"Call the police! Call the police!" the lady stated loudly as Mr Lim answered the phone. Somebody representing me had demanded that he pay his debt of $2,000 to me. Mr Lim had stopped payment of his $2,000-cheque to me and would not return my calls for the past 1 year. He had asked me for a $5,000 temporary loan as he had cash-flow problems and promised to return the money in one month's time with interest.
"I don't want your interest," I don't want to make money out of a businessman in dire financial straits. I only prayed that I would recover my loan as I have had bad experiences.
However, if I could help this businessman who had made millions before but now needed cash, I would as I had been acquainted with him for the past 20 years. He took the $5,000 and I was out of sight, out of mind.
That was one and a half years ago. After many phone calls for half a year, he gave me a cheque of $5,000. The next 2 days, he wanted the cheque back and gave me a cheque of $3,000 and a few days later, another one for $2,000 cheque which he stopped payment soon. He just ignored my calls for another year. I told a friend about him and he offered to help me by phoning me. He was no bill collector or loan shark as I don't get involved with the shady underworld. Mr Lim promised to phone me the next day and he did. He paid $500 and that was OK with me. He still was in the dumps but I could not help him. It is the disadvantage of of being self-employed. A self-employed can make millions and can crash and burn and he was burnt by a project which did not pay him.
Honesty is important in business and he should know better. I invited him for breakfast at Chinatown on Sep 7, 2010 to see if I could advise him or be of help to him in his business, but not in another loan.
"Who was the lady who asked you to call the police?" I asked Mr Lim at the Chinatown coffeeshop. A bright sunshine morning and I took a photograph for readers to appreciate the street where I had coffee with him.
I knew Mr Lim for the past 30 years and his lady assistant. From what I know of the character and personality of his lady assistant from a well brought up family in Indonesia, I would say she was not the instigator to call the police. But I had to know whether my judgment of character was up to par.
I asked Mr Lim: "Who was the lady who asked you to call the police? Her husband must be some big gun in the Singapore Police Force."
"The lady eaves-dropped my conversation. Your friend was speaking in a loud voice and was quite rough. The lady is a coffeeshop operator in Keong Siak Street."
I said: "The famous previous red-light district of Singapore's Chinatown. Where is she now? I would like to see how she looks like."
Mr Lim said: "She is not working so early. I told her at that time not to interfere with my business."
I said: "Call the police. Call the police. Why didn't you call the police?"
I was surprised when Mr Lim admitted: "I am in the wrong."
I said: "The coffeeshop lady must have police connections as she was rather aggressive shouting over your head such that my friend could hear her.
"Is her husband the Commissioner of Police?" I asked Mr Lim. "My friend who phoned you asked you to call the police or he would call the police in your presence."
"No, no," Mr Lim said. "The husband is a training instructor in the police force."
So there was this police connection which embolden the wife. The police do not interfere in civil matters. Otherwise they don't have time for real police investigation work.
I listened to Mr Lim's bad luck in the project in which he was owed $100,000. He had been advised to take legal action but he did not want to. I said: "Lawyers want deposits and then more deposits with no guarantee of success. Whoever advised you might pay on your behalf first. It is wise of you not to proceed with litigation. Let me talk to the other party if the party is interested. If not, just move positively in new projects and learn from the bad experience."
Giving a cheque to secure a loan is a big risk for the lender. Sometimes it is better not to help others in need as it is usually money down the drain and some threats to "call the police." Honesty is the best policy in business. Do not ignore a problem. If Mr Lim had paid even $50.00 per month, he would have had paid up after some months. But when a man is in dire financial straits, the aim is to get loans without any intention of return usually. Some of them behaved aggressively as if the lender owes the borrower money!