|Jonathan Head confronting Thai lawyer Pratuan Thanarak in Phuket|
Jonathan Head said today: “We will fight the case because we have to. The report was sound, the allegations in it carefully phrased and well-founded. I am very fortunate to have a large organization behind me who feel the same way. The BBC's reputation is at stake and we have to defend it.”
He added that it would be hard to predict how the case , which has now been accepted, played out in practice.
|Ian Rance with his Thai children|
The court in Phuket, which has a notorious reputation among foreign buyers who have bought property, or thought they had, on the tourist island, also accepted a case against Briton Ian Rance, who says he was cleaned out property worth 80 million baht (£1.8 million). The plaintiff is lawyer Pratuan Thanarak.
Ian Rance and another victim Irishman Colin Vard, who was defrauded out of seven properties to the tune of a similar amount, were highlighted in a report made by Jonathan Head for the BBC2 morning news magazine programme ‘Victoria Derbyshire’.
His young Irish born daughter Jessie has a massively popular Facebook page ‘Justice for Jessie’ with over a million readers.
But earlier this month the news website ‘Coconuts’ published a story saying she would stop doing ‘sexy model shoots’ because of the mean comments she had received).
Jonathan Head and Ian Rance must surrender to bail next month. From then on Jonathan’s work visa will be revoked and he will be on a court visa. Ian Rance is already on a court visa (see below).
Just how Jonathan Head will be able to carry on his work as a correspondent remains to be seen. Under the court terms, unless an exception is made, he must apply to the court if he wishes to leave the country, something of a handicap if he wishes to cover a breaking news story in another south east Asian country.
Frauds on foreigners buying property in Thailand are widespread. All the British Embassy does is to advise prospective buyers to employ a good lawyer.
But most foreigners encountering the law in Thailand and who have written to this site, say their lawyers have been bent. And even the Embassy list of lawyers has included crooks and the Embassy accepts no responsibility if things go wrong.
The problem is made worse by travel programmes in the United Kingdom, who also offer property for sale in Thailand on their websites and magazines.
One such programme ‘A Place in the Sun’ (Channel 4) gives the following advice to readers.
“In Thailand foreigners cannot buy freehold property except through a company. Most buy a 30-year lease which is automatically renewable two more times, making 90 years. Like in any purchase, ensuring you have a specialist and independent property lawyer will iron out any problems or worries.”
Readers are left to wonder who are these specialist and independent property lawyers, who can guarantee those 90 year leases.
They might like to turn for advice to the victims on Koh Samui who this year were turfed out of the properties they bought 30 years ago and that these lease arrangements are kicking in as blatant frauds.
In the Ian Rance case the frauds began in 2008.
He discovered them in 2010 and has been fighting ever since. The up and coming court case could also last for years.
Ian has not been allowed to leave the country, nor is he legally allowed to support himself by working.
In a western court this case would undoubtedly blow open that scandal of the criminal involvement of the authorities, lawyers, and even courts in the systematic frauds on foreigners looking for 'A Place in the Sun'.
In Thailand however it won't. Once a verdict is announced the BBC will not legally be able to criticise the court, at least not from Thailand. Will it do on a global scale? It's not the top of its news agenda.
The Computer Crime Act is not only used by the government to stifle criticism but, as we have shown on this site, is used by the common criminal, to get away with fraud, and is contributing to the country's growing reputation as ' Fraud Central'.
ANATOMY OF A PROPERTY FRAUD -
Ian Rance came to Phuket in 2001 opening two businesses, Phuket Island Development Co. Ltd. and Paklok Golf Villas Co. Ltd., which owned the property he had bought. He lived, in Kathu, Phuket, with his wife Suda Srirattana and they had three children together.
In 2008, without his knowledge, Suda forged documents of both companies. The forged signatures of Ian were notarised by two separate lawyers to gain control of the companies.
She colluded with a money lender and an agent working for the money lender. The assets of both companies were sold to the money lender using forged Power of Attorneys on a promise that the land could be bought back. In one company a stolen ID was used to install a ghost Director who was used as a diversion, issuing false POA's to the agent for the money lender to enable the company assets to be stolen.
|Ian#s forged signature|
Sky high interest and other charges were front loaded into the price paid for the land titles so very little money was paid out by the money lender. That illegal interest created the spiral of debt that 25-year-old girl Suda could not escape.
In early 2009, she was persuaded by the money lenders’ agent to collude with a second money lender. This time the target was the family home and a second house being extended and refurbished by Ian.
The family home was protected by a 30-year lease which was cancelled by the money lender's agent using a forged POA whilst the second money lender and Suda watched and waited at the land office.
Immediately after cancellation, on the same day, the money lender bought the house for a very cheap price. Again, the price did not match the money paid. Again, came the promise that the house could be bought back but with sky high interest and charges to ensure that it was not possible. Six weeks later the second money lender and the agent use the same tactic to grab another house which Ian was extending and renovating.
During this time, nothing was said to Ian Rance, who was spending large sums of money improving the properties, encouraged by Suda. He was unaware that they had been sold on to the money lenders, who had not only bought them for 25% of value but were now laughing as Ian unknowingly improved them for the money lender's benefit.
The scam unfolded in 2010 when Ian asked his lawyer to check the capital of his company which uncovered the change in Directors and led to all the land titles being checked – uncovering the huge fraud. In total, around 80 million baht of assets had been seized.
