid 'padded' bar bill.
|Avalaon has now changed its name|
He was allegedly dragged up to the second floor of No 81, shot in the front of his thigh, and lobbed into the swimming pool, followed by a few shots around him to encourage his hasty but limping departure.
Coghlan apparently has no time for small time foreign 'weasels' in Thailand's beer bar business.
'Know your limitations'
Coghlan said he was told by Dinkie to keep a lower profile. But he was not a man to be intimated by the likes of Hendrikse. Coghlan told a friend: "He thinks he's one of us. But he is not in the same league. He should listen to the famous Clint Eastwood line: 'Know your limitations.'""
Coghlan apparently says he was given a series of targets to deal with. One was a Briton from Crawley, Sussex, who had written complaining about Hendrikse on the quite private Avalon community web forum.
Paperwork in my possession shows how Dinkie proposed taking the man to the criminal and civil courts for libel, essentially a long, time-consuming, and debilitating process for the accused.
Dinkie's argument was that his unblemished reputation had been impugned, that he 'was a well respected family man and businessman, an employee of Thai people and people of other nationalities, and a benefactor to many charities including an animal charity.'
I don't contest these claims. His first wife and five children upped and left him and are now living nearby with another Dutchman calling himself 'Dick Bos', but he has re-married with a new family.
And while he did set up an animal charity with a friend, he is no longer on the board, another rather complicated yarn also involving threats, lawyers, and the police.
In any case the man from Crawley called the bluff and the case was abandoned. He had in the main been complaining to fellow residents about Dinkie's broken promises, The point of the forum was for residents to to be able to air their problems.
Hendrikse admitted ording the court proceedings, as of course is his right, because he said his daughter at school had been told her father was a thief.
According to Coghlan, Hendrikse also told him to 'deal with' 'Dick Bos'who had taken away his family and an Indian businessman and resort owner called Saheim Abid Sheriff.
The latter had recently been awarded 11 million Thai baht from Hendrikse by the Supreme Court in a story with a very Machiavellian twist.
Hendrikse emphatically denies these claims by Coghlan. He claims he that if he wished to do anything to Dick Bos he would have done it five years ago when they had their troubles, and if he wished to do anything illegal against Sheriff he would have done it ten years ago. But in any case he was not a man of violence.
"I have never been convicted of any crime either here or the Netherlands".
|Burbage- also top picture|
Coghlan also claimed he had also information which could shed light on the attack on Keith Burbage, a former director of The Stationery Office in the UK, who has now fled Thailand and is touring South America with no immediate intention of returning.
But Coghlan denied any involvement, saying it was done by Thais.
Burbage, from Fulham, London, lost a £40,000 deposit plus another 20,000 on legal fees etc, on a £200,000 house he had booked through Dinkie and an agent after, he claimed, the plot he booked was not available and he was told to take another one.
As a result of the bad will he felt uncomfortable living in the area and moved to live in a local condo in central Hua Hin. Outside the condo he was severely beaten by assailants who have not been identified. The local press ran with the story saying 'suspected foreign gangsters' were involved, but as usual there was no resolution.
This week Keith Burbage emailed me from his temporary hacienda in Latin America:
"I don't feel safe in Hua Hin and as such the experience has coloured my view of Thailand"
"In the end it became apparent that Dinkie et al are bullet proof and there was no point in continuing so for my own safety I folded.
"The biggest cost is the life style change. I had found a beautiful place to live and established a good circle of friends most of which is now denied to me. I don't feel safe in Hua Hin and as such the experience coloured my view of Thailand.
Now, I'm rolling round the world -yes, I know I am lucky to be able to do it - looking for another place to settle down."
I have no evidence Hendrikse had anything to do with this attack and again he denies being personally involved. Nevertheless a former director of one of Britain's largest companies is now scared to live in Hua Hin.
Hendrikse stresses: "I have never done anything in my life violent and see it as anti-social to use such means. I would not dare expose myself like you do."
He claimed that Burbage WAS offered the right plot of land.
