Bali Buyer Beware

CAVEAT EMPTOR! That’s the age-old warning one of many correspondents to this newspaper wrote this week, following a story we ran in our previous edition about a well-known firm in Bali that has been reported to the police over an alleged US$1 million fraud involving the purchase of land.

Other readers wrote in with their experience with the company, Kantor Kita, in Sanur, and we ourselves have heard a litany of accounts but have declined to publish them because they were told second-hand and their sources would not go on the record.

We have in the past published similar stories: foreigners buying land or property here who are allegedly ripped off by unscrupulous lawyers – or those pretending to be lawyers – or businesspeople. Some buyers have just given up in the face of legal uncertainty and perceived corruption and gone home; others are pressing their cases at the courts here.

Our point is that Bali has become almost as famous (infamous, rather) among the expatriate population for being an island of scams and swindles. Who to trust? And, if it all goes wrong, where to turn? Kantor Kita, while yet to be proven culpable, appeared reputable and repeatedly advertised itself and its services in local publications.

It is not difficult to engineer a facade of respectability, of course, but in a place such as Bali that is so small and its communities intrinsically interconnected, frauds are quickly noticed. Those behind them stand no chance of reintegration into society once convicted, or even suspected of wrongdoing. They are forever marked as the criminals they are.

It needs to be noted, as a general point, that the volume and level of alleged deception and cheating by some firms here is stratospheric. These are not suspected small-scale robberies; they are supposed scams that run into dozens of millions of dollars. And the people behind them taint not only themselves and their business sectors, but all Bali.

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