Pattaya Daily News

05 March 2010 :: 13:03:54 pm 14737

Wily Sunisa and The Grand Property Scam in Jomtien Soi 7

Property in Thailand is probably one of the most lucrative investment arenas, worldwide, with prices almost 1/3 of an equivalent unit in most top Western destinations. This particularly applies to Pattaya where the total value of condos sold leapt from US$12m in H1,2005 to an astounding US$222m in H1,2008 (Bt 392.4m-7,258.33m), with prices rising from US$1,929 prices per square metre (psm) to US$3,264 psm (Bt63,096.51 - 106,767.98). In one case, The Cove topped Bt220,000 psm; the equivalent of top Bangkok prices. Being such a lucrative arena, however, makes the property market highly susceptible to scam merchants, one such we will elaborate on after giving you the background to the Pattaya Property Market.
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The Hype

At the height of the property boom in 2006, the spin merchants were hailing Pattaya as Thailand’s premier tourism destination, with 6.1 million tourists in 2006 and an expected 6.8 million for 2007, literally whetting the voracious appetites of speculative investors, who were told by a worldly-wise, hyper-affluent client of one of Thailand’s largest foreign developers, Raimon Land, that “you can grow your investment by 30% to 40% in the first year if you buy off plan. Annual rental yields are 10% to 12%.” “Backed by a thriving economy and a populace brimming with retirees, tourists, expatriates and prosperous businessmen, Pattaya is fast turning the heads of savvy investors looking for handsome returns in a beach destination. Pattaya continues to attract astute property investors, who believe today’s market conditions offer the opportunity to lock into excellent future returns, either from rental income or through capital growth,” Raimon Land’s ‘Why Invest … Pattaya, March, 2008’ hyperbolized.

To hear such spin merchants speak, anyone would think Pattaya was the equivalent of Florida or the Bahamas, where the streets were literally paved with gold and fortunes were to be made overnight, merely by buying property one day and selling the week after at a substantial profit, particularly off plan. In reality, Pattaya is a cosmopolitan city, largely inhabited by non-natives. The actual natives, i.e. those 104,318 residents registered in the city are largely of Thai-Chinese stock, the remaining circa 400,000 are principally workers from Esarn, or foreigners.

The City Fathers, Thai Tourist Authority and high-end developers have been trying to convince the world that Pattaya’s image has radically changed into an innocuous family-friendly destination, but the reality is that it is still largely the centre of Thailand’s US$ 4.3 billion (Bt140.743 billion – 2003 figs.) sex industry, with up to 1500 beer bars, and 100 go-go bars, amongst others. Now the significant thing about these venues is that they are the launch pads of tens of thousands of ‘mia chaos’ (rented wives), a considerable number of whom later become bona fide wives and girlfriends of largely Western tourists, and thus significantly fuel a large segment of the property market by beguiling their infatuates into settling in Thailand and purchasing accommodation.

Unique Features Of The Thai Property Market

The Thai property market is relatively unique in that one invariable needs cash-in-hand to purchase property (though this is beginning to change). The foreign buyers, who purchase houses and condos at the instigation of their significant others with whom they have fallen blindly in love, consistently come from broken relationships with funds released by liquidating their previous property back home. They are thus plunged, usually uncomprehendingly, into the maelstrom of the Thai property laws, which dictate that foreigners cannot own land, except under exceptional circumstances, or houses in their own names. Condos can be owned freehold, usually for a 30-year-period, unless they have a double renewal option, extending this twice for two more 30-year-periods. Houses, however, have to either be in the Thai spouse’s name or that of a company, usually set up for that sole purpose. There are an inordinate amount of penalty clauses and binding timelines, which if not strictly adhered to will invariable lead to the total loss of one’s investment.

The Line Of Least Resistance

Anyone familiar with the property buying process will be well aware of the necessity of due diligence, whereby one does one’s research on the total background of the property, the seller, agent etc. Just to make sure everything is ‘shipshape and Bristol Fashion’. However, faced with the daunting prospects of trying to comprehend sales agreements etc. in a foreign language within an alien legal structure, many foreign purchasers defer to their significant others and or their Thai friends, or to an intermediary recommended by them, frequently to their peril.