"He made the deal, paid 2 million baht to the agent and in the end did not proceed. If he thinks he has been swindled he should have contacted the police or taken a civil case."
Police would not investigate but Burbage did actually start proceedings against the agent, who actually took the cash, but he gave up. The thought of fighting through the courts for ten years against someone who could just as easily disappear, or not have the money to pay, and the ensuing discomfort for his own security, was crushing, he said.
Both Dinkie and Burbage are in agreement over one thing - he has lost his money.
Meanwhile gangster Jason said:
"Dinkie was impressed with my way of doing things. Once in his office I found him being chased around the table by a person he said was his Thai brother-in-law.
I knocked the man out with one punch. Afterwards we had to drag him unconscious down the stairs. We laid him at the bottom, within sight of the immigration office and pretended he had fallen down the stairs."
'Out of control'
As time rolled on the mutual contempt between Hendrikse and Coghlan was becoming apparent.
Hendrikse had apparently employed the services of an enforcer he could not control and who was conducting his own business, and began distancing himself saying Coghlan was just taking the law into his own hands as if he had 'carte blanche'. Coghlan had become a serious liability.
Coghlan meanwhile was telling residents that 'Hendrikse' was a little 'sh*t' whom he would sort out in due time. All this, of course, was going back to Hendrikse.
Hendrikse terminated Coghlan's employment. At the time Coghlan told friends: "He was only paying expenses plus 50,000 baht a month and a car. I said: 'Fine. Pay what you owe and then give me 2 million baht to repair my shitty little swimming pool which leaks a couple of inches every day.".
Hendrikse says there was a settlement but that his final agreement with Coghlan was confidential and they agreed both not to meet again but parted amicably.
"I have cleared all outstanding issues and was never directly threatened by him. I have received threats from other people, claiming threats are coming from Jason, but I have no evidence that they are."
A few days after his dismissal, said Coghlan, three Thai men turned up at his house gates with wooden staves.
"I knocked one out, broke the leg of another and the third ran in the direction of the guards at the gate who had let them in".
Of course by then Jason may have had many enemies in Hua Hin.
The next thing that happened, he claims, was that all the locks were changed on his house when he was out.
He furiously went to the office to remonstrate with the new office manager Briton Graham Kane and in the ensuing fracas had to be dragged off Kane by Immigration Police summonsed from downstairs.
He furiously went to the office to remonstrate with the new office manager Briton Graham Kane and in the ensuing fracas had to be dragged off Kane by Immigration Police summonsed from downstairs.
"They wanted to take me to their office. I told them I was not going anywhere with them and walked off," said Coghlan.
Hendrikse admitted: "Graham Kane is now hiding abroad and quit his job on the day in question, but will return to sort the accounts out."
He added that because of this incident and other threats 'currently there are about seven people who are under pressure, of whom a few have left the country because of this. Others lay low and have guards round or in their houses. Nobody went to the police for fear of repercussions'
Residents however believe that it is more than coincidence that Kane's departure followed his hasty collection of funds.
As Hendrikse provided accommodation for and appeared to have a close relationship with the Hua Hin Immigration Police Office himself, Coghlan says he made a tactical decision to leave the town.
|Coghlan in UK|
On July 22nd armed police raided his home in his absence.
A property agent who was looking over the house at the time said:
"The police said they were from Pattaya, but there was also a Hua Hin police pick-up truck there. They told me Jason was wanted on 29 charges including two charges of murder, attempted murder to blackmail. They were looking for bullet holes. One of them had a small machine gun".
Could this be the infamous Pattaya 'Swat' team? Well probably not. And there is a major mystery over this raid because officially at least nobody in Pattaya, Banglamuang, or Hua Hin police and immigration stations appears to know anything about it.
Enquiries revealed that the complaint to police was not made directly by Hendrikse but by a close friend and, perhaps not so strangely, to a policeman in Pattaya not to police in Hua Hin whose patch it is.
"Coghlan's a monster. He has a criminal record. He should not be here,"said the friend, not surprisingly asking for anonymity, if not also 24 hour protection.
