Contract said ‘no encumbrances’ but this is Thailand, the scammers are Brits and officials are ‘in their pocket’
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 deals 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 – of the ‘almost unbelievable corruption’.
He said he was blackmailed by a scammer who laughed in his face and threatened with jail by a judge who had know conception of justice. His first ‘lawyer’ had been struck off – and his second lawyer told him in court he would go to jail on the judges order unless he signed a document in Thai.
He had signed away everything – and when he threatened to go public his lawyer threatened him with Thailand’s libel laws. Heard this before?
‘I need to warn the Chinese’
Laurence Smith was a former programme designer and lead facilitator of communication skills for KPMG (China) He is now communicating to Chinese buyers not to be fooled by the country’s warm and friendly nature – claiming it can equally be cruel and corrupt.
The actual scam was carried out by foreigners – in this case Brits – 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 how they obtained their wealth and other shenanigans.
Laurie knows, he says, because he was defrauded out of an 11.2-million-baht house – and in the end it was a judge, working with vhis lawyer, who ordered him to sign over his life’s investment or go to jail!
The property he had bought was 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’ in favour of another Brit Brendan Bushe, from Stoke Newlington, London.
And Bushe was quick to tell the new owners to pay off the mortgages, which varied from 4 million to ten million baht or move out; and ,according to Laurie, Bushe broke the news 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 prospective buyers and another copy of the REAL set to give them after they moved in!
In April 2014 just after they had moved in Bushe demanded full repayment of his 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.
(Some years had passed as the Smith bought the house in 2007 but rented it out -another tragic story- until they decided to move in in 2014.)
Three months later in December they met Bushe again, this time with their lawyer a Mr. Kevin Harper, of ‘British Law’, 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, demanded 10 million Thai baht to consider interest and his ‘expenses’.
‘Say anything and I’ll sue!’
By then the Smiths had discovered that buyers in another eight 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.
With no money forthcoming from the swindled buyers Bushe and his Thai partner Mrs Sopa Thapang had the properties seized and auctioned by the Jomtien Land Execution Department– and the only people at the auction were Mr. Bushe and Mrs Thapang.
“We originally took legal action against Gillen and were awarded over 11 million. But that was a complete waste of time and 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 studied 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.’”
What happened next confirmed everything.
(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 to object but was even refused the chance to bid. In fact there was only one bidder and it was Brendan Bushe – and he held up his bidder’s paddle to make one bid of 2.5 million baht and the property was his.
“Bushe immediately put the property on the market for a price of 15 million baht.”
It has been a massive scam. Out of one property Bushe would have made 12.5 million baht and Gillen would have made 4 million baht and plus his original sales profit. At Jomtien Park Villas there were 76 properties. It is not known how many in total paid up, but no action was taken against Thais who had bought into the project.
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 for other scams and he is believed to have fled to the U.K. and Ireland.
Today Laurie, now living with his wife in Hong Kong says:
“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, is now believed to be in the Philippines. One estimated of his net worth puts it at US$96 million. He 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 (run by his son James and daughter Nicole) registered at 12E Manor Road, London N16 5SA.
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.
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), Scot Alan Mcdonald, also in Hua Hin, 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.
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 Ian Rance who wax 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 case was settled out of court. Had the case gone to court it would have highlighted Thailand’s property fraud problem internationally.
However, 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.
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 continue the case by going on to the appeal court and to the Supreme Court thus dragging the cases on for years.
A classic case 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 is invariably the life savings they have scammed out of their victims.