March 28, 2018

Legal battle over $250 million yacht seized in U.S. fraud probe

Indonesia’s seizure of a luxury yacht wanted as part of a U.S. probe into the alleged multibillion-dollar theft of funds from a Malaysian state investment company is being challenged by the vessel’s owner, police said Monday. National police deputy director of economic crimes Daniel Silitonga said police haven’t handed the yacht over to the U.S. since its Feb. 28 seizure because they’re waiting for a court hearing after lawyers for the owner of the Cayman Islands-registered Equanimity began a legal challenge. “Until now we are still awaiting the summons for a hearing,” he said. “We are facing some legal issues that have to be resolved first.”

The Equanimity, worth $250 million, is among assets the U.S. Department of Justice alleges were bought by Malaysian national Jho Low using money stolen from 1MBD, the Malaysian fund, and laundered through Singapore, Switzerland, Luxembourg and the U.S. Indonesian police seized the 300-foot yacht off Bali in a joint operation with the FBI. Silitonga said he didn’t yet know the basis of the lawsuit. A spokesman for Low told Malaysian media in early March that “rather than reflecting on the deeply flawed and politically-motivated allegations, the DoJ is continuing with its pattern of global overreach – all based on entirely unsupported claims of wrongdoing.” The Department of Justice filed a civil case in June seeking recovery of assets worth several hundred million dollars. Overall, it says more than $4.5 billion was stolen between 2009 and 2014 from 1MBD, which was set up by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to promote economic development. Low, an associate of Najib, had no formal role at the fund but considerable influence over it, according to the U.S. court documents.

Equanimity’s lavish amenities include a helicopter landing pad, plunge pool, gymnasium and a cinema. It was built in 2014 by Netherlands yacht manufacturer Oceano, which received detailed instructions from Low about its outfitting, according to the civil case documents. Najib was embroiled in the scandal when it emerged that some $700 million had passed through his personal bank accounts. He denied any wrongdoing and said the money was a political donation from the Saudi royal family, which was later returned. [AP March 19, 2018]


Short shrift to trash that drifts reports that the Provincial Government of Bali has confirmed that a video that went viral on social media showing a diver and sea life overwhelmed by floating and semi-submerged trash was an incidental situation and not representative of water conditions at the off shore island of Nusa Penida. The spokesman and Officer for Protocol for the Province of Bali, Dewa Gede Mahendra Putra, said on Tuesday, March 13, 2018, that the trash depicted in the video made at Manta Point off Nusa Penida was the result of circular currents that caused trash to accumulated in a limited area.

Dewa Mahendra confirmed that the Governor of Bali, represented by the Head of the Provincial Environmental Service Gede Suarjana, attended a coordination meeting in Jakarta led by the Coordinating Minister of Maritime Affairs Luhut Binsar Panjaitan where the handling of trash in Bali was a main topic. At that meeting, the results of an investigation carried out by a team from the Minister’s office assigned to research the much-publicized  video filmed by English tourist Richard Horner were discussed. Dewa reported: “According to the data collected and observations made by the Coordination Ministers of Maritime Affairs team and discussions with related government agencies and environmental groups, the area of Manta Point depicted in the video was observed for 10 days from March 1st until March 10th.” The Provincial spokesman underlined that during the period covered by the survey, there was no report of a heavy trash presence resembling that recorded in Horner’s video.

Moreover, Dewa Mahendra said that the survey team also met directly with the man who uploaded the video – Englishman Richard Horner at Manta Point, who freely admitted that he has frequently dived at Manta Point and had never on any other occasion encountered trash in the quantities recorded in his video. An expert from the prestigious Bandung Technology Institute (ITB) confirmed to the survey team that at the time the video was made Nusa Penida was subjected to seasonal winds and current conditions moving from the north through the Straits of Lombok. The ITB expert said that in combination with tidal flows, trash in the ocean can appear in great quantities in only a matter of hours. At the same time, Dewa Mahendra confirmed that the government was sufficiently moved by Horner’s video and concerns expressed by the Province of Bali to install trash traps on rivers in Bali to prevent discarded refuse from flowing into the oceans. To date, said Mahendra, trash traps have been installed on four rivers in Bali with an appreciable positive effect. The Government is also educating the public to dispose of their trash in a more responsible way. [ March 20, 2018]


A rest area on a 12-km toll road

DenPost reports that PT Jasa Marga Bali Tol – the operators of the Bali Toll Road is moving ahead with plans to create a rest area as a tourist attraction on the toll road connection between Sanur and Bali’s Airport and Nusa Dua. Detailed plans for the “rest area” have been designed for the rest stop to be named “Bedawangnala.” The plan to move ahead with the Bedawangnala Project were announced on Wednesday, March 14, 2018, by the President Director Akhmad Tito Karim of PT Jasa Marga Bali Tol (JBT), during a conference to announce the closing of the toll road over the Nyepi period in Bali. At that conference, Karim admitted that plans to build the “rest area” have been delayed due to the Mount Agung volcano and the number of tourists traveling on the toll road.

