Kantor Kita Boss’s Fake Escrow Account: ‘Not Our Responsibility,’ Says Bank

LEGIAN ~ The still-unfolding Kantor Kita disappearing money scandal took another turn when investors said a major bank, Permata Bank, had told them that alleged malfeasance by the business consultancy’s boss, Esti Yuliani also known as Julie Edmond, was not its responsibility.

Kantor Kita had been one of the bank’s leading Bali corporate clients.

Edmond was arrested in June and is still in custody while police probe allegations that she misappropriated millions of dollars in clients’ funds.

Some reports put the figure as high as more than US$10 million.

Kantor Kita’s investment clients were duped into depositing funds into a Kantor Kita account at a Permata Bank branch in Sanur, being told it was an escrow account.

Investors, who were also duped into believing Yuliani was a lawyer, say they were assured by Permata bankers and the bank’s agents that the account to which they were told to send funds was an escrow account.

In fact, as now admitted by Permata, it was a general account, which meant the funds were available to Yuliani and nominated Kantor Kita staff. It is said to be from this account that the missing money was drawn.

Permata Bank, 51 percent owned by the Asia-wide banking giant Standard Chartered, confirmed last week that Kantor Kita was a customer but said the bank had now closed the account.

Its corporate affairs chief, Jakarta-based Leila Djafaar, said:

“Kantor Kita opened an operational account (not an escrow account). Permata Bank is committed to prudent banking principles, adhering to relevant regulations and acting in the best interest of our customers. We´re taking this issue seriously. The account has been closed and we´re investigating the matter.”

Several high-profile property companies and individuals lost money to the scam. Many of Kantor Kita’s smaller clients now face expensive reorganisation of their affairs, including changing nominee titles on property, and associated matters, because Kantor Kita is no longer in business.

Another concern for Kantor Kita’s former customers is accessing documents the company held on their behalf. Last week a post on the Baliblog.com website offered to provide a mobile telephone contact number for people still trying to access documents. It indicated the number had been obtained only with considerable effort.

Yuliani is said to have repaid some of the money stolen in a bid to stave off trial for offences that could result in a lengthy prison term. Other clients are said to have been offered cash-and-property exchange deals.

Shortly before the scandal broke, Kantor Kita announced – in an email to clients, saying it would take effect on April 1 – that it had formed an alliance with a Luxembourg-based boutique financier, the SFM Group.

New signage was erected outside Kantor Kita’s premises on Jl By-Pass Ngurah Rai at Sanur. This was removed when Yuliani was arrested and the scandal became widely known.

SFM Group has an office in Singapore, where it is alleged Yuliani bought property with misappropriated funds, and has done work in Indonesia through its training arm.

When the link with Kantor Kita was announced – by Kantor Kita – it was said Bali would become SFM’s Indonesian headquarters.

The Bali Times has not been able to contact SFM at its Luxembourg head office.

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