Hugh Paxton’s Blog is saddened by the murders of two young British tourists on Koh Tao. I hate it when tourists get killed – they fly here, make excited, perhaps nervous, preparations pre-departure, and they want to have a holiday, see new things, meet new people, try new food, they want adventure, and then in the Koh Tao case they get murdered. Koh Tao is not a big island. Finding the culprits is exposing police incompetence. Utterly useless! The government has sent in the army. Hundreds of people have been DNA tested and there are promises of arrests but no arrests. It’s an ugly affair. Bangkok Post’s Sunday supplement, Spectrum magazine, ran a rather gruesome article focusing on police incompetence. Yes, incompetence. But more than that, indifference. Corruption. Nepotism. There is no help if you fall here. From local people possibly. But not from the police. These young Brits fell. Perhaps the army will sort this out. I send my sympathy to the families of their children. And I hope the army gets the killers. The police are an unlikely prospect.
Archive for the ‘Crime, punishment, justice, injustice’ Category
Hugh Paxton’s Blog has always loathed communists. Before I met any I wasn’t that interested. Then I met them. Mostly at Oxford university and they all wore spectacles.
The Socialist Worker Party members were aggressive and convinced and driven by a complex turmoil of guilt because they were rich, anger because they were young and had no idea of what to attack but wanted to attack something, inadequacy (every commie is prone to this one), a fear of meeting girls, a suspicion that they might be gay and would moan and groan if molested by all the sailors from HMS Hercules, and, if not gay, might have small penises.
A terrible combination. And not having a sense of humour was essential. I remember attending some pointless student debate about whether Zionism was Racism and I started laughing. It was such nonsense! And nobody was trying to be funny but they were very funny!
An SWP swarmed down and sat next to me and said “It’s not funny!”
I still remember his face. It was furious. It was feeble. It was the sort of face that only a mother could hope would leave home ASAP. It was also a middle class white face contorted by juvenile politics. This wanker, I thought, would make a perfect Khmer Rouge cadre. He’s got it all!
“Stop laughing!” he ordered. I thought you fascist Commie piece of shit!
“Give me a big sloppy kiss, buttercup, lets go back to my place and I’ll nibble your testes!”
That was the end of that political discussion. Thank God he didn’t take me up on the invite!
He shuffled off.
I have had a good look at the Communist track record and it sucks. Really does. So many good ideas. So many final solutions.
People think Nazis are bad. Compared to Commies, Nazis are sweet. Amiable! The sort of guys (and girls) you would like next door. Communists have killed so many!
Do maths. Stalin. A good start. Mao. Wow, now we’re great famine-ing! Khmer Rouge?
Add up the Commie deaths in the 20th century and it’s millions! Millions! And all of the dead in a good cause! I think that makes me hate communists. They have a belief, and if you dissect it, put it under scrutiny, it isn’t a bad idea, it just goes sour so swiftly and then everybody starts killing each other and dying of hunger. Every time.
Let’s quickly go to North Korea. Here communism is alive and well and what an attractive advertisement for the philosophy. The uncle of one Kim or another Kim, is hauled out of a meeting attended by lots of people called Kim, condemned to death, and there’s none of that US appeals sort of time wasting. No the bloke is dragged off, has to confess aand they shoot him. He was probably a horrible shit but the sheer speed of the judicial procedure knocked me off balance. One minute this fellow thinks he’s safe and happy and important and all his well and then he’s hauled away and shot.
Every cloud has a silver lining. Nobody shot his wife. She has received a promotion. She is in charge of organising the funeral. Lucky old her!
Scams and Fraud, PART TWO: How to commit check fraud – a new post from TheReporterandTheGirlMINUSTheSupermanSeptember 28, 2013
t: Saturday, September 28, 2013 5:58 AM
Subject: [New post] How to commit check fraud
|Hugh Paxton’s Blog in Part One outlined a few scams encountered in Africa. In this follow up post provided by TheGirl details a nasty piece of work perpetrated by a resident of Yemen (I think, though with these things it’s hard to be sure where they oiginate). TheGirl rather neatly crushes the serpent. Check her blog for details of another highly peculiar scam – “cat-fishing”.
