The Russians sat in silence looking at the carpet occasionally switching and shifting their feet from one ankle to another. Their fingers were stained as yellow as their teeth and Olga needed to have a better diet. I had asked Chandran to copy their passports and I was filling in the application forms. It was clear that the use of pens was alien to them and I wanted to make sure all was correct. The address could have been anywhere from the Urals to Siberia for all I knew, I had to trust to luck on that.
Finally the question that I needed to ask was indeed asked by me.
‘How much are you going to lodge to open the account?’ I said, expecting the sum of millions of their illegal gains. Rebecca and Chandra were listening, amazed at how easy it all seemed.
One by one they said the following, word perfect.
‘One hundred and forty seven thousand, three hundred and five dollars exactly.’
I thought nothing of it; perhaps they had shared some lottery win. They followed up that it was to come from a life insurance policy in a place that sounded unlikely but that at least showed some credibility to their story. Payment instructions were printed and given to them, they signed the forms and seemed in a hurry to leave. And so Ivan times two and Olga left, slouching to the lift that Chandran had secured. They never said goodbye and in time their credit cards from Bermuda were posted to Moscow.
Later in the month I heard that they had all been arrested because going over a credit limit is a civil offence. Their money had disappeared and Head Office closed the file. I learnt a lesson, check that the ink is dry on new passports.
There was a commotion in the corridor, shouting and the sounds of papers falling to the floor and then our large glass door with the acid etched coat of arms was opened by a shivery thin Indian and in he ushered an Arab man in full dress including a gold bisht covering his crisp white thobe that denoted he was a Sheikh. I went to greet him.
‘I have business for you,’ he said plonking himself down in the reception under the required portraits of the Bahrain Royal Family. He made sure that his seat gave him full visual access to a view of Rebecca.
‘Please tell me all,’ I said, it all seemed so plausible.
‘I need money for my private jet in Bahrain and I can give you property in Singapore as security.’
‘Well, that sounds possible and let’s see what we can do,’ I answered with enthusiasm that quickly died.
His hand indicated to his Indian helper that a file should be produced. He flicked through the pages of what can only be described as cut and paste pictures in the old cut and paste style. The Pritt Stick glue seeped out from behind each badly printed postcard of artist’s impressions of towering blocks in a country that could have been anywhere and this was all in his imagination. Not only at time was private aviation in Bahrain illegal but he was playing at being a Sheikh. Of course we could do nothing but give him sanctuary for a few moments each day while he described his life and family. He was a time sponge.
After many weeks of him coming to see us for coffee and him looking longingly at Rebecca we had to have security bar him for the building.
The last straw was a beautiful lady from New Zealand who ran a model agency in Bahrain. She came to my office late one afternoon. I was there alone and as she lounged seductively on the sofa she asked for a mortgage on her property in Dunedin. She would do anything for me I was assured and I could just ask.
Clients in Bahrain were just not going to happen so travel was needed to explore and find more prospects. Bahrain was a dormitory and across the water was Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar. Surely I would find better luck there.
And just when I thought it could not get more complicated I heard that the Bank had employed Prince Michael as a consultant and he was on his way to Bahrain.