Diggers fleeced by lovers
Edmund Burke – NEWS.com.au October 15, 2006
An investigation by The Sunday Mail has found some soldiers have had up to $50,000 taken from joint bank accounts by greedy partners.
The problem has become so widespread the Defence Department now gives departing troops advice on how to protect their cash while they are overseas.
"It is out of control. You will not meet a single soldier that doesn't know someone this has happened to," one Iraq veteran told The Sunday Mail.
"It is terrible for morale because no matter how much you trust your partner . . . that fear is lurking in the back of your mind. You don't want to be watching your back in some desert and worrying about what's going on back home."
An army private can make about $2000 a week during a tour of duty in deadly war zones, such as Iraq and Afghanistan. During a six-month deployment in a war zone, a private can make more than $50,000 tax free.
A Hervey Bay veteran said he was three months into a six-month tour of East Timor when he returned home on a relief visit in 2001 and discovered his partner of four years had taken $18,000 and all his furniture.
The 26-year-old, who has left the army and is now a truck driver, says he could do nothing about it.
"I spoke to an army solicitor and he said if I stayed to fight it I could maybe miss out on the next three months' pay and end up with nothing," he said.
"In those days we weren't given any warning about it, but the guys going overseas now are given briefings on how to protect their money from their partners."
A military instructor said warnings were provided by civilian experts brought in to brief troops on all aspects of financial management. He said he knew of at least five soldiers who had been fleeced by their partners in the past three years.
He said a close friend serving in Iraq came home to find his partner had left him and taken $50,000.
"It's a real problem for the younger guys because they can be a bit naive where women are concerned," he said. "They might be with someone for a few months and are moved up to somewhere like Darwin and the girl comes with them.
"The next thing you know they are going overseas and sending money home to their partner. The partner feels stranded, then she sees all this money coming in and she cuts her losses and runs."
Even soldiers that have been happily married for years are being encouraged to protect their money from their spouses.
"It's a tricky situation because you don't want your partner to think you don't trust her, but you have to be smart as well," another soldier said.
"We're told the best thing to do is put some of the money in a joint account and the bulk of it in a private account that can only be accessed by ourselves."
A Defence spokesman yesterday confirmed that troops were given financial advice before being deployed overseas.
"As part of comprehensive pre-deployment training, ADF personnel are advised to ensure that they make appropriate arrangements to ensure that their financial commitments are managed while they are deployed," he said.
The spokesman said free legal advice was available to all ADF personnel but that ultimately management of their finances was their responsibility.
Last updated 18/10/2006