On the 6th May I received the email below. Shortly afterwards, discussions sprang up on various Thailand Internet message boards discussing this very subject. I was tempted to run a piece in the column back then outlining what was going on but it would have been premature. It has taken a while to get it figured out, and even then, one cannot be sure. Even now I am limited in what I can say. Suffice to say that what follows very clearly highlights the dangers of investing in Thailand, although it must be said that this is nothing unique to Thailand and such dangers exist the world over.
There is a couple (one Indian man and his girlfriend who is Thai) who run several businesses in Sukhumvit Soi 4, Bangkok. They are under a serious investigation by the authorities both in Thailand and and the USA. But as of this date, still continue to lie, mislead and steal people's money and livelihoods. They have never put any of their own money into any of the businesses they run, but have manipulated, lied and co-erced the funds out of poor innocents, who thought they were investing in a professional company. Instead, their money disappears, investment returns are never paid and the poor innocents are left in terrible financial positions. I am currently residing in the US and know of at least ten people who have been deceived out of their hard earned savings.
I may add, one of them is a handicapped person, in a wheel chair and has had his insurance security money stolen from him by this pair, who then kicked him out of the business. He lost over 8 million baht ! They have left him in an appalling situation. The terrible stories are endless and so many decent people have been deceived and lost hundreds of thousands of pounds. Several of them losing everything including their life's savings ! It is quite the most disgusting tale of parasitical behaviour I have ever heard of and my buddy is still owed over 3 million baht.
The scam they pull is to sell shares in their bars, offering good returns and benefits. The innocent party invests but never gets a penny back. They are lied to continually. The bars this couple run are Titty Twister, Warblers and Hunters and The Skinhead Salon. At present I know they are trying to sell shares in Titty Twister, albeit they have over ten owners already and two partners. Both partners hate this pair. Nobody gets paid, everybody gets lied to and abused. Everybody hates this couple with a passion. One has taken legal proceedings at present and others have made reports to the police.
It would be tragic for anyone new to get ripped off by this pair. They are very believable and are friendly. But they are the worst types of parasites you could ever come across. They even rip their staff off by not paying salaries and even keeping the staff tips. The staff are scared and eventually leave, but this horrible couple then just get new staff. The girlfriend even threatens the staff if they complain.
They have a very very bad reputation and all the main owners of Nana can't stand them too. These people are con artists, scabs and the worst kind of people. I would hate to see anyone else get ripped off. They leave a trail of destruction behind them. People must be made aware of this terrible con and these terrible people.
Coincidentally, the next email followed a few days later.
And then this one came.
They never paid anything for that was with their money. The bills are over done in Warblers and they rip you off in Titty Twister. He stung me for 2.5 million baht. He is a professional con man. His girlfriend who owns that Skinheads is vile. She would stab you in the back and laugh about afterwards, as she picked your pockets. All the bars they run were paid for by other people. And they still rip people off and still borrow money off anybody and everybody. They never pay it back and lie all the fucking time. They make me sick to be honest Stickman. They shake ya hand and stab you in the back.
I am just one of many guys who have been stitched up by those two bastards. No body likes them that knows them. Very sad about the guy in the wheel chair. That was his insurance money I heard. Never met him, but I know how he feels. I bet he hates them with a passion, because sure as hell I do !
They are the worst type of people and would do anything to steal from anyone. They even steal from their own employees tips !! I've seen that loads of times when I have been drinking in Warblers. The food is shit anyway, but they are nothing but street scum. Do not trust them and tell any of your mates. Stay clear of those bastards or they'll rip ya off.
Well done for writing that stuff. You must have heard from one of the other people. I hear there is as many as ten people they has stolen from. The police questioned me about it. Everybody knows what shits they are and it is only time before they get prison time or they lose all the bars.
I met with the principal investor this week to try and unravel this mess, and to get a greater understanding of all that is going on. So, who is the principal investor? Confined to a wheelchair, this charming Scandinavian claims to have aged 20 years in the last 12 months and certainly, in the hour or so that we chatted, I didn't see him smile too often. He claims that his dealings with the couple have driven him crazy with frustration.
