Sunday Report: The weirdest things happening in Slovenia (March 23-29)

Ever heard that urban legend where a sexual predator pretends to be a cop so that he can pounce on unsuspecting, usually-but-not-necessarily-female lone drivers? The one which isn’t really an urban legend but a cautionary tale inspired by true events? Well, the Slovenian general population may be mostly harmless, save for our ability to whine the joy de vivre right out of you, but our criminals don’t like to stay behind their foreign role models and it was just a matter of time before somebody figured out that a similar ruse just might work. A man barely into his twenties – these types do tend to start early – had been passing himself off as a plain-clothes police officer, harassing and unlawfully searching at least five females, of whom he sexually assaulted two and raped one, a young girl under the age of fifteen at that. Luckily for him, our judiciary system is a joke and he was sentenced to 4 years and 10 months in prison. What can I say, we’re super European in our reluctance to hand out proper punishment. While a story of another fake cop who tried to make a quick buck by stopping motorists and fining them for real or imagined traffic offences is still fresh (and quite funny), it must be said that people impersonating police officers remain a rare occurrence in Slovenia. But here, and for that matter anywhere else, it just might be wise to phone the police and check if the cop you’re dealing with is a real one before things go too far.  

Another unfolding story is that of our Swiss-franc borrowers. The majority of them seem to be ordinary folks who tried to buy a roof over their heads but ended up owing more than their mortgaged roof could possibly be worth after the Swiss Central Bank decided to do away with the currency cap. Unsurprisingly, the Swiss franc shot up like crazy and the borrowers, who had been earning their salaries and repaying their franc-denominated loans in Euros, found their debt had suddenly burgeoned to an alarming size, to put it mildly. It is claimed that some have seen their instalments and their principal rise by as much as 50% and 70%, respectively. Now they’re protesting and demanding the government and the Bank of Slovenia help them before they lose everything. Well you can’t have a decent protest without a backlash and many people were quick to call the Swiss borrowers speculators, remind them how smug some of them felt when things were still going their way, and vent their anger about everybody expecting somebody else to take care of problems they had brought upon themselves. I’m not sure what to think. When I wanted to buy a flat I had the wisdom to take out the loan in the same currency I earned most of my money in. But I was already aware of the concept of currency risk because I had seen the funny dance between the Euro and US dollar and the very real consequences it had on my business. I do not believe that most of the people who took out loans in Swiss francs had much clue as to what could happen if their little gamble didn’t pay off. Had the Swiss borrowers acted as speculators? Yes, what they did was the exact definition of speculation. But did they know they were speculating and betting their future on the whim of exchange rates? From what I heard, definitely not. Now what? The borrowers haven’t ruled out the option of taking the banks to court for misleading them and failing to disclose vital information; this should be interesting.

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