The symmetry of emotional and financial fraud

BY ROSEMARY MCLEOD
Last updated 08:17 25/03/2010

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Rosemary McLeod

Placenta-eating not for this mammal Then and now - teens are still misunderstood Purge as Henry burns in fire of public odium We all have our dark sides, including Superman The symmetry of emotional and financial fraud Porn hoarder far worse than contrite Brooke A life less ordinary and much less pleasant At last, a reason to be merry this Christmas You can tell a lot just by looking at Paul Henry The confusing signals teens must decipher

OPINION: I know, I know, it's wrong of me - but I have gazed at the unusual, not to say challenging, facial features of Stephen Versalko for the past week, and marvelled at how that goofy blandness wangled him $17.8 million.

If he'd been suave and handsome, I'd have believed it easily, but he is neither - hence, maybe, his effectiveness as a fraudster. He just slipped under the radar, and skipped away with old women's money to play with, knowing he'd get caught one day, a suitable time for remorse to set in.

It's not Versalko's fault the way he looks, but I have to say a woman of his age would have quickly rectified any extreme facial irregularities if she got her hands on that much money. Yet such is the nature of men that they always believe they look better than they do, while we always think we look worse. And besides, a certain kind of man seems happy to pay for sex, to the tune of millions, the way he did, while we insist that men maybe really like us a bit.

We'll have to work on this attitude if we want true equality. Who cares what they think, so long as they pretend, right? And I do like the idea of a financial fraudster buying emotional fraud from women. It's so symmetrical.

I marvel, too, at how Versalko's magic still seems to work on his wife, who's reportedly standing by her man as he starts his jail term, rather than cutting and running as a sensible woman should. There are times when loyalty doesn't amount to an awful lot, and in the face of his extreme disloyalty over a decade - how about giving millions to prostitutes, and taking one on a luxury holiday to Dubai? - loyalty is hardly appropriate. It is a doormat reaction, a paucity of imagination verging on collusion, because nothing can make what he did right, and he should be forced to see that. If his family won't make it clear, who will?

* * *

Of all the stories that spring up around male criminals, the ones that enrage me are the ones just like this, the backgrounds of misery repressed, a brave face put on things, the idea of holding together a family that is screaming dysfunction, for what? What the neighbours might say? Pride? Or is it some kind of denial? Making excuses is what so many people do best, rather than allowing themselves to feel uncomfortable about friends and family who get caught with their hands in the till. That is why we continue to have a financial climate that has proved so disastrous for so many trusting investors.

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There's no point in harking back to former times, but there was a certain charm, once, in the idea that if a man disgraced himself, he disgraced his whole family. It acted as a powerful deterrent when a man knew his wife would no longer be welcome at her tennis club, or his kids at their private schools.

But we seem to have lost the idea of shame itself, let alone retribution. Versalko seems to lack shame entirely - a clue as to how he could do what he did. Otherwise how could he seriously be offering his services to the fraud team at the bank he cheated and the Serious Fraud Office? Or was he joking?

Versalko's friends and family mostly rally round - though a sister- in-law has talked sense - because they say he's a good fellow despite being a dishonest fellow, and because they can disregard his double life as a big spender, as if it wasn't the real man who did it.

Then who was it? Do they really know him at all?

* * *

I equate this willing step into unreality with the leniency a jury showed the Ploughshares protesters last week, acquitting them of causing a million dollars in damage to the so-called spy base at Waihopai.

The jury bought their defence of noble intentions, setting aside their admitted intention to destroy, let alone their intellectual arrogance. No doubt the jury would have thought quite differently if a group of Mongrel Mob prospects had done the same thing.

This was in essence a bad hair and jumpers defence, to judge from the scragginess of the protesters, and it proves decisively that we can no longer rely on juries to deliver common sense.

They're far too keen these days on taking the mickey.

- The Dominion Post

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