Herts chartered surveyor trapped in Phuket after falling victim to property pawn-broking by Thai wife


Thailand - Credit: Archant

Phuket is home to over 100,000 ex pats, relocating for a more tropical way of life. But the fantasy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, according to ex-Hatfield local Ian Rance.

Ian Rance was defrauded in a property deal after making the move to the Thai island of Phuket in order to settle there comfortably.

“I’d made my money in England and had enough to retire I thought,” he told the BBC today. “I was looking for a place that was warm, a place that had some rule of law, where I could live in safety and peace. When I came to Thailand on a trip it sort of seemed to fit the bill.”

He left the UK in 2000, having established his firm of chartered surveyors Marshall/Rance in Hatfield. Thailand beckoned with its scheme, launched at the time by the country’s prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, called “Thailand Elite” - designed to attract wealthy investors from abroad to buy small amounts of Thai land.

Rance very much re-established a life there. He married a Thai woman the following year and they had three sons. He purchased two houses, a business and further two plots of land. After doing this the scheme discontinued and, being a foreigner, he transferred the properties into the name of his UK business or his wife.

In 2008, several years after meeting and marrying his wife Suda, she set a plan that she had presumably had all along into motion. She began transferring the properties out of the company name, removed Rance as a director and forged his signature on the documentation. The Land Office in Phuket accepted the forged power of attorney to change ownership of properties worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.

When checking his tax status in 2010, Rance discovered the fraud, prompting his wife to abandon him and the children. She later got back in touch with threats to kidnap the children, after which he received a visit from four men who threatened to kill him if he didn’t leave the area. He took the children to Bangkok, to keep them safe. “It was a terrible, terrible time,” he said in the BBC’s report.

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Suda used the properties as collateral to gain loans from moneylenders, in a form of pawn-broking. A local lawyer notorised the documents without Rance present which is not normal practice. Rance has since tried to sue the lawyer to no avail. Nine filed law suits later, Suda is the only party to be tried and jailed. She is currently in prison for the crimes that Rance is sure she was forced to commit by her family.

In order to progress the other cases, Rance is required to attend hearings in Phuket at his own expense, which involves hiring a translator and a lawyer (or in this case, five lawyers, some of whom have sabotaged his cases on purpose).

A retaliatory perjury case has also been filed against him which accuses him of being in on the fraudulent transactions. He has lost his passport because of this and cannot leave the country.

This has been a harsh lesson to learn for Rance, which brings awareness to people looking to relocate to particular countries or conduct foreign property transactions. It’s not always as glamorous as it seems and it’s important to be wary of the pitfalls - especially in countries where the law is perhaps less forceful on citizens. Research your coveted destination - know where you stand.

Phuket is 9,396 miles from Hatfield - but to Ian Rance, it must seem a lot further.