I have come into money. A great deal of it, in fact.
A Nigerian lady has emailed to tell me her father has passed away. It seems he owned a diamond mine in Africa and was worth, at a conservative estimate, about £300,000,000.
At present, the fortune is sitting in a Zurich bank account, earning a whopping £83,000 interest a day! (That’s a sum to make even an MP’s eyes water.)
Unfortunately, for complicated reasons which, she admits, she doesn’t fully understand, the money can’t be sent directly to her, but must go through a UK bank account first.
Would it be all right, she asks, if the cash could be transferred into my name? She says she knows she’s taking a risk, but is certain I’m an ‘honest man’ and wouldn’t try to fleece her rigid the minute the cheque had cleared.
I’m humbled that a perfect stranger should email out of the blue and place her trust in me. I haven’t told the current Mrs C. She’s an emotional woman, deep down, and would probably cry.
I write back at once, tell my new friend she can rely on me to do the decent thing and whom should I contact next?
Within the hour, she gets back to me with awkward news. It seems there’s been a hitch. The Zurich bank is happy to credit me with all the cash, but there’s a fee to be paid upfront and, unless it’s handed over sharpish, the blighters won’t be parting with a penny.
That’s banks for you! The minute they get their fingers in the till, they lose all sense of right and wrong and look on the money as their own.
The fee is £10,000 – exorbitant, in my opinion, but she says our hands are tied. You’d have thought they could take it out of the interest earned and say no more about it. But apparently that’s not allowed, and, unless we find the payment pronto, the deal is off.
She says she knows it’s asking a lot – especially as we’ve only just met – but, if I’d be kind enough to forward her the fee, she’ll pay it to the bank herself and we can set the ball rolling. In return – and wait for it, you won’t believe this – not only will she pay me back once funds have cleared, but I can keep a cool £10m for my trouble!
I email back and tell her not to worry. She can place her confidence in Chester J Crump. However, I add, in my opinion the bank’s not to be trusted. Our best bet is for me to fly to Zurich myself and do the deal in person. We need to see the whites of their eyes and satisfy ourselves they’re on the level. If not, anyone might make off with the cash. A sandwich boy, perhaps, or the lady who cleans their telephones – nothing would surprise me in this day and age.
I ask for further details, and possibly a map; though if she doesn’t have a printer I tell her, I can run something off at this end.
She’s back in a trice and begs me not to trouble myself further. Wiring the money through to her in Lagos will be the simplest solution.
I email yet again and tell her I won’t hear of it. Quite frankly, she’s an innocent abroad (literally, in this case!) and, if she’s not careful, someone less honest than me will take her to the cleaners.
For almost another hour we email back and forth, arguing the point.
Finally, I fib – tell her I’ve been onto a travel agent, booked a flight and will be leaving for the airport first thing tomorrow.
It’s almost midnight now and she hasn’t got back to me.
I hope she hasn’t done anything silly and found someone else to help her out.
Thought for the Day
‘A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks round for a coffin.’
H L Mencken