A few weeks ago my partner Rob received a letter from China which began;
I am Harvey Mbu, A Private Investment Manager, I am getting in touch with you regarding the estate of William CONOLLY, an investment placed under my management over 10 years ago, I would respectfully request that you keep the contents of this mail confidential.
In 1997, William came to me and had a series of talks. He informed us that he had a financial portfolio of 17.5 Million United States Dollars and he wanted us to manage these funds for him.
The funds were invested. In mid 2002 he instructed that the principal (US$17.5 million) be liquidated and transferred as cash to China where he had to make an urgent investment requiring cash.
Now according to Mr Mbu, word came in 2008 that the funds had never been claimed by William and when he investigated he discovered that his client had been killed in a hiking accident in China! Apparently William Conolly died intestate. ‘People Finders’ were employed but poor William had no next of kin and as Rob shares his family name he will be made sole beneficiary.
Mr Mbu proposed that he would continue to handle all the administration of the estate in return for half the funds… representing a fee of around US$ 8.75 million! He justified this by saying he had worked hard for William and was still owed his percentage for services rendered:
I am a family man, with a wife and children, I send you this mail not without a measure of fear as I don’t know how you would accept my proposal, but I know within me they “nothing ventured is noting gained” and that success and riches never comes easy or on a platter of gold.
The weird thing is that Rob’s distant ancestor was also William Conolly, Speaker of the Irish House of Commons. He was born in 1662, the son of a Donegal innkeeper. William became a solicitor, then a barrister before entering parliament. He made a fortune following the Glorious Revolution, when the Crown confiscated the estates of supporters of King James II. 600,000 Irish acres were forfeited and sold at low cost to help pay for the war. William was the largest individual buyer and amassed huge estates in ten Irish counties. His annual income was estimated at £25,000. Jonathan Swift once said that Speaker Conolly would need 240 horses to transport his half yearly rents from Dublin to Castletown, the 100 room Palladian mansion he built at Celbridge.
Although the house required an extensive staff, the servants’ wages created only a tiny dent in Speaker William’s income. For example the butler was paid £13 per annum and the kitchen maid a minute £3.
We always wondered where the family money went. Obviously our long lost cousin William ended up with it!
I drafted the following email in response to Mr Mbus’ letter as a little test of his sincerity :
Dear Mr Mbu
Thank you for your most interesting letter. Before we proceed any further, I wonder whether you could tell me the exact circumstances of poor William’s death, and the location of his last resting place? We would very much like to make a pilgrimage to his grave as a mark of respect. We may even arrange to have his body returned to Ireland, which was surely his spiritual home.
Unfortunately the sceptical Rob forbids me to send the email! So there the matter …and all that lovely lolly, rests.