It all started 4 years ago when the Scandinavian invested in a bar called Hunters, in Sukhumvit Soi 4. Everything went well for the first couple of years and they also opened Titty Twister in November 99 and Warbler before Songkran 2000, with the Scandinavian putting up the cash. Everything was going well. The Scandinavian was kept in the dark about the goings on with the businesses but remained content as was receiving his monthly return.
A18 months ago he became aware of other investors in the bars. What? Wasn't he the only investor? That is what he had always believed! He then learnt of more and more investors, many of whom had been promised free drinks, free food and promises of bar management opportunities along with a return on their investment. Why hadn't he been told? What was going on?
The Scandinavian raised the issue of the other investors with the couple who insisted that everything was ok and that there was nothing to be concerned about. Over time more and more investors became known to the Scandinavian and at present, there are at least 8 other investors whom he is aware of. They are all in for varying amounts and it would seem that at least 20 million baht has been invested. They're a real mix of folks from an English teacher, to an oil worker to regular Joes. What is most surprising is that there is a Thai who is in for 2 million baht too! Ripping of a Thai in Thailand is one of the dumbest things one can do, and this might turn out to be a critical error of judgement…
The Scandinavian kept questioning, but satisfactory answers weren't coming. Late one night, helpless to defend himself as he is confined to a wheelchair, the Scandinavian was set upon by two drunks. He was thrown out of the wheelchair and told not to hassle or harass the couple, and if he did, worse would follow. I was shocked to hear that this barbarianism was carried out by farangs.
Eager to get out of a business that he seemed to have significant investment in, but no control over, the Scandinavian had a legal agreement drawn up which the couple signed, promising to return in full the 8.1 million baht of his investment within a year. The contract, signed in March of this year, specified minimum monthly payments, but this agreement has been broken and to date, no payments have been made.
Since then, the Scandinavian and his lawyer have met with the couple who choose to meet without legal representation numerous times, but resolution has not been reached. It is claimed that the couple throw up all sorts of silly excuses and are really not interested in resolution at all, that is they are not interested in returning to money to investors.
The couple listed the businesses with local business brokerage Sunbelt Asia, though the listing was quickly removed as Sunbelt Asia realised that there was conjecture surrounding the proprietorship, and this was one potato that was a little too hot to handle. The couple had initially purported that they had full rights to sell the business, something which the investors, those who knew what was going on at least, contend.
To bring balance to it all, I emailed another investor in the bars for comment, someone who had emailed me about something completely different, but had noted that he was a very small investor in the bars. I think his words sum it up nicely, particularly the piece about getting greedy.
And perhaps most importantly of all, I emailed the couple themselves, giving them a chance to give their side of the story. Here is their response:
So what can be done to try and recover the money? Contrary to what the couple claim, there are many more investors who are owed around 20 million odd baht and most seem to want out fast. The obvious answer is that the bars could be sold, but just how much would that bring in? While it has been advertised at silly money prices, my feeling is that Titty Twister could go for around 6,000,000 baht. It is after all, a pokey little place. Warbler's, down the road, might get 5,000,000 and Hunters may get somewhere around 1,500,000 baht, making a total of around 12.5 million. The current downturn in business, the SARS nonsense and now the terrorism scare will all have an effect on the prices that these bars may fetch and selling at this point in time would likely net a mediocre price. Remember, the business at many naughty nightlife businesses in Thailand is in a real trough right now.
But let's face the facts. What has happened here could have happened anywhere in the world. The problem is not at all unique to Thailand and as much as I hate to say it, for no-one deserves to end up in a situation like this, it would seem to me that some horribly imprudent decisions were made on the part of the investors. Investing in the prostitution industry – which is hardly known for exemplary business standards – in a country where the investors don't understand the language, the laws and even the culture, yet enter into a business relationship without legal advice, and without bona fide documentation, seems to me at least, to be highly questionable.
Finally, it has been said that the couple are still searching for investors. 1 million baht will get you a 10% share in the bar. Or so they say…
* If you are an investor in the bar and would like to get in touch with the Scandinavian, I'll happily pass email on to him for you.
Where is this pic?
Last week's pic
It was one of the overpriced
This week's pic
Last week's pic was was taken at one of the tourist-priced seafood restaurants between Panthip Plaza and World Trade Centre. Yeah, avoid these places like the plague as they are way overpriced… Now, where is this week's pic. This might be Stickman's Guide to Bangkok but the pic this week….. There are two prizes offered for the where is this pic prize each week. The first Bangkok based person to answer the pic correctly wins a 500 baht credit to use at the Classics Movie Lounge. The second person to get it right wins a tube of MyCreme, the cream that will send your teeruk to heaven! I'm sorry that for now, prizes are only available to guys who are Bangkok based. However, for guys outside the Big Mango, still do feel free to email me your guess.
