Following the ‘sale’ of Credit Agricole’s Big Fat failing Greek bank last week, I was sorely tempted to walk into our local CTN, and ask for twenty Emporikis and a Daily Mirror. The bank was, as most people now know but couldn’t care less, sold for one euro. So either Eurozone deflation has become suddenly catastrophic, or the bank was worthless, right? Except that neither of those is true: and that means there are going to be some fantastic opportunities for those of a Max Byalistock frame of mind in the coming months.
The opportunity is not only a financial one, because the possibilities for citizen revenge are limitless. And in outline, the sting is diabolically simple. Like all the best con-tricks, it works on the basis of human greed which (as we know) has been refined by the banking community to a level where one can only gasp in awe at its bare-face sitting atop a brass neck.
Basically, all you need is a consortium of ordinary, intelligent folks who can act a bit (quite a few of those – just go to the local amdram) an unemployed hack with contacts (thousands of those) and a wobbly bank that’s desperate for cash (millions of those).
Money-blinded bankers will believe anything when a quick killing seems to be the near-certain outcome, and the financial media will report anything as true so long as it sounds complicated and looks like an exclusive. This latter rule was evidenced last Tuesday by Chancellor Merkel uttering the following hilarious Truth:
“Painful reforms in Greece, Portugal and Ireland are already showing results”
The specialist media dutifully repeated it throughout the European day, probably on the grounds that the statement was an irrefutable fact. Like some moth-eaten hem coming apart from a bag lady’s dress, the results of painful reform are indeed showing everywhere: for example, impoverishment, Nazis, pension destruction, social violence, snipers, economic flatlining, and banks going for a pound a piece, rollabollabolla penny a pitch. The point I’m making is this: the media are used to running bollocks, and the banker’s ability to tell sh*t from putty is inversely proportional to the amount of free putty being advertised.
Here’s how easy this heist would be. It goes like this….
– – – – –
At 3 am one slow morning (Saturday would be good) with some help from a mate in the Daily Telegraph techie department, a medium sized piece in the Business Section describes a decision by Abdul the brand new Sultan of Kam’ai, based in Oman, to reverse the financial strategy of his late father W’airdefu. The former Prince Abdul succeeded to the throne following W’airdefu’s death last August, and is now looking to buy banking assets in Europe which – he believes – will never be this cheap again.
Having placed the piece for thirty seconds, the sting group page-captures it, and the article then abruptly disappears. Two days later, a seemingly ambitious sting contact working in a subsidiary of the Ratslime Bank of Scamland (RBS) sends an internal memo to his Group CEO Simon Scheister, wondering if he has seen this piece in the Telegraph.
Scheister ignores the memo as being from a worm and therefore beneath his contempt, but two hours later – on being asked by one of his 58 pa’s whether he wants to take a call from Abdul the brand new Sultan of Kam’ai – the CEO’s money synapses click into action, and he agrees immediately.
Preceded by a large retinue of bug-sweepers, food tasters and wives, Kam’ai wafts into the RBS boardroom and – after suitably refined good wishes and hopes for future fecundity have been exchanged – gets down to business. His needs, says Abdul, are simple: as a deeply religious man he cannot, naturally, be the owner of shares in an infidel bank. Scheister nods in sympathy, his smile fixed.
“However,” the newly-minted Sheik continues, “I have a simple and, I trust, mutually beneficial business proposition for you in these troubled times. In our neighbouring State of Oman, there is a respectable bank much admired by my community, Bank Sohar. Due to, shall we say, unforeseen circumstances, the bank finds itself with a short-term but very high value problem: its assets could be worth far less than originally thought…if somebody lent them some money and then became….aaa…disillusioned. Do you follow?”
Scheister nods furiously, desperately trying to control an enormous erection under the table.
“Indeed I do,” he purrs.
“Naturally,” said the Sheik, “I could not be seen to be the one to do such a thing. But I note that, of late, you appear to have the, uuumm, confidence of Her Majesty’s Government.”
The CEO smiles broadly in recognition of the compliment.
“Of course,” Abdul continues. “You would face absolutely no risk in this at all. I shall tomorrow afternoon deposit $450bn in an account you will open for me here, and you will in the meantime propose a loan-for-shares collateral swap with Sohar’s men for the same amount. I assure you it will not be rebuffed.”
Simon is trying very hard not to faint: his troubles are over.
* * * * *
On the Eastern side of Sawwi street in Muscat’s commercial district, five men are standing by the next day to hack into a transfer of $450 from the personal account of one Abdul Ka’mai in Bank Sohar to RBS. They manage – with relative ease – to falsify the BAC code, label it Kam’ai Central Bank personal account, and add nine noughts to the sum involved. RBS techies have been primed by the CEO to watch out for it, and zap it immediately into an overseas asset instant access account.
Meanwhile, Simon Scheister has been thinking. Why does he need this dumb Arab’s money? Little jerk: he, the great MoU saviour of RBS, can simply pocket the 450 billion…and then borrow enough from his Treasury mates to do the Sohar deal, using the Sheik’s money as collateral.
