Indonesia Expat - - Meet The Expat - BY EA­MONN SADLER

Lessons in Life

One day while we were hav­ing a few beers in Ke­mang, my friend Steve told me that his fash­ion de­signer girl­friend Tia was open­ing bou­tiques in Sin­ga­pore and Hong Kong, and look­ing for part­ners to help her fund the ex­pan­sion. He told me that he was think­ing about in­vest­ing and told me I should think about it, too. She was mak­ing lots of money and we would do the same as her part­ners with­out ac­tu­ally hav­ing to do any work, which is al­ways an at­trac­tive propo­si­tion.

Steve had US$5,000 in In­done­sia and he told me he was go­ing to in­vest it with Tia in re­turn for five per­cent of her busi­ness. I had re­ceived a mod­est pay out from the UK Fire and Res­cue Ser­vice when I re­tired, but I had left it in a building so­ci­ety ac­count in the UK when I set off on my jour­ney around the world. I was in­ter­ested, but first I wanted to know more. The next time I saw Tia, I asked her what I thought were some very search­ing ques­tions about her busi­ness. As she was Steve’s girl­friend, it seemed in­ap­pro­pri­ate to ask her for any kind of writ­ten busi­ness plan or guar­an­tees so after I sat­is­fied my­self that the prospects were good, I agreed I would in­vest US$10,000 in re­turn for ten per­cent of her busi­ness.

In those days there was no In­ter­net bank­ing, and even a good old fash­ioned tele­graphic trans­fer took a week or more. Be­cause my money was in a building so­ci­ety, it took even longer. I had to ar­range for the building so­ci­ety to is­sue a cheque payable to my fa­ther, and then ask my fa­ther to clear the cheque into his ac­count and then TT the money to me so that I could give it to Tia. Clear­ing the cheque into my fa­ther’s ac­count took 40 days ( yes, 40 days!) and then the TT took an­other two weeks. I thought it was never go­ing to ar­rive and I started to get wor­ried that I would miss the in­vest­ment op­por­tu­nity. Tia con­tin­ued to re­as­sure me that she would wait and not take the money from any­one else be­cause we were friends. I was grate­ful.

After I had been wait­ing for the money for nearly two months, Steve came to see me. He didn’t look happy. He asked if I had seen Tia, which I knew was not a good sign. He went on to tell me that he had given her US$5000 a few weeks be­fore, but then she had be­come very dif­fi­cult to con­tact. Steve had called other mu­tual friends to ask if they’d seen her, and they said they hadn’t – but they’d like to know where she was as well be­cause they also had “in­vested” in her busi­ness. Some friends had given her a lot more money than Steve – as much as US$50,000. It slowly be­came ob­vi­ous that she was a con artist, a con­fi­dence trick­ster in the true sense of the term. Tia had been tak­ing money from peo­ple and fak­ing the suc­cess of her busi­ness us­ing the money they gave her. I sud­denly re­alised that while we had in­deed seen her bou­tiques and her staff and all the trap­pings of a suc­cess­ful fash­ion de­signer, the one thing we had never seen in any of her bou­tiques was a cus­tomer.

Tia was never seen again. Steve and the other “investors” did re­port the in­ci­dent to a very amused po­lice­man, but they never saw their money again. I sud­denly be­came very ap­pre­cia­tive of the slug­gish in­ter­na­tional bank­ing sys­tem and all its ar­chaic bu­reau­cracy, be­cause I would def­i­nitely have given Tia my US$10,000 had it ar­rived in time. Look­ing back, it was a stupid idea in the first place. We were just fresh meat caught in the head­lights of a new and glam­ourous lifestyle. These days you could eas­ily make a huge mis­take in 24 hours or less. It was a valu­able les­son learnt.


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