"I had heard the country of Africa was pretty corrupt, but there are just suitcases fully of money for those with the wherewithal and Foreigner status to claim them. That's business. Caveat emporium. Their loss is my gain..."

dear diary
by bill carney


Dear Diary:

Great news today! Just when I feared the whole internet goldrush was over, a bolt appeared from the blue, mannah and wild quail dropped from heaven, and my virtuous life has at last been rewarded. Fasten your seatbelt because this is BIG. Amidst the usual cluster of viagra and penis enlargement ads, I received an e-mail to me from one Dr. Oli Ben regarding an "Urgent Business Proposal." "It is with a heart full of hope that I rite soliciting for your strict confidential and top secret," the gentle Dr. Ben wrote. "I am sorry if this proposal comes to you as an embassarment [sic- what language do they speaky in Nigeria anywho?] but be rest assured I that I got your particuliers [French!] of contact from our foreign office of Nigeria Chambers of Commerce and Industries, who assured me of your ability and reliability to execute a transaction of great magnitude." Of all the gin joints in the world, Dr. Ben had to write to this one!

I am not exactly sure how I got to be known to the Nigeria Better Business Bureau but here I can't get the paperboy to take a check from me. In Africa I am known and qualified for what they like to call great magnitude transactions. This one to the tune of 60 million dollarinos. There is a catch. Namely that I only get to keep 25 percent of the take. Also there is some fine print about telephone bills and transportation costs that I am not completely happy with as I did not just fall off the turnip truck, but I will talk about that with Mr. Ben later as ALL OF THE MONEY will be transferred to my account initially, and then trustworthily I will give him his cut (70 percent) to share with his friends in Africa.

Dr. Ben is not just a doctor (whatever that means in Africa; does he shrink heads?) but he is also an accountant with Beacon Ltd. Foreign Oil Company based in Nigeria, which I think I have heard of. While our American accountants are not always trustworthy, I have never heard of any improprieties involving African accountants, much less Doctors of Accounting so I think it is all kosher. Beacon (sometimes Dr. Ben spells it Beagon) is big into prospecting, drilling and bunkering of oil at high sea (offshore!) with some expatriates who made an illegal sale of oil through a security company but with a security stamp on it.

Anyways, because I am apparently known in Africa as a straight shooter and am a Foreigner (unlike America, Africa is not a free country and I guess there are lots of rules in Africa about what the citizens can and can't do), even though these expats (as they are called) ripped them off, a trustworthy Foreigner such as myself will "benefit earnestly" from this 100% risk-free transaction. Dr. Ben has the "entire necessary document" to prove the money is mine or ours.

***

Dear Diary:

When it rains it pours! No sooner did I reply to Dr. Ben's e-mail than I find myself with numerous other offers to consider. I am at last diversifying my portfolio. So long Starbucks! Workers you have nothing to lose but the shackles of yet another grande iced frappucino. Right up the old kazoo pal. Received an e-mail from Mr. Gabrial Christoper (British?) the Director in Charge of Auditing and Accounting Section of Continental Bank Cotonou- Benin Republic in West Africa which I seem to recall is in the western part of Africa. I had heard the country of Africa was pretty corrupt, but there are just suitcases fully of money for those with the wherewithal and Foreigner status to claim them. That's business. Caveat emporium. Their loss is my gain.

According to Mr. Christopher, this money (just 17.2 million) was part of the famous December 26, 1998 Airline Transafrik International disaster in Angola. Some rich dude, his entire family, including his wife (just one?), 2 children and maid were all wiped out meaning that the money has been lying in what the banks call dormant. Mr. Christopher has been keeping this secret but was finally able to unburden his soul to yours truly. As is now well known to me, because Christopher is a civil servant operating a foreign account would "eventually raise an eyebrow" over there. Apparently things are so out of hand that they even have guys watching the bank auditors. This time I have the Cotonou-Benin Chamber of Commerce on Foreign Business Relations to thank for alerting Mr. Christopher to my complete willingness to accept the money * in exchange for my usual fee. I am well known for being able to champion a business of such magnitude, as they say over there. Has word spread already from Nigeria to Cotonou-Benin so fast?