Where will this end? Family ties are strong in the criminal fraternity in the UK. In Manchester a crime war is almost certainly going to start up again at the reaction of black crime bosses after the acquittal of Arran Coghlan.
But Arran Coghlan is a skilled 'multi-tasker'. If the British gang have been told Hendrikse is in 'breach of the code' then their international reach is limitless. Coughlan believes that the armed raid on his home was not a serious attempt at arrest.
"It was a local hit. I was going to be taken out. The charges were all rubbish. I have no doubt police came with their safety catches off."
In an email today Dinke later claimed he is now getting direct threats from Coghlan which included a a picture of a man wearing a balaclava.
This business could have mixed results on the residents of Dinkie's housing projects in Thailand. There is a claim that up to 90 per cent appear to have leaseholds on their houses in Avalon, and the leaseholds are still in the name of one of Hendrikse's company. If so they will need him to get the property leases in their own names. They have reportedly paid fees of 100,000 Thai baht each to do so.
What is odd is that Hendrikse appears to have been also conducting a lot of his business involving his Thai properties in banks abroad. In his Avalon brochure buyers are instructed to pay their cash into the account of Axaroc N.V. at the Dexia Bank in Hoevenen, Belgium or they can also send cash to Axaroc N.V. in Willemstad, Curacao, in the Dutch Antilles.
Hendrikse says this is because customers wanted to pay in dollars or euros. Others might have different terms for this.
The Avalon brochure explains: A Thai bank can be provided, however it is subject to the Thai government restrictions on transfer values.
In fact foreign property buyers in Thailand must show that they have brought transferred the cash in from abroad.
Thus people are falsely warned that there are problems bringing cash into Thailand to buy property.
It follows that many cannot prove they have brought cash into the country to buy their property. All they have is a transfer slip to a European bank and perhaps a local receipt from Hendrikse.
But the scenario of Hendrikse taking back houses however en masse is unlikely.
Meanwhile Avalon Management have sent an email to all residents of projects in Hua Hin which include Summerlands and Camelot, confirming they have closed the company down and dismissed all their staff. The letter comes from Graham Kane, now believed to have fled to Hong Kong, but who spent his few weeks of power trying to get everyone to pay their 'service fees'.
'You will see what your actions bring you!' - Graham Kane
"To All owners
"As we stated in several recent pieces of correspondence the overall company had to be profit making to be sustainable.Having now done a two year projection based on several factors, e.g. status of the world economy and prediction for economic growth etcWe now sadly have decided we cannot continue and will close all our current operations in Thailand. This decision was not taken lightlyAll our staff have been informed that their employment is terminated. We will transfer the last few activities to others;
AvalonThe running of the services on Avalon 1, currently done under the Avalon Owners Company (AOC) will be stopped as well.
This has nothing to do with the economic climate as this business could run well even during the economic dip.
The constant demoralizing actions of a small group of people who are certainly not working with the best interest of all owners in mind has been the single most damaging action and has also lead to uncontrolled and insufficient payment of the fees needed to operate the site. they just pay what they want and do not respect any majority decisions.
Owners should be very aware that the people in the group of malicious owners only want to dictate what happens for their own benefit and not for the good of all if they do not wish to end up like last year.
The services on Summerland were hit by the same problems of bad payments and some ever unhappy clients, but Jane and Claire were very supportive.
To all of you who have tried to destroy all that is good on your projects I can only say; You will see what your actions will bring you!
Well , there's certainly no love lost there, but at least the owners will be able to run their own estates at last. Last year there was a fracas on the estate as the residents committee tried to stop Dinkie and two others walking off with all the pool cleaning equipment at least that's what it says in the Residents' Committee minutes sent to me.
Meanwhile anxious residents, who do not have their own water and electricity meters, look like they will have to cough out again. There is a 150,000 baht water bill waiting to be paid, which was not paid out of their service fees“ and they are awaiting their electricity bill.