Once the facts were known Suda ran away leaving her children. Suda was however penniless – any money received had been repaid in interest.
Then came the threats of violence to Ian and threats of kidnap on the children, which resulted in Ian and his family being exiled from Phuket within weeks.
This is the first chapter of the scam. The second chapter involves the lawyers.
At first Ian employed a Phuket Law Firm. They were corrupt, refusing to protect the land and delaying at every stage. Almost certainly in cahoots with the money lenders they lied and drafted claims that were unwinnable. They refused to charge the money lenders or the agent criminally. Eventually they were sacked and a lawyer from Bangkok was employed.
He was worse. Promising to fix the bad claims and again drafting unwinnable claims and a host of other tactics designed to prolong yet not win any of the cases. Eventually, having scammed millions from Ian in fees for his worthless services, he was sacked too.
The money lender who stole the house sued Ian back on grounds that Ian consented and knew all about the fraud which has destroyed his family.
That case is suspended for years as it is dependent on the case brought by Ian against the money lender to finish. However, the money lender’s lawyer managed to get the court to accept the case. It was accepted because Ian knew nothing about the case despite being in Phuket Court several times every month in cases involving the same lawyer. Nothing was said. The papers intentionally sent to the wrong address. It resulted in Ian being forced to pay bail and his passport seized by the court.
The result of living in Bangkok for safety and the passport in Phuket together with his family visa being suspended in favour of a court visa, makes complying with the monthly visa stamps very expensive and time consuming.
These court proceedings have been ongoing for five years. They have cost upward of 5 million baht so Ian and his family are now destitute. The judgements of the court are looking increasingly suspicious.
The court took 3 months to schedule a hearing to protect the company land. The first hearing was adjourned for several months after the money lender objected to the protection. He then rushed to mortgage it to the Kasikorn Bank during the adjournment.
The same local branch had already granted a mortgage on land owned by the other company so the Kasikorn Bank were already co-defendants with Suda, the money lender and Agent yet the same local branch issued the mortgage on two further pieces of land totalling 13 million baht – to the same money lender buying from the same seller! It is money laundering. The money lender is no longer paying the interest.
The court dismissed the cases brought by Ian to recover the company assets saying that he had no power to sue as he had been removed as Director by fraud.
Ironically the court did restore the Directorships so Ian has now had to sue the cases again at great cost in the name of the Companies.
The court sentenced Suda to jail for the forgery of the company papers and for the forgery of the Power of Attorney used to cancel the lease on the house.
Despite the fraud being proved, the court said Ian had no power to sue the money lender over the theft of the house.
The court has just dismissed one of the criminal cases against the money lender and the agent for stealing the company land on grounds of lack of evidence.
Now Ian and his family have nothing left. Time is running out and money is all but gone so educating the children and feeding them will soon be impossible. Ian has no income and cannot even seek work as the court is holding his passport and anyway a monthly work permit if even available would cost more in travel than could be earned.
He has been to every possible source of help. The Phuket Governor, the Phuket Navy, The Ministry for Justice, The Attorney General, The Human Rights Office, the Lawyers Council, the Department of Special Investigation, the Prime Minister’s Office and the police.
The British Embassy, he said, has been completely disinterested or involved save for a letter requesting the return of the passport which the court refused on grounds he might run away.
Persons who have sued this site under the Computer Crime Act:
Drew Walter Noyes: 61, US Citizen, first exposed by the 'Star' in Wilmington, North Carolina, with allegations of property and share fraud, and sexual harassment.
Claimed falsely to be an American lawyer and set up Pappa Law and One-Stop-Service Center, to deal with property and legal cases, using cheap Thai lawyers.
Was allowed to flee to the United States despite being convicted of extortion. Occupation: Legal adviser in the property business. Two cases dismissed. One guilty verdict brought it on claims by a poster that he was a pimp. He ran beer bars in Pattaya.
Wanrapa Boonsu, Noyes common-law-wife and now owner of One Stop Service Center. She sued but case was dismissed. But she was acquitted of the case of extortion even though police had tape of her demanding money from the plaintiff - Michael Goulet - to stop a police raid on his premises the Thonglor Beauty Clinic in Pattaya when something 'illegal would be found'. The case is being appealed but now she is an official court interpreter!
Brian Goudie, aka Goldie, 49: Sued for slander after we exposed him as a fake lawyer and fake ex-Royal Marine officer. In actual fact a warrant had been issued for his arrest by Scottish Police for fraud on the Royal Bank of Scotland, and he was convicted and jailed in Australian for six years for stealing from a mining company. Case dismissed. He set up a company called 'Alba Laws' to fleece foreigners. He was jailed for three years for cheating a 78-year-old American woman out of some US$250,000 but fled while on bail and on appeal. Warrants also out for him for fraud and revenge porn related crimes. Thai Police can't find him.
David John Hanks, 68, former owner and licencee of Masquerades Brothel in Keysborough, outside Melbourne, Victoria, sued this site after a poster described him as a 'pimp' in a comment. He admitted in court being the owner and licencee of the brothel. The court did not accept the Oxford Dictionary meaning of the word pimp. He currently earns money as a bail bondsman and a prisoner (see recent story) accused him of stealing his 800,000 baht bail money.