Hugh Paxton’s Blog has just received a new post from TheGirl outlining a fiendish scam originating in Yemen. Clever but fiendish! And potentially very expensive for the unwary victim. I’ll run her post in a minute. First here’s something on scams from the Hugh Paxton Blog archives.
BLOG ED NOTE: Nine years ago my wife and I had a daughter. We were in Namibia at the time and I decided to record her first year of life in diary form, ostensibly written from her perspective. All the events described in the book, no matter how improbable they may sound, actually occurred. The book, titled “The Diary of Abbot Buggly” trotted around a few publishing houses who all said the same thing. “It’s a charming book but…” The problem was that the book didn’t slot neatly into any established publishing genre. So that was that. At one years-old my daughter had already joined the long list of aspiring authors to hit a brick wall. Not that she noticed. The story didn’t quite end there. With a little help from her Daddy, Annabel (my daughter) approached Air Namibia’s in-flight magazine, Flamingo, and for the next six years ran a monthly column describing her African adventures. She was, and remains, Africa’s youngest travel correspondent.
‘Abbot Buggly’, incidentally, is just one of many ridiculous nicknames we have inflicted on the poor girl during her lifetime. Some time I’ll tell you why but not now.
It’s scam time! Hey ho! Let’s go!
Excerpt from The Diary of Abbot Buggly: START:
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: Diamonds.
Akiko (our Flat A tenant and my godmother) has a new Owambo boyfriend named Paulo.
For some reason whenever I see him I start screaming. He tries to be friendly but I scream. Oddly no other individual I know has that effect on me. I’ve met Basters who’d give Freddy Kruger nightmares but all I do is smile at them. I’ve been barked at by enraged baboons. No problem. I’ve even seen some of my father’s drinking buddies – not a sight for the faint hearted – but all they do is make me chortle. Paulo turns up, wearing a suit, Mr. Respectable, smiling tenderly, and I just let rip!
It embarrasses my parents but he seems to take it in his stride.
“She just hates me,” he explains.
Paulo is some sort of director at Namdeb, the parastatal that controls Namibia’s diamond mines and the domestic diamond industy. Namibia has a LOT of diamonds.
At one time they were so plentiful that they could be collected by moonlight – lines of poorly paid serfs would shuffle forwards on their hands and knees out in the desert looking for their pale reflective glow.
Its not that easy now. You need to dig for them, or dredge off shore at the river mouths, particularly the Orange river mouth. But there are still a lot of them about.
ABBOT BUGGLY ADVISORY TO WOULD-BE DIAMOND SMUGGLERS.
If you are a diamond dealer and receive an invitation to Namibia to view a diamond that has fallen off the back of a lorry, so to speak, the invitation has in all probability been sent to you by a policeman.
The same rule applies if some chap surreptitiously saunters up to you outside the Hidas Shopping Centre or the Maerua Mall.
Fish are caught by shiny lures and so are diamond smugglers. It’s an expensive business, being hooked, what with the crippling fines and legal costs and whatnot. But it keeps the State coffers stocked.
Inserting diamonds into orifices of one sort or another (but usually the first sort that springs to mind) is also inadvisable. The concept is neither new nor imaginative.
A cleaner at Namdeb made unfortunate headlines by leaving NamDeb’s premises through an X-ray machine weighing a few more carats than he had when he’d entered the building.
His name was – and this is probably why the arrest made the headlines – variously reported as Mr. Sodem or Mr. Sodom.
A lot of people DO smuggle diamonds. The illegal trade comprises anything up to 15% of annual global turnover. But they’re usually Lebanese, Angolans or have their own private armies
And the black market keeps a lot of potentially rich countries perpetually poor as drug crazed warlords rampage and fight and lay waste the land (see my father’s hideous novel, Homunculus, for grisly details).
No, take my advice, go with the nappy ploy (see Chapter Two).
Or leave Namibia, sun-bronzed, happy and about as rich as when you came. Diamonds may be forever (they’re at least 4 billion years old) but a ten stretch is no tick of the clock.
While we’re on the subject of receiving uninvited offers you cannot refuse from Africans you’ve never met and never heard of, take the Abbot Buggly stance. Just say no.
