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Monday, 12 April 2010

Staying Faithful = No Blackmail = Save Money

In life, we should be faithful to our partner(s), because unfaithfulness is how blackmail starts. Faithfulness is expected whenever we enter into an enduring relationship: Marriage, more than most, but also business partnerships, political partnerships, social partnerships, and others. In hard times where the relationship is going through a rocky road, it is tempting to see "what is outside".

But for the curious man (or woman), it may be difficult to break off the relationship if the cost is too high. In economic terms, this would be known as a "negative utility". Keeping things as they are, while venturing outside (unbeknownst to the partner), and therefore benefitting from the best of both worlds, would seem to be an ideal situation (at least, for the person trapped in a difficult situation with no way out). Stealthy movements, coupled with deception, has led to many an undiscovered act of unfaithfulness. At times, this has worked out wonderfully -- the partner goes on about his or her business, heartened that the (secretly unfaithful) partner hasn't abandoned ship just yet. This may lead both the partners to "the light at the end of the tunnel".

But yet, there are some problems that crop up. First, what happens when the partnership reaches "the light at the end of the tunnel"? What happens when they pull through the worst? Will the (secretly unfaithful) partner have to ditch his secret endeavours and resume the partnership as before? What would his collaborators in this secret unfaithfulness think of it -- would they take it generously, or would they become angry, petulant as a child? Second, as much as the "secretly unfaithful" partner wants to, s/he will have a hard time trying to resume normal relations. The clandestine affairs on the side, after all, has become "de rigeur".

This is how unfaithfulness can lead to blackmail: The unsatisfied third party does not want to break off relations with the unfaithful partner. The third party then threatens the unfaithful partner that s/he will reveal everything, and destroy the partnership. Or: Another party, unrelated, may discover the untruth, and attempt to milk the unfaithful partner for money. After all, if the partnership is worth keeping alive, then it is time to quantify it: Quantify it in monetary terms, then!

Helg Sgarbi: Blackmailer of Rich Women

In March 2009, a philandering conman known by the moniker "Swiss gigolo" was arrested and sentenced to six years' jail for blackmailing a string of wealthy women (whom he earlier seduced and milked for money). Among his victims was Germany's richest woman, the heiress of the BMW empire: Susanne Klatten. It is surprising that he was not asked to return the ill-gotten gains to his victims -- perhaps he has spent it all. Here are a few excerpts on the incident from newspapers around the world.

A smooth-talking con man known as the "Swiss Gigolo" has been jailed for six years for cheating and blackmailing a string of super-rich lovers, including Germany's wealthiest woman.

Helg Sgarbi, 44, admitted as his trial opened in Munich "the essence" of the charges against him, which included trying to hoodwink BMW heiress Susanne Klatten out of more than 340 million euro ($671 million).

"I would like to apologise publicly to my victims," the dark-haired, inconspicuous-looking Sgarbi told the packed courtroom on Monday.
(Soure: Sydney Morning Herald, 10th March 2009. "Swiss Gigolo" admits blackmailing BMW heiress.)

Mr Sgarbi was not alone in his endeavours. He was aided by a conman who filmed his ardour and amore for future viewing.

At first she spurned his advances but when he turned up unexpectedly in the south of France where she was on holiday the following month, they began an affair.

In August they met in room 629 of the Holiday Inn in Munich for an "intimate" rendezvous.

The encounter was allegedly filmed from the next door room by an Italian accomplice, Ernano Barretta, 63, who will go on trial for fraud and extortion later this month in Pescara, on Italy's Adriatic coast.
(Source: The Telegraph (UK), 9th March 2009. Swiss gigolo Helg Sgarbi jailed for blackmailing wealthy women.)

The BMW heiress disclosed to prosecutors that she had given Sgarbi seven million euro -- in cash.

In September they met at the same hotel and this time Sgarbi allegedly said that he needed 10 million euro because he had injured a small girl in a car crash in Florida - asking Klatten to lend him a cool seven million euro.

Klatten duly handed over the sum in the Holiday Inn's underground garage in a cardboard box containing 14 plastic folders each with one thousand 500-euro banknotes.

But when the gigolo told her to leave her husband and put 290 million euro in a trust fund to finance their new life, Klatten baulked and ended the relationship.
(Source: Sydney Morning Herald, ibid.)

Sgarbi then began blackmailing her, sending her a CD containing photographs of the two of them having sex. He said that unless she paid up he would send a copy to her husband and the executive board of BMW.

He demanded 49 million euros (£44 million), which he subsequently reduced to 14 million euros, and set a deadline of Jan 15, 2008.

But instead of giving in to the extortion, she went to the German police. Sgarbi was arrested in Austria.

"I realised that he wasn't the man he claimed to be," she later told police. "I realised the folly of what I had done." In an interview last year with a German newspaper, she explained: "There was a moment of clarity." She recalled saying to herself: "You are a victim now and you have to resist. Otherwise it will never end."
(Source: The Telegraph (UK), ibid.)