Understanding The Cultural Background

We now come to a specific case where a foreigner, taking his friend’s Thai wife, an apparently upstanding member of the community, on trust, left all the management of a series of purchasers to her and was ‘ripped off royally’, to coin a phrase. Now, before we examine the intricacies of the case in question, a word in the Thai lady’s mitigation. As strangers in a strange land, it is essential that we fully understand the nuances of the culture.

The ladies who typically mesmerise their foreign beaus are frequently sent to Pattaya from the fastnesses of Esarn with the sole intent of ‘snaring a falang’ by their extended families who will thus provide an avenue out of their destitution. Many families in Esarn are tenant farmers or labourers at the mercy usually of unscrupulous Bangkok businessmen who think nothing of dispossessing the families in order to grow eucalyptus plantations, which subsequently acidify and thus render the soil useless for any other purpose. Alternatively, they might be at the mercy of ruthless loan sharks who charge totally outrageous rates of daily interest, the failure to pay can frequently lead to broken limbs or even loss of life. The initial loan might have been incurred in order to repay a gambling debt, which vice appears to afflict the Thai nation. Further background information may be obtained by reading the excellent tales of Pira Sudham.

The Circumstances Of The Scam

 
Bigger Jones, an Australian, came to Jomtien, with the intention of settling in the area, although at this stage he didn’t have a girlfriend or partner, which might well have helped his case. Through a good friend, Fred Smith, he met a certain lady by the name of Sunisa, who was, in fact, Fred’s wife. Sunisa was a well thought of businesswoman in the neighbourhood of Jomtien Soi 7, where she had a number of businesses, such as the Sunisa & Son Real Estate Agency, the Sunisa Guest House, the Jingo Hop In Bar and the Sunisa Corner cafe.

Bigger thought himself lucky to have found a friend whose wife was a real estate agent, as his first priority was to rent a condominium, from where he’d be able to sortie out in search of a means of livelihood rather than go through all his savings at the speed of light. First, Sunisa sorted him out a condo at Jomtienthip Condotel, which she had on her books.

Next, she interested him in Paradise Massage Parlour, located in the same premises as the Jingo Hop In Bar, which he decided to buy the ownership of, putting down a deposit. Following this, she persuaded Bigger that it would be a good idea to invest in a piece of land, with the later intention of building one or more houses on it, but as the Thai property law stipulates a company has to be set up, in which name the land could be held, she, her son and a friend agreed help out by being the Thai representatives in this company. Bigger paid Sunisa something towards the company set-up costs and agreed to pay the rest later. The land plot, just over one rai, which was on Sunisa’s books, he was to pay a total of Bt10,868,000 for over a period of 6 months, and he duly put down Bt1,784,495 as deposit, agreeing to pay the balance in instalments. Three days later, Sunisa met with the actual owner of the land, a Mr. Jirachote and duly signed a land contract with him.

The next thing Sunisa did was to persuade Bigger to lease the BBQ Bar & Guest House for Bt1.82m. The final service Sunisa was able to perform for Bigger was to sell him a car, a Toyota Vigo for Bt650,000, for which he put down a deposit for Bt350,000, agreeing to pay the balance in 24 instalments.

Afterwards, Bigger, trusting the wife of his good friend to manage his affairs, duly did as agreed, regularly making funds available to cover a host of maintenance, decorating and other problems which Sunisa claimed had occurred in the interim.

It was significant that Sunisa only sent Bigger few confirmations of the payments she had supposedly made on his behalf, but he wasn’t too concerned at first, believing that as the wife of a friend she could be trusted. Five months later, however, Bigger, beginning to feel apprehensive, perhaps due to a correct intuition, decided to check that everything was organised with the land, which by this time should have almost been paid for and be ready for transfer. To his shock, when Bigger asked the owner if all was well, Mr. Jirachote replied that as no more payments had actually been made after the initial deposit, he was to forfeit his right to the land. However, Jirachote advised Bigger to harden his heart against Sunisa and was even prepared to accept a late payment as completion of the contract, but, sadly, Bigger had no more funds available. Jirachote did remain extremely helpful, nevertheless.