My father and mother regularly receive emails from Nigeria, or Senegal and most recently from Cameroon and Cote D’Ivoire.
The emails come from government officials disgusted with the state of corruption in their respective countries, or from earnest NGO workers appalled by the mismanagement of state funds, or from bankers who want to mobilize public money (that would otherwise be wasted by self-serving politicos) for the benefit of the poor.
Occasionally the mails come from a lawyer who has just discovered that a very distant relative of my parents has died leaving 500,000 acres of oil-rich land to them to apologize for not having kept in touch.
In every case there is a request for funds to be transferred to an account, or a request for the fortunate recipients of the email to provide their own bank account details. So that funds can be transferred to their own account, you understand.
You see, in every case there is the offer of making my lucky parents rich for facilitating the financial procedures.
My father has just been offered ten percent of five million greenbacks if he could only help a human rights activist release the said sum from a Nigerian account held by a dead member of the former military dictatorship. The money would help in promoting democracy.
“Yeah,” my father said, “right.”
Strangely a large number of people actually get suckered in. To quote a recent Nampa-Reuters report, “The so-called 419 scam, named after an article in Nigeria’s penal code outlawing it, has been so successful in the past 20 years that campaigners say it is now the third largest foreign exchange earner in Africa’s most populous nation.”
The third largest!
One wretched German was informed by a “government minister” in Lagos that that old staple, a distant relative, had died leaving an estate worth well over ten million pounds. In order to transfer the property to the German, funds were needed to smooth the procedure.
This is not Europe, the German was regretfully informed, this is Africa and sadly riddled with people whose palms need greasing before things get done.
The amount of grease needed in this case could have kept an armored division rust free for the best part of a decade; several hundred thousand smackers. There was a bit of to-ing and fro-ing. Emails to the German, more money transferred to Lagos fro the German.
The German then received a communication from the Lagos police authorities.
The German was, they regretted to inform him, the victim of a criminal gang specializing in mail fraud.
The good news, however, was that the authorities were on to them. The fiends would be arrested. The money returned.
But this is not Europe, the police told him, this is Africa and sadly in order to get things done funds were needed to facilitate things.
By this stage most people would be entertaining serious doubts when encountering a Lagos government letterhead, no matter how nicely forged it was.
Not the German. No expense was spared to help the law track down the scoundrels who had duped him. Hundreds of thousands. But he was determined to fight to the bitter end.
This came when he finally ran out of money.
And never heard from anyone from Lagos again.
An even more extreme case occurred when a retired Czech doctor was taken for $600,000. Understandably disgruntled, the man stormed the Nigerian embassy in Prague last February, and shot dead the leading consul.
Of course Interpol takes a keen interest in these shenanigans, but more amusing is the phenomenon of scam baiting. Scam-baiters lead the con artists along with a view to humiliating them. One Englishman is building up a large collection of scammers’ photos.
First he gives the scammer his name. It is a false name. Then feigning keen interest in the scammer’s proposals he requests photos of the scammers holding a placard displaying his false name. It’s so he can see who he’s dealing with, he tells them.
One scammer obliged by sending a photo of himself, beaming amiably into the camera and proudly holding aloft a piece of paper reading “Iama Dildo.”
That gets it said.
Back to diamonds. Yesterday there was a robbery . Three men made off with several cases of shiny stones from Namdeb down in Orangemund .
Early evening, Paulo came over with a gift of two large frozen fish (the deal being that my father will cook them and then everyone will gather and eat them). After the fish had been appraised, praised and manhandled into the freezer compartment of the fridge – they weren’t large fish really, they were huge fish – my father asked about the Orangemund incident.
After I’d stopped shrieking at him (it took a long while), Paulo gave a derisive snort.
“We’ll get them. Those guys were SO dumb. So DUMB! Idiots!”
Seems the robbers were wearing overalls and balaclavas to hide their identities. Clever. After making their getaway they changed their clothes, dumped the overalls, but one of them forgot to remove his birth certificate from a pocket.
Why would anybody bring their birth certificate along on an armed robbery ? Shotguns, yes. Balaclavas, yes. But a birth certificate ?
Dumb. Real dumb.
