KPMG CONSULTANT – WHO BOUGHT LUXURY THAI HOME WITH ‘NO ENCUMBRANCES’ – GOT NOTHING!
ORDERED IN COURT TO LEAVE EVERYTHING TO FRAUDSTER
The continuing story of Thailand’s property scammers and the officials who stand to gain.
A former consultant to KPMG, one of the world’s four largest audit groups, has told how he was threatened with jail after he arrived in Thailand to move into his 11.5 million baht dream home – unless he paid millions more.
Briton Laurence Smith, from Worcester, one of the latest of hundreds if not thousands of victims of property scams in Thailand, described his experience as more shocking than a Spielberg movie, and has embarked on a mission to warn potential Chinese buyers – Thailand’s new tourism target – and everyone who will listen of the ‘almost unbelievable corruption’.
He said he was threatened with jail by his own lawyer if he did not sign a document placed in front of him. In the document he surrendered everything. His first ‘lawyer’ had been struck off – and the second lawyer, who tricked him into signing the document, threatened him with a libel action if he said a word.
Mr. Smith was a former programme designer and lead facilitator of communication skills for KPMG (China) and Manager for KPMG (Development and Learning. He is now communicating to Chinese buyers not to be fooled by Thailand’s warm and friendly nature – claiming it can equally be cruel and corrupt.
The scam was carried out by foreigners – and that is normally the case. But, claims Mr. Smith, for their own reward Thai lawyers, land office officials, and even a judge happily joined in.
He is echoing the views of Irishman Colin Vard and Briton Ian Rance, who had their life savings invested in property in Phuket stolen from them.
But he can talk from the safety of Hong Kong where he is now.
In Thailand he would inevitably end up in court being charged under the country’s libel and defamation laws, currently used by foreigners as a ‘Crooks’ Charter’, which were created seemingly with no other intention but to protect the rich and save their faces from stories about their shenanigans and how they obtained their wealth.
Laurie says he was defrauded out of an 11.2-million-baht house in Jomtien Park Villas just a couple of miles from the Thai resort of Pattaya. It was here that he and other ‘owners’ arrived to find debts attached to the properties they had bought ‘free from all encumbrances’ from Briton Gordon Gillen’s ‘TAG Group’. The debts were in favour of another Brit Brendan Bushe, from Stoke Newlington, London.
Bushe was himself an investor in Jomtien Park Villas and in lieu of the cash Gillen owed him put mortgages on the properties.
And after he moved in with his wife, Bushe, said Laurie, was quick to tell the new owners to pay off the outstanding bills, or pack their bags. According to Laurie, Bushe delivered his ultimatum with relish.
Laurie and his Indonesian wife Ana had bought a Michelangelo Style Pool Villa for that 11.2 million Thai baht. It turned out later Gordon Gillen had two sets of house and land deeds (called chanotes in Thailand) – one clean set to show the buyers and another, a copy of the full set with the mortgage after they moved in!
In April 2014, just after they had moved in despite and having paid the full amount for the property bought off-plan, Bushe demanded from the Smiths the full repayment of 4 million Thai baht debt owed by Gillen to him, which had been attached to the Smith’s chanote.
And he wanted a further two million in interest or they would never ever own their house. He could not get the cash off Gillen’s TAG group or at least Gillen did not settle up with him after the Smith’s paid in full – and so the Smith’s became the victims.
Three months later in December the Smith’s met Bushe again, this time with their lawyer a Mr. Kevin Harper, of ‘British Law’ (sic) , a man who has already been exposed on this website as he has been ‘struck off’ in the U.K.
Mr. Bushe, waving the ‘real chanote’ in front of them, now demanded 10 million Thai baht to consider interest and his ‘expenses’, said Laurie.
‘Say anything and I’ll sue!’
By then the Smiths said they had discovered that buyers in other properties in Jomtien Park Villas had also had mortgages attached to their new homes and these had been done in co-operation with the Land Registry Department whose officers knew the properties had already been sold to foreigners.
