Legal Wrangle : British investor Nick Hyam, pictured following an interview with The Bali Times, is seeking a return of US$250,000 he claims was stolen from him.
SEMINYAK ~ An Englishman who invested over US$4.5 million in a villa project in Baliâ€™s countrified Canggu area claims around quarter of a million dollars was embezzled by his Canadian business partner and Balinese lawyer.
Nick Hyam, who sold two of his three property companies in England to pay his share of the project with a Malaysian investor that was to eventually total some $18 million and amount to 40 oceanfront villas in the North Kuta district, some of which would sell for $1 million apiece, has filed his case with Bali Police.
Police have declared the Bali-based Canadian, Jeannette Machura, known as Gina, and lawyer Rizaldy Watruty suspects in the case and prevented the former from leaving Bali while the case is being investigated.
â€œI sincerely hope she goes to prison because she has ruined my life for the past three years,â€ Hyam said in an interview with The Bali Times.
The 50-year-old divorced father of two teenagers said that since he paid out Rp32.5 billion (US$3.4 million) for the 2.86 hectares of land near the popular surfing area of Echo Beach â€“ at Rp130 million per are â€“ for his end of the deal with the Malaysian businessman, Raza Mohamed Khan, events spiraled rapidly out of control, to a point that he was sure, he says, he was being swindled.
â€œI initially gave Rizaldy $5,000, to set up a PMA, but Iâ€™ve never seen any papers and it turns out that it was never set up,â€ Hyam said, referring to a foreign-investment company under which he intended to base his purchase of the land.
Hyam said his end of the deal with Khan was to buy the land, and that Khan would provide the lionâ€™s share of funds to construct the villas and market them. Hyam would be entitled to a 40-percent share of profits, Khan 60.
The Briton showed The Times a copy of the agreement, but it was never signed by the Malaysian, he says, and Hyam now believes Khan was part of a three-member ring that set out to deceive and con him out of a large sum of money.
At one stage during the tortuous land-acquisition process, Rizaldy asked Hyam for $100,000 to go to the Denpasar District Court to obtain an order showing the land belonged to the foreigner, and Hyam, hoping for a swift resolution to problems with the Japanese ownerâ€™s nominee, a woman from Jakarta called Renta, who had been asking for $400,000 for a late-payment charge for the third and final installment, then $1 million, duly transferred the amount to the lawyer.
â€œWe got the order, but when I asked Rizaldy for it, he refused to hand it over, just like all the documents I asked him for,â€ Hyam said.
To this day, Hyam has not seen the court order, nor the land deeds, which he says were removed from a notary public office by Renta with Rizaldyâ€™s assistance. Police, however, have also named Renta a suspect and Hyam says he is hopeful they will soon seize the deeds from her.
Hyam claims that after he paid for the land â€“ there were two separate purchase agreements, one with a lower land value, to avoid paying large sums of tax, he said â€“ Machura set about with Rizaldy and Khan to attempt to sell it.
Two prominent Bali businessmen â€œwere then both approached by the Malaysian, who told them he owned the land and tried to offer it for sale, aided and abetted by Gina and Rizaldy,â€ Hyam said.
Hyam says Rizaldy, who despite being asked had never mentioned his fee for handling the investment, tried another avenue of extortion, and was also successful.
â€œRizaldy said he would be the nominee (for the land purchase) for 10 percent of the villa sales. I didnâ€™t want him to be the nominee; thatâ€™s what the PMA was for, to cover that,â€ he said.
â€œIt was extortion â€“ agree to it or I would have nothing,â€ Hyam said, adding that the lawyer would stand to earn in the region of $450,000.
The pair met at a different lawyerâ€™s office on May 28, 2007, and signed an agreement outlining the deal that Hyam said he felt backed into a corner to sign.
â€œThat was the last time I saw him. I was very angry and called him a thief and signed and stormed out of the office, after telling him I would get another lawyer to fight him,â€ said Hyam.
Machura, who declined to reveal her age but is believed to be in her mid-30s and has been in Bali for about a decade, told The Times that she strongly denies the allegations Hyam has made against her, and that she is the real victim in this case.
â€œThese outrageous accusations made against me, and others, as well as Hyam’s malicious and misleading persecution of me, and others, is an attempt to use media propaganda to solicit sympathy,â€ she said.
â€œThe victim in this case is me, not Hyam, and the legal proceedings now in place will show this unequivocally.â€
She said she had not been involved in any deception against Hyam and that all funds had been accounted for by police.
â€œThe investigation conducted by the police already concludes monies paid to the land owner, complete with TT (telex transfer) documentation and bank verification,â€ said Machura.
Of Hyamâ€™s allegation that Machura colluded with lawyer Rizaldy, and the Malaysian investor, to defraud him, she responded: â€œThis again is totally untrue and a blatant lie. The Malaysian investor was used as a scapegoat by Hyam.â€
Machura said she was not fazed by being declared a suspect in the case.