This morning the phone rang unfortunately early. Our caller had seen the advertisement in the window of our Isuzu trooper.
“How does it work ?”
My father launched into his patter. “Well, it’s a smooth runner, has 170,00 kays on the clock give or take..”
“No,” the voice interrupted. “I mean how does the deal work?”
“Well, I guess you come and see the car, we take it for a test drive, if you like it you give me money, I give you the car.”
“So you want money for the car?” The voice was now sounding furtive. Sleazily furtive.
“Uh huh. Yes. ”
“Can we work it differently?”
“What differently? You mean you take the car but don’t give me any money ? “
“There can be ways of doing things. Shall we make a plan?”
A moment later the phone rang again. A different caller, this man got to the point fast in a strangely offensive “jiveass” pseudo-black-1960s-American pimp accent.
African pronunciation of English is mainly a wonderful thing. It is solemn, considered, structured, sincere; it employs a splendid, entertaining, enthralling vocabulary.
It is possible to listen to a politician making the most outrageous ly deranged statements and find yourself nodding; awed, overwhelmed by the richness of the voice, the syntax, the steadied rhythm. Unless they’re some racist monstrosity like Mugabe.
That man could be singing Grand Opera a la Pavarotti only better. You’d still want to throw eggs.
But this jiveass thing. Yech! Drives my father wild. He was now fully awake. So was I.
“Hey man I need the wheels. Your Land Cruiser.”
“My Land Cruiser is an Isuzu Trooper. And why don’t you go away?”
“S’right, man. Cool. The Trooper. I’ve got to be over the Angolan border by seven tonight. We’ve got to make speed. I’m packing stones.”
“Where are you ?”
“Windhoek Polytechnic ?”
“Ya man. The Tech. Can you pick me up ? We got to check this thing out.”
“Heeyyy! We need to work on this!”
Catherine is a colleague of my mother. She’s from Kenya but is on a one-year renewable contract with UNDP’s Environment Unit here and she intends to stay in Namibia. Catherine is willowy, elegant and altogether lovely. Fantastic telephone manner. Makes great cakes.
But this is not germaine to my tale.
She advertised that her car was for sale and she got similar telephone calls. Subsequent encounters with the prospective buyers indicated that they were all criminals seeking to convert smuggled diamonds into something more legally sellable than lumps of compacted carbon.
Cars don’t last forever but at least they are useful.
Catherine did sell her car eventually, but not before she and her mother were lured by a smoothly packaged individual into a small room with a Chinese gentleman sitting behind a desk. On the desk was a neat little suitcase.
Pop went the suitcase’s locks.
“Take a look,” said the Chinese gentleman, or words to that effect. They looked. The stones, supremely indifferent to the passage of billennia and their current surge in popularity – a mere nothing in geological time-scale –sat there.
Catherine and her mother got out fast. Then they sold their car to someone who wasn’t waving minerals at them.
Wendy summarized the whole phenomenon perfectly.
“If they want to buy a car why don’t they sell their diamonds and use the money to buy the car?”
Why not indeed?
Akiko coming back with Paulo pointed out that if my father was interested in buying stones and making a huge profit he’d need to know whether the stones were worth anything.
My father admitted that he knew nothing about diamonds.
Akiko gave a gay laugh. “Of course not, you’re not Jewish.”
Paulo was equally well informed.
“They sell you glass. Your car crosses the Angolan border. That’s it. Your glass. Their car.”
Then he said, “Hello, Isobel!” and gave me a wide smile.
I screamed at him. He fled.
Speaking from a five month old perspective, if I saw an uncut diamond I’d ignore it. Dull, soapy looking pebble of a thing. Perhaps if someone had cut it so that it reflected light and sparkled, I’d swallow it.
Or choke on it. Or throw it away. Or lose interest in about thirty seconds. My question to the world is this. Why are wars, atrocities, madmen in Sierra Leone/Angola/ Liberia/Congo beating baby’s brains out being funded by these silly little things ? Why don’t the people buy small yellow furry octopi that squeak when you squeeze them instead?
And I don’t think that anyone has killed anyone over a soft furry yellow octopus that squeaks when you squeeze it.
