Friday 16 February 2007

The Bad Samaritan

You may remember that two weeks ago we reported on an upsetting case involving a woman who was bereaved, who couldn’t keep up with her late husband’s BHC Tenant Purchase Scheme repayments and was eventually evicted from her house. Facing homelessness and having six children, four of whom are still of school age, she turned to us to see if we could help.

Unfortunately there wasn’t much we could do directly. We spoke to BHC who had evicted her but they were also in a difficult situation. She had run up enormous arrears and there was simply no way she would ever be able to repay them.

But then along came the Bad Samaritan. No, not the Good one we all hope will visit us occasionally. The other kind.

I’ll refer to him just as the BS, if you promise to overlook what else that stands for, OK?

The BS offered to lend her a large amount of money so she could repay the arrears and even buy her house completely. Sounds good doesn’t it? Well, not THAT good. How on earth was she going to repay the loan? She has no job and with all those children and no extended family to help, how can she work? Presumably the BS was hoping she would quickly default on her repayments to him and he could then grab the house?

That was where we left it two weeks ago.

Strangely, on the day the article was published we got a phone call at the office from someone who refused to give his name, demanding to know where we had heard all of this and wondering what status we have. Was it perhaps someone with a guilty conscience? Or someone irritated that he had been caught out and might not make a quick profit from another’s misfortune?

So what has happened in the last two weeks?

We’ve spoken to the lady in question many times and done our best to suggest that rather than saving her from homelessness all this was doing was delaying it slightly and further deepening her debt. However since we first covered the story the BS later offered just to give the lady money, not lend it to her. So maybe he has finally decided to be generous?

Sorry. No. What he wanted this time was to give her the money so she could buy the house, she would then sign it over to him completely and she could keep a little extra that he would give her. According to the generous benefactor she could use that extra to buy a plot of land.

In short, what he wanted was a nice respectable house in return for paying off the lady’s debts, which, incidentally, still remain much lower than the price of the house.

Horrifyingly all of this distinctly dubious deal was being done through a supposedly legitimate law firm acting on behalf of the BS. According to the lady a lawyer from the firm had made her sign documents that she didn’t understand and refused to let her have copies. They also refused to allow her to take her grown up daughter along to help her.

We helped the lady to write a letter to the law firm formally advising them that she did not want to proceed and that she wanted them to return various documents, including her late husband’s death certificate. Their reaction? “When you pay us.”

Needless to say, when we contacted the law firm they claimed ignorance of the background to the story, innocence of any deception and horror that anyone would think they had acted improperly. She will of course be getting her documents back very shortly indeed!

We went with the lady to speak to BHC who, to their great credit, immediately said they wanted nothing to do with such a sale. They immediately withdrew the offer to sell if it meant the property would go to the BS.

We then heard something from one of our many informants. Our source told us that it wasn’t actually the BS offering to cough up the cash at all, he was just a go-between. The money was coming from a local businessman who, for simplicity I’ll call the Big Bad Samaritan. The Big BS.

But then something amazing happened. He phoned us. The BS himself picked up the phone to talk to us. He had obviously heard that the net was closing in around him. He explained that he was only trying to help out a lady in distress and heaven forbid that he was going to make money out of it! Well, apart from his cut of the profits of course. When pushed slightly he did admit that he was acting on behalf of a bigger BS than himself. And yes he did confirm his name, which of course we will keep confidential. Well, unless anything improper occurs…

By the way Mr BS, did we forgot to mention that we recorded both the phone calls we had with you. So don’t try denying anything, OK?

Where are we now? Our very good friends at BHC and the lady are talking directly to one another to see if a deal can be arranged that actually involves her buying the house. No go-betweens, no dodgy legal agreements and definitely no BS!

This week’s stars!

  • Yet another example of enormous generosity. Following the last story about this situation Bruce from Pick N Pay at Molapo Crossing in Gaborone has offered the lady and her family a P500 shopping expedition. The last person Pick N Pay did this for said they treated her “like a Queen”!
  • On the subject of royalty, Prince from Barclays Bank for helping sort out a customer’s problem without a fuss.

No comments: