A controversial condominium project in Pattaya linked to a British company, which has taken billions of pounds for property projects, which have never been built, in the Caribbean and Thailand, was yesterday (Wednesday) visited by police and Pattaya Consumer Protection Officers.
|(Picture by CB)|
Emerald Palace on Pratamnak Hill, Pattaya, initiated by David Ames of the British company ‘Harlequin’, could be described to have been raided but that may be stretching things. The visit was long overdue.
The project is a classic study on how foreign property companies in Thailand can rip off unsuspecting clients.
First of all some buyers, mainly British, but also some Russians, a Canadian and other nationalities, were sold units and were never even allocated one.
Secondly all the remaining buyers found that, when they came to occupy their rooms in the project which came in three years late, they had all been mortgaged to Thailand’s Kasikorn Bank*
(One buyer found that his allocated unit was in fact occupied by the mistress of a bank official.)
And thirdly the original sellers, the people who took the cash, quietly removed themselves as directors.
And their company, which actually owns the project is not the company with which the buyers were actually dealing.
Emerald Palace was initiated by David Ames of Harlequin U.K. based in Basildon , Essex. Ames is a formerly bankrupt ex-double glazing salesman.
Briton Richard Haughton was appointed boss of Harlequin (Thailand) Haughton a former video store owner and Tupperware salesman, had somehow become a pillar of society in Pattaya, being appointed as President of the Pattaya-Jomtien Rotary Club.
Several projects were initiated and advertised on the net and by the Pattaya People Media Company, the boss of whom Niels Colov, was awarded houses in lieu of fees.
The projects were either sold by Harlequin or T.P.M.E – Thailand Property and Media Exhibition Company – set up by Haughton when he decided to break away from Ames, who was now having severe headaches in the Caribbean having taken massive amounts of cash and people’s pensions on projects that did not even have planning permission.
|Haughton as Rotary President|
Some projects were built but buyers soon found their investments being passed on to the next project. Emerald Palace was at the end of the Ponzi line.
Those whose cash was not passed on to the next project were promised it back. They never got it.
They could not fight T.P.M.E because the company which owned Emerald Palace was not T.P.M.E but a company called Headland Holdings.
Haughton had taken his name off this company and inserted his sidekicks Nicholas Pearce and Paul Salisbury, two notable under-achievers from the U.K. – who also appear to want to return to the U.K. when anybody wishes to talk to them.
Foreigners investing in property in Thailand have been ripped off on a massive scale and of course most of these rip offs take place in the popular retirement and tourist locations of, Pattaya, Hua Hin, Phuket, and Koh Samui.
Massive beach side projects which have been heavily advertised in Thailand’s national and English language newspapers have simply just not been built.
Just how Pattaya deals with Emerald Palace charade may set a precedent for the future in the city. And the Mayor would be wise to pick his foreign friends more fussily.
But nationally steps would have to be taken to put any dent into problem and this issue is not high on anyone’s agenda. The latest action however appears to have been prompted by dialogue between buyers at Emerald Palace and the Office of the Attorney General.
The status quo has always been – Why interfere when foreigners rip off foreigners? It’s a foreign problem. Many people suspect officials can also receive gifts to turn a blind eye.
Meanwhile Harlequin is the subject of two U.K. based on-going investigations
….and Richard Haughton, well he has not changed his spots.
He is still trying to make money from service charges at the rather inappropriately named Lake Villas Resort– a rather remote T.P.M.E.community holed up on some former woodland near Lake Mabprachan on what is called Pattaya’s ‘Dark Side’’
Here is a recent newsletter from his Harlequin Property Maintenance Company
The company will continue to providing maintenance for Lake Villas Resort from the 1st January 2013.
|What happens when Haughton does not pay the maintenance at Lake Villas|
Members of owners groups were unable to provide any solution to taking on the work of maintenance for the year.
We have reduced the budget for the coming year by not having security guards during the day time and appointing one guard for the Resort at night. So we have set a new rate, lower than 2012, and have set a monthly charge of 2,475 Baht for Villas and 1,325 Baht for Studios.
I am attaching the statements for 31 December 2012 for all owners, and please note that if you have a prior agreement to our renting your property that service will continue and in the case of owners who have asked for outstanding fees to be offset against unpaid fees that will too continue as agreed.
If you wish to take advantage of our renting your property and allow us to set off the outstanding fees against any future rent, please contact me on this e-mail address.
Owners who have outstanding fees can contact me to discuss a payment plan which will assist them to pay off their balances during the coming year, also we will accept transfers to a U.K. bank which might help owners and this will also save fees and time.
We shall send out a maintenance agreement for signature by owners to confirm our continued operation of maintenance at Lake Villas Resort. There will be a budget report sent out to each owner after signing the agreement.
Well 2,475 baht a month does not compare well with the 700 baht a month which is the cost of maintenance I pay for a larger property on a good estate in Bangkok which we run ourselves.
|Promoted, cash taken, never built by Harlequin-TPME|
For that I get 24 hours security (two guards) daily cleaning of all common area, grass and hedge cutting etc.
And whenever I have a problem which needs additional physical strength (like moving heavy furniture) they happily come and lend a hand.
That bank account in the U.K. will be Haughton’s of course. I think it’s probably more for his convenience though – undeclared Thai income.
He won’t be transferring that cash back to Thailand – but he can make a cash withdrawal before going to the Buffalo Bar.
|Promoted , cash taken, never built – refunds not paid – Harlequin – TPME|
Haughton of course was responsible for pulling out water and electricity connections for those who refused to pay his maintenance charges. He has also been renting out at least one unit without the absentee owner’s knowledge.
And on last year’s statements both he and Niels Colov were the biggest maintenance debtors of all.
One owner showed me one of Haughton’s bills for a small one-roomed apartment, which incidentally does not fulfil the requisites of the condominium act.
Haughton charged him for water, electricity, cable television, legal fees, audit fees, building insurance fees etc. for a unit which has never been occupied!
Meanwhile Haughton has threatened to sue the angry owner for libel and take people to the court for their maintenance debt. The libel case would be fascinating.
To those who are not paying Haughton the answer is kick him out. Get your own juristic committee going. That’s what most people do and what evolves on all Thai housing estate. People have already voted him out – enforce the issue.
And if you are really worried about legal action – don’t. At least 10 per cent on my estate do not pay. There’s actually little we can do about it which will pragmatically work. We can get a charge put on their houses, but can only claim it when they sell!*
* Evidence is now emerging that Haughton is not the only British property developer in Pattaya to have hawked sold projects to the Kasikorn Bank.
Apologies for lack of activity over the last week. Flying Sporran took time off to dedicate to his kids. It was a great week.