Or tried to exchange one for a car.
But, heck, I’m young and I’m sure the world has things to teach me.
Take Hugh Paxtons Blog’s word for it – Thailand’s tropical forests are beautiful. Dawn brings the liquid whoop of gibbons in the forest canopy hundreds of feet above the mist that pools around the gnarled dipterocarp roots– if a tall, cool glass of water could sing it would sound like a gibbon –, the heavy whoosh, whoosh of a giant hornbill’s wings, the startled cough of barking deer smelling dhole hunting dogs, the distant grumble of elephants, tens of thousands of bats leaving crag caves at twilight, after the first rains tens of millions of fireflies drifting and blinking through the velvet dark like tiny constellations…yes, beautiful.
But they can be hard work; a lot of steep, slippery muddy, slopes, snagging vines, streams to forge, leeches galore (and I do mean galore, and those suckers have no respect for leech proof socks), wild boar ticks, sudden torrential downpours, and ridge after ridge of limestone karst formations that stick out above the forest giant canopy like the back plates of long dead stegosaurs.
There are trails made by man or animals (forest pig, elephant, gaur, the giant Asian bison etc,) and I never leave them, unless I have a guide, for the simple reason that I’d get lost and would never be seen again. Despite deforestation and human incursion and population growth Thailand’s forests are still vast. The western forest complex, comprising 17 protected areas including Huai Kha Khaeng, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for example, covers 18,727 sq kms.
Beautiful, yes, tough going, yes…and currently a war zone.
On one side are the poachers drawn by rosewood (highly valued outside Thailand – but not in country where it is considered a sacred tree), tigers, elephants, bushmeat, animals valued in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) or the international exotic pet trade , but most of all money.
Some poachers are simply poor, or greedy, opportunistic locals who use the forests for a free meal. But others are mixed up with a slew of illegal activities – drug manufacture and smuggling (particularly methamphetamines or heroin), people trafficking, and of course the killing or trapping of wild animals and birds, the rarer the better. Their backers and customers are powerful criminal syndicates operating out of Lao, Cambodia but principally Vietnam (an increasingly significant final destination for wildlife products due to a burgeoning, not to mention ostentatious, ignorant and affluent, nouveau riche class), and our old voraciously amoral friend, China.
On the other side are the staff and rangers of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP).
When it comes to weapons the good guys are woefully outgunned. Most of them are equipped with either shotguns or Heckler and Koch firearms that are over 30 years old. The poachers have AK-47 assault rifles and automatic carbines. State of the art stuff ideally suited to jungle warfare.
What puzzles me is their willingness to use these weapons so freely.
One of the principle problems facing effective wildlife crime enforcement is the judicial system. Wildlife offences are still perceived by the law as a “victim-less crime” and sentences are lenient, going on ludicrously non-deterrent .
If successfully prosecuted at all, the criminals can confidently expect to be back in their hunting grounds mere weeks or, at most, a couple of years later. And if you have the backing of a multi-million dollar crime syndicate on your side, a $US500 fine is risible.
But shoot they do. Hence the DNP’s declaration of war.
Since 2009, 47 forest rangers have been killed on duty and 48 others injured.
On Sept 12th came the final straw. Hmong hilltribe tiger hunters, part of a well known gang operating in the Huai Kha Khaeng World Heritage Site , shot and killed two rangers and wounded two more. One hilltribesman was killed in the firefight, two were captured, and two fled. They are believed to be hiding in the Bangkok area. If they have been injured, and I hope they were, it will make apprehending them easier – even in Bangkok, bullet trauma raises eyebrows in medical facilities.
But two more deaths, two more injuries – the DNP decided enough was enough. Negotiations were begun with the army to buy or borrow state of the art weaponry for rangers. All protected area managers were ordered to assemble every scrap of information they had on poaching gangs, proven, suspected, rumoured, anecdotal. This exercise to be conducted in close co-operation with local police. All weapons were ordered to be checked for readiness and/or obsolescence.
And this morning, pre-dawn, over 1,000 armed forest rangers deployed throughout the western forest complex on the largest patrol/man hunt ever conducted by the DNP. They are out there as I write.
Time for the poaching gangs and syndicates to reap the whirlwind.