FROM STICKMAN'S BAG OF EMAIL:
(If someone sends me something positive, I'll include it here, but it seems that all most people ever do is moan and groan… So come on, how about something brighter?)
Carnival in Nana Plaza have closed for 10 days so that a new dance stage can be built. Perhaps they are running out of ideas and feel they need to do something, anything. It is rumoured that the Carnival girls are dancing in Cascade, and the Fantasia girls are downstairs in either Lollipop or Voodoo. And the rumour mill suggests that Carnival is gonna get a bronking bull from America. Now forgive this naive Kiwi for asking, but what is a bronking bull? I know what a bonking bull is, but a bronking bull? Hmmm….
Nanapong are about to invade Pattaya. Yep, the next dance contest in the Nanapong legacy, DC XXV – that's number 25 (!!!) will be held at Carousel Gogo, Soi Diamond, Pattaya on Sunday 22nd June starting at approx. 8:30 PM. Admission is free.
I have heard that Bamboo Bar in soi 3 are hurting because they can't compete with Gulliver's around the corner on Soi 5 that are doing great business. Drinks are getting cheaper and cheaper at Bamboo Bar – English teachers and Kao Sarn dwellers please note! Will this low price war spread to the other bars? We can but live in hope!
American readers need to know that a farang member of staff at the the Chiang Mai consulate has stated that that it was nearly impossible for a single Southeast Asian woman to get a tourist visa. This was from the vice consul of the US consulate in Chiang mai. And in response to suggestions that such a lady might have a very large bank account to return to Thailand the reply was, "if the deposit was made recently, we would disregard it." Further, the consulate staff member stated that this policy was due to "visa abuse". Very easy to do as any Mexican can tell you.
This time the software piracy crackdown appears to have been extended to Chiang Mai as well, which hasn't been the case in the past. At the big computer plaza last weekend none of the software shops were "showing" so to speak. A Thai friend of a reader went off in search of a copy of Windows XP – and returned empty-handed! One imagines that all will return to normal after whichever pooyai does their photo-op walk through of the computer plaza and declares it free of illegal disks but still, the current crackdown does seem to be more far reaching than previous efforts. I have to admit that I thought that once one gets out of Bangkok it would be business as usual, but I was very wrong.
While I have reported that Thailand's first Subway branch will be opening soon, the middle of next month to be more precise, a number of years back there was a Subway branch right next to Assumption University. From the start, it didn't go well for them and after a while they added, among other local items, grilled chicken sticks to their menu, the kind you can buy at any streetside stall, but at double the streetside price! Surprisingly, that didn't work either and finally they closed down. With a far superior location at a prime spot on Sukumvit and with more and more farang in Thailand along with a wealthier and more junk food oriented Thai population, they should do a lot better this time. I will admit that this is one fast food outlet I am most looking forward to. Yeah, I'm a sad sod, looking forward to a fast food outlet opening! I must have been here too long…
Predictive text can be a real time-saver, providing that the damn machine doesn't get too clever for its own good. You know it it works, right? You press in the letters and the phone works out what it is that you want to say. That's the theory. A friend of a friend was in Pattaya and he popped into a massage parlour for a soapy rub-down. He came out squeaky-clean and well relaxed and decides to phone his missus back in Farangland. Probably had a guilty conscience, as you do… Anyway, his missus was engaged, so he decides to text her. 'Hope all is ok. I phoned but you were busy.' He sends the text message, and only then did he realise that predictive text had screwed him up. Phoned had become sinned (try it for yourself). My friend had told his wife the truth, albeit inadvertently – 'Hope all is ok. I sinned but you were busy'. And be careful with those damned spell checkers too…they are not at all shy in making really whacky changes, so go slow before you hit the send button on your email just after you have spell checked,
Whatever you want in Surin, you'll find it at The Farang Connection.
