Last week Saturday I was invited to meet some investors in a hotel, apparently they were form overseas and were interested in investing a lot of money into property. The connection had been made through an introduction via a builder we use. They had come across him whilst viewing a property for sale.
I had arrived at the Hotel late. Straight away one of the gentleman told me time is money and I should not be late. I apologised. With the builder there were three black men dressed in brightly coloured suits, like they were in Harlem in the 1970’s, one even had a pipe on him. They made me sit between two of them so they could speak to me more comfortably. One of them started telling me they were form Libya and would like to invest a lot of money into property, in the region of £10m, and he wanted to know if I could help him. I told them we could as property investment is what we do day in day out, so in principle we could.
From the outset they all looked dodgy to me, as they had put too much effort into appearing like business men.
When something is wrapped up too conscientiously you have to check what ’s inside.
I knew this was some kind of set up, I didn’t know exactly what the sting was, the question was how do I play it? Do I go along with them just for fun and perhaps reverse things on them?
I decided I didn’t have the time or patience to carry on with this charade. I asked for my business card back then I promptly excused myself. After I got up I told them they better leave otherwise there would be some people coming here shortly. They all got up and started leaving. The one who had been speaking to me followed me outside and asked me what the problem was. I told him I knew what he was up to and that he better run very fast out of here. Needless to say they all dispersed very quickly.
What they didn’t know was that I had encountered this scam twice before in the course of dealing in properties in London. The first time was when some Kenyan popped up in my office with my business card, claiming someone had highly recommended him to me and told me he acted for a minister in the Kenyan government. They were interested in purchasing property in the UK.
I showed the gentleman some property and this was followed by another viewing with his Minister. They were interested in purchasing. So there were two characters in the story called the Minster and his skivvy.
Over a period of weeks they would become friendlier and friendlier. The minister would meet me at the Paddington Hilton and claimed to have been staying there. It was always the case of ‘the embassy driver had just dropped him off’.
The other business they claimed they were involved in was diamond dealing. They had wanted to use the income from the diamond trade to purchase property.
They said they wanted to introduce me to the Jewish contact they had who they had sold diamonds too, so we met him in the Langham hotel in Marylebone, they then all came to my office to do the deal. An envelope was opened and the diamonds were checked by this Jewish man. He was checking them with a small glass microscope and tweezers. All the while he would be making small talk with the Kenyan men. He was happy with the goods and so the envelope was sealed with wax stamp.
I was also introduced to another party in the gang, a courier who was in charge of bringing the diamonds to the UK, for the ministers.
After the meeting at my office I had been told they had received the funds for this deal and it was concluded. They mentioned there was another deal happing soon.
A day before delivery of the diamonds, the minister called me and said he need to pay the courier some money to release the diamonds so he could make the sale to the Jewish fellow. He was stuck temporarily with funds due to a ‘transfer delay’ and needed them for a few days. He needed about £23,000 for the goods to be released.
At this point the penny dropped for me, all the way through I was 50/50 wondering if this was for real or not. But as I hadn’t seen the sting I was still sitting on the fence in deciding.
I said I didn’t have the funds to hand, they said whatever you can give would be helpful. On hearing I wouldn’t be giving anything they got very disappointed as there had been a lot of dramatic performance on their side to get to this point. Very soon all the mobile numbers I had for them were all dead.
And that was the end…..until I saw the ‘minister’ again in the back of a car reading a paper, this was on the way to my office in Paddington, when he saw me he raised the paper up to cover his face. Naturally I went up to him and shook his hand. The car disappeared then… disappeared very quickly.
The courier chap I had met previously was still on the pavement so I started following him and pretended to be on the phone. He started running, and so I started running after him until he disappeared down Edgware Road station.
A few weeks later I met someone whose friend had been duped into releasing £30,000 to this kind of scam. I would think this kind of scam is going to be on the increase in these troubled economic times.
WESTBOURNE TERRACE, LONDON, W2
Purchase Price: £1.25m – Share of Freehold
3 Bedrooms, 2 Reception Rooms, 3 Bathrooms
A stunning three double bedroom apartment, recently refurbished to a very high standard forming part of this impressive period stucco fronted building. The property further benefits from three ensuite shower rooms, an impressive reception room with skylight, a beautifully fitted kitchen and it own private entrance. Westbourne Terrace, close to the openspaces of Hyde Park, is ideally located for the transport links of Paddington Mainline station, Paddington Underground Station (District, Bakerloo,Circle and Hammersmith & City Lines) and Lancaster Gate Underground Station (Central Line).
The angle would be to purchase and resell in the summer months for a quick profit. You’re coming in at £680 per sq ft.
Service Charge: £1,300
Rental Income: £850-950per week rental can be achieved on the property.
Sow & Reap
A Property Investment Company