I guess that's why they call it the Information Age.

Truth be told, while two days ago 30 percent of 17.2 million smackers would have seemed like good money, I kind of feel like it is chump change now. I can't say I am completely insulted and realize that Cotonou-Benin is probably a poorer and less happening part of Africa than Nigeria, but at this point I've got to keep my eyes on the big picture. We are talking about my future here, possibly retirement, and business is business and I've got to look out for Numero Uno. Why choose the Lexus when the Hummer II is available?

At the same time I received an offer from a Mr. (Mrs.?) Ewe Robertson (note to self, tell him/her the "Hey McCloud, get off my Ewe!" joke) who is the Bills/Exchange Manager at the Foreign Remittance Department of the Intercontinental Trust Bank Africa PLC (ICTBA,PLC). There are 60 million "abandoned dollars" over there and quite frankly they need my help. Yes, but it will cost you, you Ewe you. I had heard these guys did all their banking at the World Bank, but I guess they got a lot of other little banks running around there just as we have both Citibank and the other one. These other accounts in the small fry banks get forgotten about. No wonder everyone over there is so poor.

This 60 million was from a 1994 "ghastly plane crash." I have heard that Third World travel is a little chancy at times. The deceased was a Foreigner and I am also a foreigner and Ewe feels I should be able to put in a claim as next of kin to the deceased since we are both ultimately Foreigners. I feel at bottom we are all related in the human family so this seems perfectly on the up and up to me. Robertson is a little bit of a shyster in my humble opinion as he is insisting on 80 percent, though there is no mention of hidden surcharges however as with the good Dr. Oli "Oily Ben" Ben. I checked and his medical degree is not from a U.S. school.

***

Dear Diary:

While I spent much of yesterday in a quandary thinking "how to choose, how to choose," and regretting that I had been so hasty to snap at the very first offer from Dr. Oily Ben I suddenly had a brainstorm. Eureka. I realized that I was not limited to one business transaction, but I could say yes to Dr. Ben, Mr. Christopher and Mr. Robertson. You can have it all. In business there are no rules. I figure there is little chance that places as far apart as Nigeria and West Africa would communicate. Soon I will be bale to buy and sell both Donald Trump and Heidi Klum. A couple more deals like this and who knows. Mayor?

***

Dear Diary:

The word is out, at least in Africa. The dim continent. They are pretty much lining up to line my bank account. Heard today from one Gerald Savimbi in a STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL e-mail. Gerald is the son of Jonas Malheiro Savimbi, who you Dear Diary will remember was the former President of the Republic of Angola back when being Angolan meant you was rollin. Apparently word of my incredible credibility and trustworthiness has spread to the Internet Business Journal. Anywho, Gerald and his brother were sent out of the country with a diplomatic bag crammed with 75 million smackerinos meant to buy arms and munitions during the ongoing rebellion over there. Because he could not open a bank account in Lome-Togo, Gerald deposited the bag with a Security Company. I'm going to Togo and open a Non-Residence Account, and the money will be transferred there. I get the usual 25% and Gerald and his crowd split the rest. Nice work if you can get it, though I am not crazy about traveling to Togo.

Also, an e-mail from my new friend Mr. Barrister Aaron Oshoike (LLB) of Lagos. One of Mr. Barrister's "clients" would like me to handle and receive a cool 15 million. I said sure as I am thinking I would like a larger apartment here in Brooklyn and could probably get a 2 bedroom with that. At this point, I think we might need to renegotiate my handling fee as upon further reflection, the 25% doesn't seem completely fair. I am the one who has the burden of responding, accepting the money, and maintaining confidentiality. But nothing has ever come easy for me.