With no money forthcoming from the Smiths an order of execution was issued and the property was put to auction – and the only bidders at the auction were Mr. Bushe and Mrs Thapang, through their lawyer.
“We originally took legal action against Gillen and were awarded over 11 million. But that was a complete waste of time and I had told Harper that because Gillen had no money. We were told we should have sued for the property.
“Then we went to court with another lawyer to strike out an execution of a seizure warrant by Bushe or rather his girlfriend, Sopa Thapang, to take our house. This was clearly in breach of our earlier case. But at this case I was ordered by my lawyer and the judge to sign a statement in Thai.
“I refused. Then I was told I had to. If I did not I would go to prison. I signed it. I had no choice. Then I found out that I was forced to sign over the house and all the contents and furniture! I had spent a further 5 million baht bringing the villa to a much higher standard including 500,000 on furniture.”
“By this stage I had looked up Thai law and realised that the local courts were breaking every law in the book. When I confronted my lawyer he said smugly: ‘You had better be careful. We have very strict libel and defamation laws in Thailand and I will use them.’”
What happened next seemed to confirm his worst fears.
(A property cannot be seized if the buyer has a contract and paid for the property – Land Development Act 2000 (B.E. 2453 sections 36,37, & 46).
“I went along to the auction of our home to object but was even refused the chance to bid. In fact there was only one bidder and it was Brendan Bushe – and he bought the property for 2.5 million baht (thorough his parter Sopa Thapang) and the property was his.
“Bushe immediately put the property on the market for a price of 15 million baht.”
Both Bushe and Gillen left Thailand as affairs closed in on them. Bushe was awaiting the result of an appeal against a drugs conviction at the Thai Supreme Court but failed to turn up to hear the final verdict. People were closing in on Gillen in court cases for other scams and he is believed to have fled to the U.K. and Ireland.
Laurie, now living with his Indonesian wife Ana in Hong Kong says that quite emphatically under Thai law the seller was obliged to tell him if a mortgage had been put on his property.
(Thai Penal Code (Chapter 3: Offence of Cheating and Fraud – Section 341. Fraud)
‘Whoever dishonestly deceives a person with the assertion of a falsehood or the concealment of the facts which should be revealed, and, by such deception, obtains a property from the person so deceived or a third person, or causes the person so deceived or a third person to execute, revoke or destroy a document of right, is said to commit the offence of cheating and fraud, and shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding three years or fined not exceeding six thousand Baht, or both’.)
“Gillen, with his ‘partner-in-crime’ Brendan Bushe literally destroyed ours and hundreds of other people’s lives. My wife and I have lost everything – our legally bought-and-paid-for home, an estimated 5M THB on furnishing, maintaining, redecorating and improving our house as well as all our life savings on legal fees etc contesting what was essentially a pointless legal case. We have endured untold levels of stress, intimidation and bullying and the utter frustration of knowing that there is absolutely no justice for innocent people such as ourselves in Thailand.
“We have been left facing an extremely difficult future [I am in my early 60’s and finding work at my age is not easy]. We will never again be able to buy our own house, and to all intents and purposes have been condemned to a life of poverty for the rest of our lives. Like many people, my wife and I have worked extremely hard for everything we have and have always tried to be good, decent and honest people. Our house in Thailand, was meant to be for our retirement and our intention was to either sell or rent it out to provide an income stream. We were cruelly deprived of this by known criminals – yet there is absolutely nothing we can do.
“This is even though we are certain [and have indisputable evidence] that several Government agencies [i.e.: Jomtien Land Execution Department, Pattaya Land Registry, Pattaya Law Courts and the Pattaya office of the Department of Special Investigations] as well as our legal representatives were totally complicit in these illegal activities.
“Through our experience, we have become extremely aware of the rampant levels of corruption and criminality in Thailand – and how little protection there is under Thai law for the victims of these innumerable and heartless crimes.