â€œI do understand there is a process to go through once such serious allegations are made, no matter how fabricated they are.â€
And of being prevented by the Immigration Department from leaving the country due to the police investigation, she said she was â€œcompletely cooperative to and I have no intentions to travel before this case is concluded.â€
Hyam told The Times that Machura threw up a â€œsmokescreenâ€ when interviewed by police, in questioning where he got the money from to purchase the land in Canggu, which he says he has proven to police.
Machura denies that she was trying to throw investigators off the scent.
â€œThis was not a smokescreen. This is a fact, which has indisputable evidence, and is now under police investigation,â€ she said.
Machura was a longtime friend of Hyamâ€™s family, spending time with his two daughters while vacationing in Bali. â€œWe were all very close; she was like part of the family,â€ he said. These days the pair do not communicate at all. The last contact they had â€“ apart from a chance encounter at a restaurant in Seminyak in April this year, during which Hyam says he poured a glass of water over her and she threw an ashtray at him that broke windows – was September last year, when Hyam said he demanded accounting from Machura to try make sense of where his money had been spent. The response, he said, was a terse email from her saying, â€œDonâ€™t speak to me. Speak to my lawyer.â€
An October 5, 2007, letter sent from Rizaldy to Hyam, and seen by The Times, alleges Hyam had been harassing Machura and threatened action, including a possible deportation, if it did not stop and if Hyam did not publish an apology in local newspapers.
â€œ…you are presumed to have committed threat, harassment, intimidation and defamationâ€ against Jeanette Machura, it read.
Hyman denies the allegations and has hired a new lawyer, Ary Soenardi, who is currently handling his case, along with a firm of lawyers in Jakarta. He did not issue a public apology and said he has heard nothing since.
During the interview with this newspaper, Hyam branded Machura an â€œinternational con artistâ€ and produced emails purportedly from expatriates in Bali who apparently had dealings with her and felt they were cheated. One email that The Times saw, apparently from an American woman, says that after a deal with Machura went sour, Machura physically threatened her and she feared for her life and was forced to leave Bali for her own safety.
The Times put this to Machura, who responded: â€œ… as for the charges that I am a “con artist” and that I have engaged in physical threats, these are so ludicrous as to merit no response. This is clearly another of Hyam’s attempts to distort information and harass witnesses to go against me with allegations that are untrue.â€
Machura said she had been told not to comment in detail on the case.
â€œI have been advised by the police and lawyers not to disrupt the course of this investigation by giving too many comments. When the case is concluded, we will be providing an exclusive full statement. I do not doubt the final outcome in this case: Hyam’s claims are so groundless, and so clearly contradicted by the facts in this case, that the final outcome should be totally known for anyone versed in these facts.
â€œI can only hope that The Bali Times would follow sound journalistic principles, and sound judgment, in reporting on this matter, and on these outrageous accusations. Please remember reputations are hard to build but easy to destroy when you weigh the statement made by me and those of the other party, whose background and past records are questionable and under investigation by the authorities of various countries for past dealings.â€
Asked on a later occasion about the purported foreign probes, Hyam said Machura was attempting to divert attention away from the case, and that he was not under investigation anywhere.
â€œInitially after making the complaint against her, I was then interrogated by the (Bali) police, who accused me of lying to them over the source of the funds (for the land purchase. They told me that the funds were sent by two companies, Laganpoint Ltd and Brygrove Ltd, and not by me. I explained to them that these were my companies and that all the funds transferred were legitimate funds from the sale of company assets.
â€œI then had to arrange for my UK solicitors to FedEx over a letter on their headed papers explaining exactly that, that I was the owner of both of these companies. Furthermore, all transfers of large denominations are subject to stringent money-laundering legislation and this was strictly complied with prior to the transfers being made,â€ he said.
Rizaldy did not respond to requests from The Times for comment, and Hyam said his new lawyer told him that due to intense media pressure, Rizaldy â€œhas left his home with his family, and is reported to be in Manado (North Sulawesi), where he originates from.â€
Another expatriate Bali resident, Fiona Duncan, filed a police report last Sunday against Rizaldy, for allegedly failing to set up a PMA after she paid him Rp30 million.
â€œThat was the first payment of a total of Rp45 million to set it up,â€ Duncan told The Times. â€œHe said it would take six weeks (to establish the PMA), but that was in 2005,â€ the New Zealander said.
After trying to contact the lawyer to enquire about the PMA, and repeatedly failing, Duncan said she was told by Hyam, a friend, that Rizaldy had told him: â€œIf she doesnâ€™t stop hassling me about this, I will have her kicked out of Bali.â€
She said that because of that, she did not pursue the matter, and only this week filed the police report to help Hyam with his case.
Meanwhile, The Times was informed that the Malaysian investor Khan would not be immediately answering questions the newspaper emailed to him.
For all his troubles in Bali, Hyam says it has not dispelled his love for the island, which he has visited for years with his family. But the experience, he estimates, will be a costly one. He said he is hopeful of an out-of-court settlement but that after selling the land he will still be about $1 million out of pocket.
â€œI consider Bali more my home than the UK. This (what has happened) is not a direct reflection on the Balinese. These are two crooks,â€ he said.