A Norwegian citizen has recalled an unpleasant experience during her student days in Malaysia after befriending a man more than twice her age with a “Datuk” title who convinced her to part with tens of thousands of ringgit in savings, telling her it was for an “investment” in his company and promising lucrative returns.
Lisa Lopez, who is now 25, said she had enrolled as a student at a prominent private university in Kuala Lumpur some five years ago, hoping to complete a business management degree in three years.
She had just turned 21 when she met the man, an outgoing businessman who is close to several high-profile politicians in Malaysia.
MalaysiaNow is withholding the identity of the businessman pending further confirmation of the documents it has secured.
Lopez said she was immediately taken in by the businessman who praised her for her “potential and intelligence”, adding that this struck her as meaningful as she was seldom praised for her intellectual abilities.
Adding that she was naive, Lopez said the sight of the man being driven in his Rolls Royce further convinced her that he was a successful businessman, although some months later she discovered that he had been renting the car.
She said the man offered her an internship with his company which she gladly accepted, thinking it was an opportunity to work in major projects involving politicians and large companies.
“I was quite naive, I saw the best in people and I wanted to see the best in people that sometimes I ignored my intuitions,” Lopez said in a recent interview which she gave for a motivational video on self-empowerment on social media.
Lopez said she soon began travelling with the businessman, including to the US where they met with powerful politicians and businessmen.
“They included the then governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, as well as companies we were supposed to work with in North Carolina,” she told MalaysiaNow.
She said apart from “recycling” and “real estate” projects, she was even made to believe that the businessman was working on a joint movie production involving Netflix.
“At least that’s what he told me. He said that his daughter and I would have roles in this movie that was to be made in cooperation with a big Australian producer and Netflix,” said Lopez.
It was then that he suggested that she invest in his company.
In one meeting, he dropped the name of a Hollywood celebrity whom he said had also invested, and phoned the actor in front of her to prove that he was telling the truth.
She said she had withdrawn about RM70,000 from her savings.
But even more puzzling was that the businessman told her to hand over some of the money in cash.
“Later I found out that he used my ‘investment money’ to charter a private jet,” said Lopez, adding that the businessman had promised her a 40% return on investment.
She said after parting with her money, she received an email from one “Tom” of the same company, who assured her that her money had been deposited into “our investment account”.
“I don’t know if this Tom exists or if this was just the same guy sending it from a fake email,” she said.
Lopez said she heard shocking news one day from another person who had also invested money with the businessman, informing her that all of the money she invested had “gone”.
The person also advised her to leave the country as her life could be in danger from those associated with the businessman.
He claimed that she could be his next victim for knowing “too much” about his activities.
Lopez said she was at a loss, feeling ashamed and angry, and that she had sought an escape through unhealthy activities including drugs.
She said it was some time before she was able to get her life under control.
“I was a student at this time, but I invested all my savings that I had been working for since I was 15. The amount was still small compared to other people he scammed, but tens of thousands of ringgit,” she told MalaysiaNow.
Lopez said she got back her money after several exchanges with the businessman.
But even after she left, she said, he still tried to lure her back to the country, this time promising her a full scholarship with Nottingham University Malaysia by transferring her credits from her previous college.
“I felt unsafe going back, so I never returned to Malaysia,” said Lopez.