The Farang Connection & Dream On Sports Lounge is one of two farang run bars situated in the centre of Surin. Comprising of a bar downstairs and a lounge upstairs (nudge, nudge, wink, wink), it is all a place where punters can eat, drink, watch sports events on the 60" TV, play darts or table tennis or just lounge about. They boast the best steaks in Surin, claim one of the best English breakfasts in Thailand, and, as the owner of the bar also owns the biggest ostrich farm in Isaan, the freshest and cheapest ostrich steaks in the Kingdom. Martin & Sunee, the proprietors, would like to welcome you to their little lounge when you are passing through Surin. Sorry, but there ain't much to see and do there…so stop in, refuel on some good farang food, and continue your journey. The other farang oriented bar is run by Patric, a Swede, and is only a stone's throw from the Farang Connection. This is a night bar with all the trimmings, and I mean all…
I don't know how she convinced me to do it but a few weeks ago Mrs Stick conned me into getting a foot massage. I don't know if it was just me, or the person who massaged me, but it hurt like hell, both at the time and the next day. I will NOT be doing that again!
A reader asks: Do you know how to get more channels on our satellite than the standard UBC ones? Is there a way to do what the Europeans do and get access to hundreds of channels, like they get in France and Germany? Answers published in the column next week.
Software IS available at Panthip at present although the vendors are VERY nervous about the police at the moment. All it takes is for a short haired, well-built Thai male, i.e. someone resembling a police officer to walk past and the vendors skedaddle in all directions.
If you have not been in touch with the latest in Thailand, three Muslims have been arrested under suspicion of planning terrorist attacks in the capital. As was mooted in this column many months ago, it has been reported that Khao Sarn Road and Nana Plaza were the intended terrorist targets. It doesn’t take an expert to realize that a bomb going off in one of these areas would be a real killer for the Thai economy, no pun intended. Bombs going off in Khao Sarn Road and at Nana Plaza would cost the Thai economy billions, and we're talking dollars here, not baht. In fact, a couple of bombs going off simultaneously in these two locations could potentially send the Thai tourism industry back years, cost potentially hundreds of thousands of jobs and possibly even break the Thai economy, the effects of which could be similar to what was seen in the period following mid ‘97. While we have to understand that a threat still exists, and probably always will, the Thai police have done very well indeed. If found guilty, I hope these three get the bullet, I really do.
Playskool Gogo bar in Nana Plaza has, after a lot of speculation, been ordered closed by the boys in brown. Rumour has it that they have been closed down for a whopping 30 days. The girls from the bar were to have been shifted next door to Hollywood Rock but there was a lot of discontent amongst the Hollywood girls so a deal was brokered and they have shifted down to Sheba's, in Cowboy, instead.
Boss Hogg finally has the lease signed for Vixens and it is now in his hands. Boss's construction crew will start this week and finish within 60 days…8 wasted months.
Anton is selling lots of shares in the new bar which will be located on the 3rd and 4th floor. Seems lots of people are interested in getting a share in his bar.
Get you ass down to Nana Plaza on July 4th for Boss Hogg, that patriotic American, is gonna let us all enjoy Independence Day at reasonable prices. The Boss has lost his marbles and he will have Miller Lite and Miller Genuine Draft at Big Dog's and Lucky Luke's on Friday July 4th for 99 baht, a great deal as it is normally 200 baht per bottle! I'll no doubt get slammed for saying this, but Miller draft is one of Stickman's favourites (but I don't drink it too often cos it's damned expensive here)! Also free hamburgers and Vienna hot dogs off the BBQ in both bars… Expect these two relatively small bars to be jam packed!
If you've made overseas calls to or from Thailand without having to remortgage your house or your family then you've done well. Calls here are notoriously expensive. Luckily for all of us, our friend Martin has dedicated his existence to help us all reduce our phone bills. He has just launched his website Calls in Thailand to explore how to get reduced rates for calling in, from and within Thailand. The site will be updated regularly but right now he is advertising a nifty little Cheap Charlie Phone card which costs just 12 baht a minute to most countries plus if you make calls from a regular phone or cellphone his call-back services work out around 7 baht to most places. He intends to regularly add to the site so if you do have questions about any aspect of making overseas calls feel free to email him.
Mrs. Stick's Corner
In an unnecessary effort to prove that she is not perfect, Mrs Stick failed to answer your questions this week…with a bit of luck, she'll be back next week.
Your Bangkok commentator,