Some time later – in a small, half-gentrified street off Clapham High Street – the Stingers and their Russian hacker friend watch as the BoE plops $450bn into RBS. It’s all going according to plan.
The next afternoon, Scheister rings Sohar Bank and proposes the investment by RBS in the Omani institution…with a heavily discounted loan of $450bn as an opening gesture of good faith. The voices at the other end seem delighted and surprised. They are, after all, the real people at Sohar Bank. They’ve no idea what this mad Infidel is on about, but if he wants to add $450bn to their already enormously healthy asset base (on which they can make a 50% charge-margin overnight) then it’s fine by them. It certainly won’t buy him a controlling interest, but that’s his problem.
Simon’s SAUS (Special Asset Undervaluation Squad) now swings into action. “I want this f**king Omani cowboy outfit to be declared technically insolvent by 4.00 pm tomorrow,” he barks, and then hurries away to calculate the size of special bonus he’s going to award himself once the deal’s done.
Two days later at 9.01 am Omani time, Simon Scheister talks to his opposite number at Sohar Bank, informing him that, regrettably, it seems that Sohar’s assets have been massively overvalued and – in his view – the bank is technically insolvent and so his bank RBS will be forced to take possession of the assets. Sohar’s CEO listens politely, thaks the caller, puts the phone down….and this time decides the Infidel really is insane.
Back in Sawwi Street, five hackers hear the fateful phone conversation, and intercept a Sohar request for $450 of client monies in the (genuine) acount of Abdul Ka’mai to be withdrawn from RBS and deposited back in Sohar’s Muscat offices. The customary nine extra noughts are added, the reference numbers falsified, and the withdrawal note sent on to complete its rapid electronic journey. By 9.45 am, the Ka’mai current acct no 0083999966344 on Oman’s Sohar Bank has a balance of $450,000,000736.87p.
By ten am, the Sohar CEO is made aware of the extraordinary deposit. He’s already in a meeting with three other senior directors, trying to figure out why RBS has, in one way or another, just chucked nearly a trillion bucks at his bank, while in the next breath claiming Sohar is insolvent.
“I think,” says the American-educated corporate finance director, “Mr Scheister has had a nervous breakdown. I also think, sir, that it would be appropriate – and earn us some brownie points – if we were to advise some of our co-religionists about the situation.”
Sohar’s CEO agrees, at which point his senior pa bursts in to say a Mr Abdul Ka’mai is in reception with a large retinue “wishing to talk about extraordinary events at the RBS Bank in the UK.”
* * * * *
Abdul Ka’mai enters with bug-sweepers, flunkies, wives etc etc, and explains that Simon Scheister has gone loopy-loo, hence the decision to shift Ka’mai’s entire investment in the bank over to Sohar.
“Perhaps,” he suggests, “it would be a good idea to have a word with the Chancellor, Mr Osborne…in order to update him on, aaa, Mr Scheister’s state of health, as it were”.
“And with Mr Hague, the Foreign Secretary,” agrees Sohar’s CEO, “in relation to unseemly and fantastic threats against our bank.”
“Oh dear,” says Abdul, “It is even worse than I feared”.
Across the road, one of the plotters picks up his mobile, and dials the personal number of his close chum, the Middle Eastern correspondent of the London Financial Times.
“Hi,” he begins, on hearing a familiar voice at the other end, “That story I was talking about last week. I think I can give you the rest of it now..…”
Back in London, RBS’s Chief Cashier insists on talking to his boss this minute – despite a snotty tone in the pa’s voice.
“Yes?” growls the CEO.
“That 450 billion from Ka’mai,” he says without prologue, “he’s just withdrawn it”.
“All of it?”
“All of it”.
Over the next five hours, Simon Scheister’s world, bonus, job and life fall apart before his unbelieving eyes.
The Treasury rings to ask where the collateral has gone.
The Sohar Bank of Oman rings to say they’re reporting him to the International Banking Federation, and sequestering his loan monies.
The Financial Times rings to ask is it true that Scheister has lost $900bn and been reported to the IBF.
The Chancellor rings to ask WTF is going on.
The RBS share-price plummets by 60%.
45% of all commercial investors withdraw their deposits.
The Foreign Office rings demanding to know why seventeen lucrative Oamani contracts have been abruptly cancelled.
47,000 customers clamour outside 203 branches asking for their cash right away.
RBS is frozen out of all borrowing markets everywhere.
Sterling loses an average of 7% against all other currencies with the exception of the Iranian Ryal.
And Muhammed Kemal Rahman, the swindled British SME entrepreneur formerly known as Abdul, Sultan of Ka’mai, approaches a desperate Bank of England with an offer to take over the entire RBS Group and all its liabilities for One Pound.
His offer is gratefully (and hastily) accepted.
So beware, all you Emporikis, Scheisters, Treasury mandarins, central bankers and political plonkers. Two can play at the cheating game.