***

Dear Diary:

Speaking of Togo (We have met the enemy and he is us), got e-mail from Mr. Sollo Madu, Director of Finance Contract Awarding Committee of Economic Community of West African States. Ho-Hum. Passed it along to my staff as today is golf day. Also meeting with Pacino re my movie project, working title: Urgent Business Proposal. Was somewhat bummed to learn Richard Burton is dead. Where are the leaves of Autumn? Pacino will have to do. He is "interested" but wants his 30 million up front. Is it only in Africa where my name is good as gold?

***

Dear Diary:

I'm a little worried about Mott. I gave him the John Bello, Bank Manager of Orient Bank of Nigeria, Lagos Branch, account and told him explicitly it was to be handled with the usual strict confidence and trustworthiness. Also, that our fee is now 45%. Take it or leave it. When Heidi, Natasha, Scarlet, Laeititia and I returned from Spago (Brooklyn), it was arguably true I had had one too many negronis, but Mott made me feel like he is skimming. The alternative is responding to these dreary e-mails myself and even at 15 million a pop, I just cannot deal with it anymore. Not when the ladies find me so wonderful. Paranoid? Must have Systems Information Analyst read Mott's e-mails. Also, tap the phones.

Also. Note to Self: Put young Phipps on Aduza Bovi account. It's a fairly straightforward civil servant-handling- large- sum *of- abandoned- money- for- Banque- Togolaise-needs-foreigner- to- open- account kind of situation but a good place for him to get his feet wet. I like the cut of Phipps jib but this will be the real acid test trial by fire of sinking or swimming for him. Sending him over on Airline Transafrick International tonite as I need the money to make Mets payroll payment pronto.

***

Dear Diary:

After all those years in the modeling business I guess it's not surprising Laeititia has a way with men. Her feminine wiles and one too many negronis and poof she's running all the accounts in Ivory Coast. Well she's a tough cookie and those Ivory Coast guys are no choir boys so it is a good match. Turns out Lagos is in Nigeria. It's Togo that is some separate place and Africa is not one country but a whole bunch of little ones with different languages and everything. Nobody talks about that. It's crazy.

***

Dear Diary:

Received somewhat "disturbing" e-mail today. Initially, I was rather happy to get an e-mail from the Democratic Republic of Sahara. My correspondent, Mr. Kakamani (what a cockamamie name!) Rakabas, after the usual rigamarole begging for my help, trust and sincerity as a human being (I'm only one man!) wrote these words. Brace yourself Dear Diary:

PLEASE HELP ME FOR THIS IS NOT SPAM. SPAM IS MAINLY FROM NIGERIA AND LEBANON. IT IS ALL OVER THE INTERNET AND WE ARE ALL AWARE OF THEIR TRICKS. MY LETTER TO YOU LOOKS AND HAS THE SAME TONE OF SCAM E-MAILS BUT IT IS NOT MY PLEA TO YOU IS GENUINE.

I felt as if a veil had been lifted from my eyes. How could I be so naïve! What a fool I had been to not remember the first rule of confidence games, namely if a deal looks to good to be true, then it probably is.

I should have realized that if Nigeria had this much money to throw around, Lebanon was also a lucrative market. How could I have completely ignored the Lebanese market when they undoubtedly needed a trusty capital F Foreigner to give their money too. But how could I crack the Lebanon market? Why was I listed in all of the chamber of commerces and internet business referral sites in Nigeria, but not in Lebanon? Maybe it was time to look for a partner. Perhaps I should send Mott over there. In the meantime, there was no choice but to deal with this Rakabas character myself, to telephone and "rub minds" together, as he put it. "Trust needs to be developed between us" indeed. Rakabas holds the key to the vast Lebanese market but I am leery. His e-mail sounds like a scam. I've never heard of their being so much excess money in the Republic of Western Sahara. I think he meant to say spam but said scam instead, that's what we call a Freudian skip in my country. You have said a mouthful with your scam spam. And loose lips sink ships Mr.Rakabas, even ships in the Western Sahara.


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