Contrary to the photo above, there is nothing particularly shady about James Loh.
Nonetheless, the private investigator (PI) has declined to reveal his exact age, but instead tells me that he is in his 40s.
For obvious reasons, Loh is also unable to show his face in media reports.
But when it comes to his job scope and the cases he's dealt with (Taiwanese drama material, honestly), the PI is quite extravagant with the details.
A PI for almost 17 years
Loh, who has been a PI for almost 17 years, set up his firm International Investigators about five years ago.
In the course of his career, he's encountered plenty of compelling, even jaw-dropping cases.
About 60 per cent of these are matrimonial cases, while the other 40 per cent are corporate cases.
Reunion dinner with a "friend"
One of the more memorable matrimonial cases, I was told, involved a high-profile lawyer who had cheated on his wife.
"I cannot tell you the name lah, but it was in the newspapers. If you want to find out you can go check yourself," Loh says.
The husband had given his wife the flimsy excuse that he was eating reunion dinner with a "friend", which left her (and everyone else, really) sceptical.
Subsequently, the wife, who was usually in charge of booking the family's flights, logged in to their KrisFlyer account, only to see that a flight to Penang had been booked under her husband and another woman's name.
The woman was his mistress. She was also an ex-stewardess, I learnt.
Perhaps a result of his experience in such cases, Loh semi-jokes that air stewardess tend to go for men in business class seats.
"Economy one they kick one side. They want to aim, aim business one." We laugh.
The story, however, hasn't ended.
It turns out that the man had committed not just adultery, but also bigamy.
This means that he had married his mistress in Penang, and even went public with their relationship.
The mistress was also pregnant.
Yet the man's wife -- the original one -- only pursued the case of adultery, and not bigamy.
The reason was due to the fact that the couple had an adopted daughter, and the husband had allegedly threatened to reveal the daughter's adoptive status to the child if his wife did not comply.
Followed target to Vietnam
However, Loh shares that there are usually less matrimonial cases around Chinese New Year, as spouses tend to "close one eye" in light of the family gatherings coming up.
Simply put, any absences during the festive gatherings are bound to be conspicuous, and most people wouldn't want their nosy relatives finding out that their marriage is falling apart.
But that doesn't stop people from being unfaithful, we guess.
A couple of years ago, Loh's company had accepted a case where a father-in-law was checking up on his Vietnamese daughter-in-law.
The daughter-in-law had said that she was returning to her country for reunion dinner instead of eating with her husband's family, which aroused some suspicion in them.
A PI deployed by Loh then followed the woman all the way back to her village in Vietnam -- on the eve of Chinese New Year, no less -- and found her having her reunion dinner with a lover.
The PI's journey wasn't the easiest, either, as the village roads were not well-paved, and there was no such thing as street lights in the area.
To top it off, the PI had to go hungry while others had their reunion dinner, as all the F&B stalls were closed thanks to the holidays.
In light of these matrimonial cases, Loh reveals that most cheating cases lead to divorce.
Which was why the story of a woman who had engaged Loh's company since 2012 , but only got divorced relatively recently, stood out.
The woman had forgiven her husband multiple times, despite his cheating tendencies.
"One thing is he no late night one. He only do during office hours," the PI reveals of his findings.
Even after finding out about the other woman, the wife did not confront her husband.
Until she found out about the second other woman, which we presume took place after her husband broke up with the original third party.
The kicker? The second mistress already had a husband of her own.
When asked how many times his client's husband was caught for his infidelity, Loh just shakes his head and says, "lost count".
"Until we tired," Loh says emphatically.
If you've always thought that the services of a PI were ridiculously expensive, well, it really depends on the case.
For local cases, Loh's company charges by the number of hours spent on the case, including surveillance and stake-outs.
Each hour will set you back S$80 to S$120, and there is a minimum purchase of 10 hours.
It is unlikely for a case to be closed within 10 hours, though.
If you wish for two investigators to be on the case, that is possible as well, although the fee will be doubled.
As for cases that require a PI to be overseas, rates are calculated by the number of nights.
This also depends on a number of factors, both foreseeable and unforeseeable, such as the country's region and its riskiness, as well as things like flight delays.
Loh once quoted a client S$35k for three nights in Holland, to give you an idea. That was apparently an over-quote, though.
What it takes to be a PI
If the stories above have sufficiently intrigued you to consider a career in private investigation, here's what it takes to become one yourself.
Here are the pre-requisites:
- Singaporean or Permanent Resident
- No criminal record
- Attend the WSQ (Workforce Skills Qualifications) PI course, and pass the related examination
The last requirement is a five-day course.
However, there are no rigorous physical tests, no lessons in espionage; instead, one learns how to navigate Singapore's legal minefield for the purposes of surveillance and evidence logging (among other things).
You can sign up for it here, incidentally. #SkillsFuture
On the other hand, to own an agency like Loh does, one will need at least three years of experience in being a PI.
As for how Loh became a PI, the story starts with his job at an advertising agency about 20 years ago, where he handled the accounts for private investigation companies.
Loh wanted to change jobs when the agency underwent a restructuring, and a PI that he had become acquainted with offered him a place at his company.
And that was that.
Almost 17 years on, Loh doesn't seem himself leaving the PI industry anytime soon.
"My story can write book one," he says, laughing.
Totally unrelated article
Top image by Mandy How
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