Last night I got a call from a resident of Hua Hin: Avalon is in total darkness, he said.
I guess the electricity bill arrived and it was not paid.
How one man finally got justice
Indian born businessman Saheim Abid Sheriff gave up his business in Moscow some 14 years ago during the previous economic depression and was on his way to Australia when he stopped off in Hua Hin.
He loved the place and, in the tourism and travel business himself , he wanted to invest in the business in the seaside town. He put in 15 million baht and Dingeman Henrikse put in 7.5 million baht into a hotel project bang in the centre of town on what is now the site of the Pavilion, opposite the Hua Hin Sofitel.
Sam decided to run the hotel himself which he did successfully. Eight months into running a successful business he claimed he was approached by Hendrikse to sign some document in a hurry otherwise they would be 'liable to a fine of 600,000 baht' the following day.
He did not read Thai so he took the documents to his accountant, who said they were all kosher, and he signed and forgot all about it.
About six months later Hendrikse approached him, he said, and announced he wanted someone else to take over the hotel.
"I said 'No way!' We were both equal partners and I could veto it.
"Then Hendrikse said I was not a director anymore and I had better check. I thought he was joking. It was at the stage that I found out that I had signed myself out of the company without my knowledge.
"From that moment on I was locked out of my business. But worse was to follow. Immigration were informed that I was working without a work permit.
"Actually I had found a job and was just about to start and this all happened when I went to apply for my new visa and work permit. I was then arrested and taken up to Bangkok where I spent 29 days in the Immigration Detention Centre.
"It was only through friends I had made in Hua Hin that I managed to get out. But I had to send my wife four year old daughter and six month old son back to Russia because I could not support them here."
After getting out of the IDC he discovered that his accountant had been appointed a senior manager of the hotel!
Despite almost being crushed into the ground, with his knowledge of the tourism trade and business savvy, Sam managed to pick up the pieces. He did this by approaching an hotelier and offering to fill his hotel with tourists from the Middle East, Russia and South Africa, which he did successfully on a commission basis.
It took him years to claw back his losses but today he owns three resorts and is a successful businessman in Hua Hin.
For ten years he fought Hendrikse through the courts. "Dinkie fought all the way in his usual style, failing to turn up at court on many occasions, making derisory offers."
On March 18th this year the Supreme Court ordered Hendrikse to pay 11 million baht compensation for locking him out of his business. Sam is now pursuing other civil cases, one for 40 million for defrauding him of his shares, and plans to go to the criminal court.
He said earlier this year he was approached by a Hua Hin bar owner to tell him to call a Bangkok number. The bar owner said he had been told to warn him off his court actions against Hendrikse or there would be serious trouble.
"He gave me a number to call in Bangkok but I ignored it. I forgot about it but out of the blue I got a call from an Englishman calling himself 'Dick' telling me that if I did not stop my actions against Hendrikse people would come down to Hua Hin and kill me.
"I told him I was not worried by his threats and invited Dick to Hua Hin. He never came of course. Afterwards I lodged a formal complaint with the police, though nothing was ever done.
"I have since met this man Jason. He is not the sort of person I will have any truck with. But he is not the person who called me from Bangkok. In any case how would he know I was in dispute with Hendrikse?"
Today Sam is pragmatic.
"I want to say to those who have been victims here â€“ fight it. You can fight and win. I went to lawyers in Bangkok who cannot be influenced and who immediately recognized what nonsense I was up against.
"And at the end of the day in the property business in Hua Hin you can count the crooks on one hand. It's just that they make a lot of noise. Hua Hin is still a delightful resort."
However Sam's story is not apparently for general public consumption in Hua Hin.
"I informed all the media, newspapers, forums etc. Nobody would touch it."
Hendrikse's answer was: "Sam got lucky. We were never heard in the case due to a lawyer who did not turn up. Without a defence the case was doomed."
Court and arbitration records however show that lawyers did show up for Hendrikse, though many times the cases had to be adjourned and he did change lawyers.
More to the point is that it took ten years for Sheriff get some of his money back.