Fred and Sunisa Baramee, a happy couple who own half of the businesses in Soi 7 Jomtien

Bigger then went in search of Sunisa for an explanation, but she had mysteriously vanished. It was at this point that Bigger contacted the editor-in-chief of Pattaya Daily News as he had heard that she had a policy of interceding between Thais and foreigners in the event of disagreements or the like. The next discovery Bigger made was that the company which he had likewise being sending Sunisa money to pay off the set-up costs wasn’t in his name at all, but in Sunisa’s. He then went to seek an explanation from Fred for his wife’s behaviour, accompanied by the editor-in-chief of Pattaya Daily News and a plain-clothed police colleague of the editor. Fred, however, was most unhelpful, saying he had no idea where his wife was and that whatever she had done wasn’t his responsibility. It actually transpired that Sunisa had pocketed all the money Bigger had been sending her and that none of his instalments on his various concerns had been made, including on the massage parlour and car, which apparently didn’t belong to Sunisa at all, but was leased from Toyota in Bangkok. As a result a warrant for Sunisa has been issued but she has apparently gone into hiding.

At this juncture, Bigger and the editor decided to go to Toyota in Bangkok to see if they could retrieve the situation, but somehow Sunisa leant of their intention and beat them to Toyota, paying the outstanding balance and obtaining the ownership documents, however, she hadn’t reckoned on the ingenuity of the editor, who, realising that Sunisa would have to go to the Chonburi MV Dept. headed her off and successfully reached Chonburi before Sunisa, explaining the situations to the officials there who refused to register Sunisa in Chonburi when she arrived later. So far, that has been the only positive achievement Bigger has been able to make in his resolution of the scams that have been perpetrated on him by Sunisa and maybe Fred, but so far he has no proof of that.

Warrant of arrested has been issuedWhere is she?”

So far Sunisa has managed to deprive Bigger of Bt15m, but he has since discovered that he is not the only person Sunisa has ripped off. She also owes two brothers by the name of  Bob and Alan Bt2m each that they had lent her, but apart from an initial repayment to them both, she hasn’t paid any more. Sunisa apparently also misappropriated Bt20m from a lady called Lek, a professional lender, who is none too pleased and is making somewhat ominous noises. In addition, there are certain property irregularities in relation to a Mr. H. and two of his associates, Ms Aom and Mr. Wichai, including an unpaid loan for nearly Bt4m. All in, Sunisa has made a number of powerful enemies, who may well decide to take matters into their own hands, such is the reality in Thailand when heavy debtors try to abscond. It appears she has been trying to rob Peter to pay Paul as they say, but is walking a very tight line. At the very least, Bigger aims to get some justice, but he is prepared to go via the courts and legal system to get recompense.

We will keep you updated as the case proceeds through the courts.

To report any information please contact:
Pol.Col.Nanthavut Suwanlaong
Pattaya Police Superintendent
Tel 038-424-186
038-420-803

PDN TEAM
news@pattayadailynews.com

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Real Estate Sale & Investment Pitfalls in Thailand

Real Estate is a very high value industry, which inevitably makes it a prime stamping ground for rip-off merchants and scam-artists, particularly in Thailand, sometimes dubbed the Land of shark smiles”. Naïve, would-be investors make perfect victims for the unscrupulous, who delight in taking the shirts from off their backs, especially in Fun Town, where anything goes and scams are legion.

Scam Alert: Condo Stealing on the Rise

This is the account of a foreigner who through trusting 3rd parties too much has had to pay a heavy price. He wants to remain anonymous, so for the purposes of this article we’ll call him Fred. Fred came to Pattaya and, like many others, thought he’d take advantage of the relatively low prices in the property market at the time and began to make substantial investments in condominiums.

“The Beaches” an Ongoing Quandry

Many people will be concerned about what is probably the most prestigious development in the whole of the Eastern Seaboard, namely the Beaches Water Theme Park and Hotel Development. It has been lauded in the media as being Pattaya’s claim to fame and we have all been expecting great things from it.

Photo : PDN staff   Category : Legal

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