In Part One of this Two Part Post I described meeting Thai park rangers and observing their anti-poaching training. Things have escalated.
It started with a contact between
Hugh Paxton’s Blog will be buying one of these ASAP! Thanks Brigitte! You a true friend of the South African car owner!
Thai Days; more bad news if you are an elephant. They want your tits and balls and your trunk to help them win the lotteryJune 17, 2013
Hugh Paxton’s Blog is sad to report that some people in Thailand, hoping to win the lottery, purchase elephant bits and pieces. Spectrum magazine ran the story so this blog can’t pretend to having done anything to expose this trade. Spectrum did it for me. The photos were really, and I mean REALLY ugly.
Slices of elephant trunk. To bring good kuck. The slivers of trunk are set in candle sticks!
Slices of elephant penis. To bring, well, yes, I think we know where that one’s going.
The female elephant’s nipples! For good luck!
I feel revolted by this sort of behaviour. It’s witchcraft! Voodoo!
Owning an elephant testicle will bring you as much good luck as the elephant that owned its testicle! Elephant nipples? Oh dear!
I’m not going on. This whole wildlife parts and magic and sudden cures for herpes is snake oil. It is hurting the morons who buy these potions and fetishes, it is encouraging poaching.
Hugh (who finds the idea of chopping up elephant’s trunks repulsive – really repulsive)
Hugh Paxton’s Blog has a number of animals in my house. But enough of mycats, my hedhehogs, my daughter and her friends.
Let’s move on to a house in Klong Sam District.
This was over populated!
14 white lions. Where the heck did he he get 14 white lions? South Africa. And the lion owner says he’s got the papers to prove it.
Four otter civets.
23 meeerkats! (Yes RSA seems a likely point of origin).
Australians take note – “at least 1,000 sugar gliders”. At least 1,000!
four miniature pigs
an undisclosed number of other birds
and a bunch of stuffed animals.
This lot were in his house? He must have a larger place than myself.
The police were tipped off by the guy’s neighbours who were fed up with lions roaring, peacocks cawing and “a smell of excrement.”
Sakda Noppasit, secretary to the natural resources and environment Minister, said the suspects registered a company for study purposes but that it was clear the their company has “nothing to do with research or study”.
The cost of importing a white lion? 200,000 Baht.
Come on South Africa! Crack down on the export end! Otherwise Asia will bleed you dry!
Hugh Paxton’s Blog has watched the Thai military machine make a few questionable investments in recent years. Nobody talks much about their blimp brigade any more. The airship didn’t do a Hindenburg. It sort of ran out of hot air and if it is still monitoring terrorist activity in the deep south it isn’t really working. Retired German Submarines? That story sank without trace. They could still be out there lurking, aware, the menace beneath the waves or maybe Thailand didn’t buy them. Or they sank. Or there are a bunch of illegal immigrant guys from Burma changing their nuts and bolts and torpedo tubes in a top secret base on the Andaman Sea.
Obviously Thailand needs to defend itself. Cambodia needs watching. They want our undesignated World Heritage Site Hindu temple and if they maintain their nonsensensical territorial claims it will mean war!
Blimps, subs, they may be useful, but one investment has attracted a bit more critical attention.
Mine detectors that don’t work.
The thing about mines is that they actually do work. They blow your legs off. They get washed down stream when it rains. Mine migration. Happens all the time. They infest war zones and after peace is declared they ignore the cheers and hand shakes and sit and wait and if you happen to encounter them you are maimed or dead.
Let’s meet Mr. James McCormick. His mine detector sold very well. Profits? 50 million pounds. Each of his instruments went for up to 27,000 quid. Thailand invested. Heavily.
Over to James McCormick!
“I never had any negative results from customers.”
Actually he didn’t at first. Lots of people bought them.
But his mine detectors were utterly ineffectual and relied on a mix of mumbo jumbo – water dowsing, following earth energy – etc. and some good old fashioned salesman bullshit.
The Old Bailey (London) has given him ten years in stir for fraud.
McCormick’s mine detector was based on a novelty golf ball finder.
It would be funny. Could be. But mines have no sense of humour. McCormick is where he should be.