Crims and Commercially Sensitive Cons?

Swindle. Con. Sting. Same thing – just the methods evolve.

Although the All Blacks applauded the crowd in La Plata stadium, I was pleased the darker side of Argy street life was still ferretting a living outside.

The traditional street con ‘the mustard dash’ netted a kiwi cameraman’s 7K camera. A couple of kids run past and throw mustard at the unwary and then a helpful stranger wanders up to dust you off and shout at the kids while fleecing you of every piece of coin you have while you are gormless.
I shared a flat with in Buenos Aires with a recovering cocaine addict who spent a lot of her spare time manufacturing counterfeit currency in her bedroom. She gave me the best advice on how to avoid cons. This was after paying $72 US to have 3 knives sharpened on a peddle pushed bicycle contraption outside my house. Unsolicited and in a hurry I was rushed to agree. He told me it would be ‘dos’ (two) pesos a knife. Which he later insisted was ‘doce’ 12 ‘per side’ and that it was just my crap Spanish that had led to the misunderstanding. As everyone knows a knife has 2 sides. He also had a very scary ‘Uncle’ who was 7 foot 2 and mentally challenged who said he’d come and collect with a crow bar if I didn’t cough the cash. I coughed. The flatmate found this hilarious.

There were only 2 things to avoiding a con she said;

1) Good things always want an audience. Bad things like to happen when there’s no one around. If it looks like a good thing but someone is insisting on no one else knowing – it’s not very good.

2) Beware helpful strangers who insist on anything rushed. No one hurries a good thing.

Two weeks later I was saved from a con thanks to the above tips. Walking through a crowded bus station festooned with knee deep paper trash I spy a wad of US dollars neatly folded in a rubber band at my feet. I stoop to pick it up but a guy with what looks like sump oil on his hair swoops before me. He insists we ‘go somewhere quiet but we’d better go fast – who knows who has already seen us’. “We’ll split the cash he says, it’s only fair. I remember my flatmate and refuse to go – meaning I get to keep my real cash and my backpack.


The raw cheek of the street con might be laughable but it’s a lot more honest than the current version we have here; the corporate con.

A helpful stranger – usually a consultant, approaches the public purse. He pretends that the holders of the purse strings (councillors, ministers, heads of departments) are captains of industry and treats them like private sector dons when really they are employees in drag.

The money is not theirs and won’t really hurt when the invoice comes in.

Too easy. Secrecy is imperative.

Words like “commercially sensitive’, ‘need to know basis’ and legal privilege’ will be tossed about like mustard.

The deal must be signed off quickly – the threat of some unspecified doom awaits the backsliders who dally.

Corporatese will befuddle. Bedazzled public servants and elected representatives can then toss aside boring apps like due diligence and await the brilliant future the helpful stranger has promised.

High tech sewerage systems to subsidise private developments, unsolicited stadiums, art centres and bridges to nowhere are the result.

Give me the mustard any day.

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