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'If I wanted to run, would I still be here?'

Former business partner says she's a victim too


UPSET: Madam Joan Chua (above), who was unable to fulfil the bag orders placed by Miss Serene Zhao as her supplier suddenly went missing. She found fliers warning her to pay up. - TNP PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

She quit her job as a cosmetics salesgirl to sell luxury bags online.

By just sending e-mails and text messages from home, Madam Joan Chua found that she could make $6,000 a month. Her previous sales job paid her only half that amount and required her to stand for hours selling beauty products.

But barely three months into her home-based business, her supplier from Europe, whom she has never met and knows only as Thomas, became uncontactable.

He failed to deliver about 20 bags to her and stopped replying to her e-mails. Calls and text messages to his mobile phone went unanswered.

Madam Chua said: "You could say I'm gullible, but I don't have a sense of danger. In this line, it's based on trust."

That misplaced trust was the beginning of a downward spiral that saw Madam Chua being sued in the High Court by her business partner, Miss Serene Zhao, in October last year.

In a settlement in September this year, she agreed to pay Miss Zhao $550,000.

But while she tried to gather the money to pay her, Madam Chua claimed that Miss Zhao started stirring up trouble at her flat in Punggol, where she lives with her husband and two children.

FLIERS ON DOOR

Twice last month, she found fliers with a photo of her and her son stuck on her main door and the lift landing, which she suspected was Miss Zhao's doing.

Miss Zhao has denied this and said that it could be the work of an angry customer.

Madam Chua has filed a magistrate's complaint and the former business partners must go for mediation next month.

She was also upset by photos of her family appearing on Miss Zhao's blog earlier this month.

"It's too extreme. This is really uncalled for. I'm not saying I'm innocent, but this is not the way to go about doing things.

"I'm standing up (for myself) because my family is being implicated," said Madam Chua.

"I understand the pain that Serene is going through, but I'm a victim myself. I'm not living any better than she is.

"She knows where I live and where to look for me. If I had wanted to run, would I still be here?"

She said that she agreed last month to pay Miss Zhao $500, then $1,000 the next month through the debt collector, but held off making the payment after Miss Zhao's blog entries.

She said that she has since been trying to reach Miss Zhao's debt collector to pay up, but to no avail.

She is going for job interviews and hopes to start working as soon as possible.

"I will try to save up $2,000 monthly. By March or April, I should be able to gather $8,000 by scrimping and saving," Madam Chua said.

I understand the pain that Serene is going through, but I'm a victim myself. I'm not living any better than she is. She knows where I live and where to look for me.

- Madam Joan Chua