Arguably, the saddest and most frustrating element of what we have suffered, is that nobody in the Thai judiciary, police or government anti-corruption and anti-crime agencies has shown any interest or intent whatsoever in listening to us or to bring those responsible to justice. Despite providing the relevant authorities with conclusive evidence of illegal behaviour by Gordon Gillen, Brendan Bushe
We are determined therefore, never to give up our fight to expose this wholly disgraceful situation and the individuals and agencies that are responsible for it. We are doing this to warn others about the very real and serious dangers of living and buying property in Thailand.
We have not been given any real or satisfactory explanation of why none of our complaints have been taken seriously – or why indeed it was decided not to investigate many of these matters at all. In our opinion there is clear evidence of numerous acts of illegal behaviour and corruption. Yet, many of the perpetrators have not even been taken in for questioning [much less arrested].
Brendan Bushe, aged 70, from London has three dissolved directorships in Teger Ltd, and Penrose (Thailand) Ltd, and a directorship in the Pattaya Greyhound Company. In the UK he is listed as a director of Bushe Developments Ltd with his son James and daughter Nicole, registered at 12E Manor Road, London N16 5SA. He made his initial money in Thailand in exporting bronze art.
He emphatically denied he was part of any scam or illegal behaviour stating he was merely trying to get his cash back from Gillen. It was a matter of ‘buyer beware’. He clearly know when properties were sold and if he knew Gillen, he could have guessed they were in for a surprise. If he told prospective buyers -= and he had a right to know who they were – of course they would not buy.
“Thirty years ago with the bronze business in Thailand booming I was able to receive from the Thai Government financial export incentives and with these funds I invested in a rundown condominium block. I started trading and renting these condos. (To this day I still own over 50 condos).
“From then on I started doing various property deals all over Pattaya. Then disaster struck. I met Gordon Gillen at the time he seemed very knowledgeable and a clever profitable property dealer. I made various deals with Gordon which could never seem to finish. They for ever rolled into another deal.
“One of the major deals that Gordon Gillen produced was called Jomtien Park Villas. It had a first phase which seemed to go very well, which convinced me to invest in Phase 2. I had the money transferred to Thailand and my lawyer, when the deeds were issued, had a mortgage of between 2 & 5 million entered on every chanote which was held by me.
Gordon pulled all kind of strokes and tricks which I certainly was never party too and many times I had to explain to potential buyers about the mortgage. At one stage to help Gordon from his difficulties I released about 12 mortgages and had them added to the balance chanotes (houses) so Gordon could proceed with the sales.
“It seems that in 2007 Laurie visited the JPV sales office and arranged to purchase a house (No. JPV 37) for 11,2 million Baht. He was an intelligent chap and the first thing that is explained to all buyers is that foreigners cannot have ownership in their own name, so a company must be set up.
“So a lawyer must be employed to set this up and he would check out all the house details. Next if Laurie had, I presume, carried out his due diligence to protect why he was not given the (real) chanote?
Every owner upon checking the title at the land office would have found my name on the back of the deed. There were only 2 properties ever put up for auction.
“I never bid at the auction – as a foreigner cannot buy land. I was not even there and my lawyer was the one who bid for me.
“I do not think Laurie understood the auction process and has just put his jaundiced opinion. The bidding was for his house (JPV 37) but it had a mortgage of over 7 Million, a sitting tenant plus condition unknown. Obviously I would of been the keenest buyer as I owned the mortgage.”
Records show however that the Smiths signed a contract and put a deposit down in 2005. By 2007 they had paid off half the purchase prise 5.6 million baht and it was not until after they had paid 4 million baht did Bushe in June 2007 affix his 4 million baht mortgage to it. Neither Bushe nor Gillen informed him that this debt was now outstanding, and of course the Smiths continued to pay completing the purchase in 2012. The Smith’s insist Bushe was at the auction. Laurie Smith described Bushe’s version as a ‘child’s fantasy’.