The Star, too, has two reports on the Sgarbi blackmailer. They are as follows:
  1. The Star, 10th March 2009. Swiss man jailed for sex blackmail of BMW heiress
  2. The Star, 25th March 2009. Italian denies filming sex videos of BMW heiress

Other Instances of Blackmail

In fact, blackmail is nothing new. Here are a few examples:

  1. In January 2010, Indonesia's former chief corruption fighter Antasari Azhar was charged with allegedly murdering a businessman, Nasrudin Zulkarnaen. The businessman had allegedly attempted to blackmail Azhar for an affair Azhar had with the businessman's 22 year old wife. (Ref: Straits Times (Singapore), 19th January 2010. Death for ex-graftbuster?)
  2. In February 2010, an influential rabbi was visiting a prison inmate, when the inmate told the rabbi that a hedge fund had been operating on illegal information. The rabbi called the hedge fund and offered the inmate's silence. In exchange, he wanted US$4 million for 2 religious schools. He received the cheques but could not cash them. The rabbi was later charged for fraud, extortion, and blackmailing. (Source: New York Times, 19th February 2010. Some Phone Calls, 2 Big Checks, and Rabbi Is Charged.)
  3. In February 2010, the vice president of a major cosmetics company, and president of one of its subsidiaries, was arrested for sending harassing e-mails to a woman he used to date. He also threatened to disclose to the woman's husband pictures of the woman and himself, taken while they were still dating. (Ref: The Japan Times, 4th February 2010. Noevir exec admits e-mail harassment.)
  4. In March 2010, a CBS producer admitted to trying to extort more than US$2 million from talk show host David Letterman. He had threatened to expose Letterman's affairs with members of the staff. He was jailed for 6 months. He would also serve 1,000 hours of community service. (Source: New York Times, 9th March 2010. Six Months in Jail for Letterman Plot)
  5. In 2008, former Indonesian First Lady, 68 year old Dewi Sukarno, wrote on her blog that her good friend, former porn actress, Ai Iijima, could have been driven to her death. "She had encountered something terrible...Some person or persons had taken pictures and videos of her and had used those things to blackmail her. This person or persons kept dogging her with the threats." (Source: Straits Times, 28th December 2008. Ex-porn star driven to death.)
  6. In 2005, the Germans discovered a Russian diplomat who was spying on the German army. The Germans tried to get the Russian diplomat to become a double agent, which he refused. They tried to blackmail him, by revealing his illicit affair to his wife. He bolted, returning to Russia, never to darken Germany's doorstep again. (Source: Spiegel Online, 18th April 2005. German-Russian Spy Stories: From Russia with Love.)
  7. In 2004, a Japanese diplomat to China committed suicide after a Chinese intelligence agency attempted to blackmail him for intelligence. Reports said that he had an affair with a hostess. (Ref: The Japan Times, 29th December 2005. China slammed over diplomat's suicide.)
  8. In 2003, about 60 professors in Japanese universities were sent blackmail notes by an unknown sender. The wording was identical: "I have learned through an insider of your secret, which is deemed punishable by your institution. An investigation has been carried out, and I know everything about it." (Source: The Japan Times, 20th February 2003. Professors targeted in blackmail bid.)
  9. In 2002, Malaysia allegedly purchased two diesel-electric submarines from a French manufacturer. Later events would show that a Mongolian woman, Altantuya, had written in her diary of her intention to blackmail the political advisor to (then) Defence Minister. Altantuya would later die under mysterious circumstances, a mystery which was never conclusively solved. (Ref: Jakarta Globe, 20th November 2009. French Connection: Who Got What in The Sale of Submarines to Malaysia?)
  10. In 2001, a 59 year old Japanese dog breeder and his 44 year old ex-wife murdered four persons. Initially it was just the killing of an employee. Later, two of the victims (a gangster head and his driver) tried to blackmail the dog breeder: they were duly murdered. The fourth murder was unrelated to the first three murders. (Ref: The Japan Times, 22nd March 2001. Couple handed death sentence for poisoning four.)
  11. In 2000, it was reported in Japan, some women boarding the crowded commuter trains would blackmail random men standing near to them by accusing them of groping. The mere accusation of groping is bound to attract punishment and can be a severe form of blackmail. (Source: The Japan Times, 13th July 2000. Groping: the proof is in the accusation.)

Conclusion

Betrayal, fraud, and blackmail are never pleasant. They are simply means of making us do things that we dislike. To avoid getting blackmailed, simply do not give an opportunity for anyone to blackmail you. Upright actions and upright thoughts are best. If really faced with the tempting prospect of an illicit affair, consider making a clean break and starting anew. It would be much cleaner and there will be no blackmailing involved.

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