The rise of the online gold digger

Gorgeous young women seek older men with GSOH - and loads of cash.

The sugar-daddy business is booming. Seeking Arrangement, a popular American website, has just launched in Britain. It is for young women who want to be taken care of by rich older men and rich older men who want the reverse. Like other such sites, it offers a market place where its members can engage in what Julia Llewellyn Smith in The Sunday Telegraph calls "brutally brazen transactions". On mainstream dating sites, "members witter about soul mates'. On gold-digging websites the talk is of no-strings' arrangements."

There are plenty such sites around. Seeking Arrangement, founded ten years ago, now has a million members on its American site and it already has 100,000 in Britain. If you're a woman it's free, if you're a man it's £31 a month, ensuring that women outnumber men ten to one. Some of the women are very frank about what they want: Gorgeous', who is 23, blonde and British, expects $5,000 to $10,000 a month from a sugar daddy; Sugar Baby', 25, sets the bar higher: she wants $10,000 to $20,000.

"Girls on this site can meet some incredibly interesting and powerful men," says Brandon Wade, the founder. He cheerfully fends off the criticism that it's a bit shallow: "I think all relationships start off in a very superficial manner. Humans are controlled by genes and hormones. Men want gorgeous women and women tend to look at men in terms of how successful they are."

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As Llewellyn Smith says, the idea of gold-digging is hardly new, and while the feminist revolution may have caused chasing wealth to be frowned upon, the wheel has come full circle. "In the Victorian era it was respectable to marry for security," says clinical psychologist Sheila Keegan. "I was brought up in the hippy era, so for me talking about money was tacky. But now women are just more pragmatic. Greed is no longer perceived as a bad thing."

One recruit to Seeking Arrangement is Nikki Howarth, 26, from Nottinghamshire. A former model, she now runs a successful events-management company. So why join up? "I've always had a thing about older men," she says. "I'm mature and I've done a lot, but guys my age are all about Here's my number, now text me', and then they take me to Nando's." She's had some happy meetings via Seeking Arrangement. One "really nice" man "took me away to a fantastic, luxurious spa in the Lake District. I used to ring him about business and he gave me great advice."

Helen Croydon, 34, a London-based writer with a degree in Japanese, joined five years ago, and later Seeking Arrangement. Her experiences are all in her book, Sugar Daddy Diaries, which, "depending on your perspective", says Llewellyn Smith, are "ultra-glamorous or super-seedy". Croydon believes women like to be "spoiled" and men to spoil. And with sites like Seeking Arrangement (unlike escort agencies), there has to be a mutual attraction.

Tabloid money the bank of choice for money-laundering

"Have you seen that TV advert for the HSBC bank?" asks Rod Liddle in The Sun. "It shows a little kid, probably Hispanic, doing odd jobs to raise a little bit of money, which he shares with his mum in their hovel. Is this representative of the sort of people who bank with HSBC? In truth, the kid should be shown flogging crack cocaine to his school chums, instead of mowing the lawn. Or decapitating rival dealers with a machete, instead of walking the dogs. That would be much more fun to watch and more accurate, too.

"It's just been revealed that HSBC was the bank of choice for a multi-billion-dollar money-laundering scheme for drug barons. It either knew about this and kept schtum, or didn't ask too many questions, apparently. They're great, aren't they, the banks? So greedy they'll stop at nothing to maximise their profits money laundering, fraud, gambling vast sums on ludicrous schemes. And they still won't lend money to our small businesses."

"Latest accounts for BBC Worldwide, the BBC's commercial arm, show chief executive John Smith earned £898,000 in the last financial year, making him the BBC's highest paid chief executive," says Ephraim Hardcastle in the Daily Mail.

"Amazingly, they also reveal Smith has time for a second job non-executive director of fashion house Burberry which earns him a further £70,000. I wonder if moneybags Smith is on PAYE or paid through his own company la Jeremy Paxman and a number of other top BBC stars?"

"A divorced man who had his wedding ring melted down and turned into a witch's hat to use when he played Monopoly was well outdone by the divorcee who had hers transformed into a golden pig to hang on a bracelet," says Karren Brady in The Sun. "Me? If ever necessary, I'd be very boring and keep mine in a safe. After all, I bought it myself."