‘He was a property wheeler dealer in Pattaya. He knew exactly what was going on. On the day of the eviction, a deputation consisting of Brendan and Sopa’s lawyers and agent and officials from Jomtien LED and RTP officers literally forced us out of the house. They also prevented us from trying to remove personal items etc – and has to be one of the most distressing and horrendous experiences Ana and I have ever had to endure.”
Gordon Gillen had some 50 cases listed against him in Pattaya relating to Jomtien Park Villas and other projects including ‘The Park’, Suan Sawarn, and Zen Condominiums. He also had court orders to repay cash to clients. But as they were civil cases he could step on a plane and disappear back home.
From the Jomtien Park fraud alone he is believed to have made some US$6.04 million.
Hua Hin Victims
Laurie and Ana Smith were victims of the ‘mortgage scam’. Masters of this type of scams exposed on this site include in Hua Hin on the western seaboard of the Gulf of Thailand George Mastrikonolis, publisher of the Hua Hin newspaper – who has been selling houses on land he had either never owned or mortgaged to the bank or moneylenders (kai fak), and Scot Alan Mcdonald, also in who also sells properties on land he has not paid for.
Briton Richard Haughton, a former Rotary Club President in Pattaya, and puppet of David Ames, an accused UK Property swindler on trial in Britain on charges brought by the serious Fraud Office. Among the projects Haughton ran was Emerald Palace in Pattaya. Buyers arrived to find their properties mortgaged to the Kasikorn Bank. A Vice President of the bank had even given one of the units to his ‘mia noi’ – mistress.
Comment: The Sad Reality
Laurie Smith also said he contacted the BBC’s Jonathan Head and other journalists in Hong Kong. He was he said greeted with a general lack of interest. Jonathan Head was taken to court for libel by a lawyer in Phuket representing Briton Ian Rance. The lawyer was clearly caught accepting a forged signature (of Ian Rance) which was used to cheat him out of his properties.
Jonathan Head and the BBC should have won the case (but of course nothing is guaranteed in Thailand where face-saving is concerned) The BBC announced it was going to defend the case but it was settled out of court. Had the case gone to court it could have highlighted Thailand’s property fraud problem internationally.
If a foreign correspondent is sued in Thailand he can in effect be blocked from leaving the country during the long trial process, or have to go to court and put money down every time his desk tells him to get on a plane. His work can come to a standstill and he becomes a liability to his own employers.
Sadly some property television programme’s are still promoting property in Thailand including the BBC’s ‘Wanted in Paradise’. The segment which went to air was repeated against last month.
A gay couple, Andrew and Matt, who have never visited Thailand (they could not recognise a coconut at the local market) are in this link being offered an acre of coconut plantation in Surat Thani province by a decidedly dodgy foreign salesman, who tells them its best to keep away from the beach for their planned ‘Bed and Breakfast’.
In Thailand sadly no journalist wants to challenge Thailand’s computer crime act and libel laws. Even were the journalist to win he/she would have to bring other cases to get back the money spent on lawyers and other costs -while in the meantime his/her protagonist can give the case more life by going to the appeal court and to the Supreme Court thus dragging the cases on for years.
A classic example is that of workers rights defender Andy Hall who helped exposed appalling conditions under which migrant workers had to work in Thailand. He eventually was forced to leave the country.
Those who have the most money and time win. In the case of property scammers they have the money which can be the life savings they have scammed out of their victims.
“There is truth in Thailand – but if you tell it you will die for sure”
I find it hard impossible not to to sympathise with the Smiths. For years I successfully fought libel cases brought by crooks in Thailand. What case did I lose? A case where a reader described, in a comment to this site, David Hanks, a Scot -Australian con I was writing about… as ‘pimp’.
I went to court with documents from the Australian Securities and Investment Commission and State of Victoria proving that he ran a brothel in the outskirts of Melbourne and was the sole licensee.
No! ruled the court.
I had called him a ‘Meang Da’ (horseshoe crab) one of the worst insults in Thailand. This site is of course published in English, registered in the UK and hosted in an English speaking country. But I thank the Thai court for the translation.