From ANDREW DRUMMOND, Bangkok
November 16 2011
Officials of Pattaya's Consumer Protection unit have appealed again to the outgoing President of the city's biggest Rotary Club to attend city hall for an interview over complaints that he has scammed scores of foreigners out of their holiday and retirement homes.
As the list of angry victims of the 'Emerald Palace' fiasco increased with more arrivals from abroad finding the property they bought was not theirs, pressure was mounting on 63-yr-old Briton Richard Haughton to surrender himself to answer questions about property frauds, which, it is alleged, date back several years and involve five housing projects in the Pattaya.
In a separate action two former employees Robin Warren and Martin Simons say they intend to sue Haughton's company Thailand Property and Media Exhibition's Company Ltd. for bankruptcy, so that Haughton, President of the Rotary Club of Jomtien-Pattaya 2011-12, will be required to show how the millions he received, provided by hundreds of people seeking homes in Thailand, was spent.
The Pattaya Consumer Protection Council is submitting a report to Mayor Ittiphol Khunpluem.
In turn some 50 'owners' at Emerald Palace, comprising a mix of British, Finnish, Canadian, and Russian nationals are involved in meetings with Bangkok lawyers to bring a joint prosecution.
All had paid in full for their homes in Emerald Palace on Pratamnak Hill, Pattaya, but when they arrived they found all the units had been mortgaged to a the Kasikorn Bank by Haughton, working with his Thai girlfriend Srepat Boontumm.
Srepaat Boonturmm appears to be the majority shareholder and in whose name the land appears.
Among the victims is a Briton called Ron Massey who turned up on the 'Emerald Palace' site this week to claim his condominium. He said he had provided the land on which the swimming pool has been built in a land/cash deal with Haughton.
Further investigations into the scam, first exposed on this site, show that investors in another project 'Compton Gardens' also lost their cash when the project was never built.
Haughton's companies were also taking cash on other projects called Phoenix Grove and Forest Gardens which were also on the same plot of land. But there was no overcrowding of course because they were never built either.
Victims claim they while they were abroad they were supplied with updates on the progress of the projects. In fact it took five years to build Emerald Palace, because Haughton ran out of cash in mid flow.
One victim Lee Booty, 53, from London, who went to check, said: 'Richard told me in an email it was coming along fine. But when I looked not one stone had been laid.'
When the 'owners' started moving in to Emerald Palace last month they found it still had not been finished and the electricity had been cut off due to unpaid bills. Their property deeds or 'chanotes' were not in their name and a charge was attached payable to the Kasikorn Bank which had given Haughton a loan on the property.
Many of the Britons bought through a British company called 'Harlequin'. One of the employees of Harlequin was Alistair Powell, who went on to form a British company called 'Seven Continents Investments'.
7CI, as it was referred to went bust. It had also taken half the cash from Compton Garden investors .
Left: Srepaat Boonturmm
But Haughton himself took 50 million baht in Thailand directly, claims another former employee now back in the UK, who was witness to the episode.
Like the two employees in Thailand, who sued Haughton in the Labour Court and were between them awarded over 2 million baht; the British employee has bitter experiences: 'I hope he rots in hell for how he treated people,' he said.
Meanwhile Haughton has dismissed allegations made on this site.
In a reply to the Chairman of the Lake Villas project, where owners complain Haughton has refused to pass on their rents, or provide accounts for the company formed to own their properties.
He said:'This article was written by a freelance reporter who has taken it upon himself to blacken our names. We consider the article to be of little importance to us and it will not be responded to by any of the directors.'
In fact Haughton's only reaction so far is to adopy the 'Dinkie Ploy' named after Dingeman Hendrikse a Dutchman who ran projects in Hua Hin. Haughton has organised the cutting off of electricy and water to residents on his Lake Villas projects who were planning to out him from the management of the estate on December 3rd (see separate story).
No other directors are around to answer questions. One, Chairman Nicholas Pearce, 51, from Brighton has returned to the UK, where he has secured work as a financial advisor. CEO Paul Salisbury, from Salisbury, a former swimming pool service company manager, is reported to have fled to Korat - to his in-laws.
Haughton is of course not required to answer questions to this site. But soon enough he will have to answer to someone.
Another former President of Pattaya-Jomtien Rotary Club, Niels Storm Martens Colov, owns two units at Lake Villas.
Colov, group leader of the Pattaya Foreign Volunteer Police, provided advertising for Haughton on the Pattaya People Television Channel and Pattaya People newspaper. Residdent at Lake Villas claim that Colov has been obstructive in helping claiming their rights and putting the project into a legal position.
Colov rents out one of his units to Srepaat Boonturmm. So Haughton is linked to Colov. Colov is linked to the now notorious publisher of the Pattaya Times, Drew Noyes.......and there's more to come.
File Picture: Colov as President of the Jomtien-Pattaya Rotary Club
Off the record Pattaya officials are telling the owners not to worry they will not lose their properties.
Lets hope that is the case. But these scams are widespread in Thailand and there will continue to be more and more victims.
In Pattaya large sections of the English language media are run by people with 'property interests'. That includes Pattaya People Television, Pattaya People newspaper, and the Pattaya Times. Meanwhile other English language media, including the Pattaya Mail, not wishing to upset the apple cart, give glowing reports of cocktail evenings and champagne launches of these dodgy projects.
Above: Write-up in the Pattaya Mail
These events are known in Pattaya as 'going to the opening of an envelope' . There will be few people there apart from the balloon chasers on the Pattaya media circuit and maybe a local civic dignitiary or two. But what the property developer gains, apart from free advertising in the editorial sections of the local press, is some sort of credibility. Nobody wants to know who these guys really are, and even if they do, events show that they repeatedly do nothing to avoid upsetting the aforentioned apple cart, or perhaps more appropriately the gravy train.
At the same property time scammers promote their own distinguished but false histories in their own newspapers while flouting Thailand's immigration and property laws with impunity. Are these people being left untouched because they wear suits and pretend to be foreign people of influence?
Well low level Thais are involved but the fact is 'city hall' pays little attention to the foreigners in their midst apart from trying to keep them happy and out on the fringe of real life.
They might do something though if they read the pages and pages of reports in the foreign press, most recently in Sweden, but do the local press have to seek city hall's permission to publish as is suggested in the report on the left which was picked up by the Scandasia website?
The conspiracy of silence is self imposed. I never thought I would find myself calling for curbs on the press but some authorities starting down on Pattaya's eastern seaboard really ought to be checking the press barons in their midst.
Meanwhile will this fiasco be reported by the press in Pattaya?
Correction: I have been asked to and am happy to point out that the Pattaya Mail, earlier categorised as 'foreign media', is of course not foreign media. The publisher Peter Malhotra is a Thai citizen and was born and raised in Thailand.
I have altered the term 'foreign' to English language media. In fact all the media mentioned is strictly speaking Thai media as the structure demands Thai ownership.