At the same time, inflationary pressures have made it problematic to increase the toll rates charged to vehicles using the toll road. Therefore, in order to enhance revenues, the JBT will create a new tourist attraction via the “rest area” that the toll operators believe will increase the amount of traffic on the roadway. “We have completed the design, all that remains is to coordinate with the Provincial Government and those who have authority over development of the toll road. This is feasible because the rules stipulate that a rest area must be built at a minimum once every 50 kilometers on a public toll road. The new attraction will be built over the ocean. We will soon contact the Badung Regency and the Province of Bali regarding the required permits. In accordance with the original plans the rest stop will be called ‘Bedawangnala,” said Tito. Bedawangnala is the name of a giant turtle in Bali-Hindu mythology that bears the weight of the entire planet on its shell. [ March 20, 2018]


Three Turkish nationals involved in a sophisticated ATM skimming scheme are busted by Bali police

Police in Bali have arrested three Turkish nationals believed to be have defrauded the ATM accounts of some 12 customers of Bank Mandiri over a period of only two days. As reported by NusaBali, in custody are Kimis Dogan (43), Mentes Mehmet Ali (29), dan Koc Tayfun (35). The director of the criminal division at provincial police headquarters, Police Commissioner Sang Made Mahendra Jaya, said on Monday, March 3, 2018, that the trio had admitted to stealing data from the accounts of 12 people living in Bali. Adding: “We continue to investigate how many victims had their pin numbers taken by the three suspects. What’s clear, we have evidence of 83 ATM-like cards now in our custody. These cards were used to steal the data of bank customers. In addition, we have 4 computer routers than we have also seized.”

Commissioner Mahendra Jaya said two of the three men were caught in the act at at ATM at Canggu Mart on Jalan Batu Mejan Desa Canggu in North Kuta on Friday, March 9, 2018, shortly after midnight. Police say the three are part of an international crime syndicate with each of the three having their individual area of expertise in skimming and misusing ATM codes. Police say data and pin number stolen from the ATMs is immediately communicated via the Internet to the headquarters of their crime network in Turkey. Two specialized pieces of equipment are used on a targeted ATM machine. One instrument is installed at the back of the ATM unit and another over the keyboard. A sophisticated small camera is also installed to record the unsuspecting victim’s pin number. Once an ATM customer has completed a transaction, the details of the ATM number and pin-code are captured by the crime syndicate in Turkey. Meanwhile, the 3 accomplices working in Bali are able to observe via their handphones the online banking activity and bank balances of their victims. Once the data has been successfully captured in Turkey, new codes were sent to the 3 men in Bali permitting them to make withdrawals from local ATM machines using preset codes on electronic cards created in Turkey.

The three Turkish men told police how they traveled frequently in and out of Bali, Thailand and Malaysia in order to fleece ATM customers across the region. The men’s last visit to Bali was in January-February 2018, but they told police that they only began skimming ATM machines on March 7-8, 2018. “During two days of March 7-8, 2018, they managed to rob 12 bank customers in Bali. One day later, we managed to capture them together with physical evidence of their crimes that were brought from China or purchased in Bali,” said Mahendra Jaya. Among the items seized by police were 4 routers, 4 cameras, 80 electronic cards, a data cable, 5 laptop computers, 2 TP links, silicone glue, a WiFi mobile camera, and 4 handphones. Koc Tayfun and Mentes Mehmet Ali were apprehended at the ATM Canggu Mart at 00:15 a.m. on March 9, 2018. Two hours later, at 2:15 am police arrested Kimis Dogan at a hotel on Jalan Dewi Sartika in Kuta.

Police received reports from the regional office of Bank Mandiri who detected suspicious transactions emanating from the ATM in Canggu. Bank officials using surveillance CCTV cameras recorded one of the men installing equipment on the ATM. A source at Police Headquarters in Bali said: “Based on CCTV recordings a suspicious foreign national used the Mandiri ATM at the Canggu Mart on Wednesday, March 7, 2018 where the man had installed a skimming device. This information was forwarded to the police who immediately commenced an investigation.” Police placed the ATM under surveillance resulting in the detection of Koc Tayfun and Mentes Mehmet Ali trying to remove the skimmer in the early hours of March 9, 2018. Police swooped in to make an arrest of the two men who quickly gave up the name and location of the third man, Kimis Dogan, staying in a hotel on Jalan Dewi Sartika in Kuta. It is expected that the trio will be charged under a section of the criminal code dealing with cybercrime punishable by up to 7 years imprisonment. [ March 20, 2018]


Emergency measles alert issued after man flies from Bali to Australia

An urgent measles alert has been issued for airline passengers after a man with the disease flew from Bali to Australia. The Department of Health and Human Services issued the alert after the man contracted the disease and was hospitalised in Melbourne on Sunday. The man fell unwell after flying from Bali to Sydney and onto Melbourne at the weekend.

He flew on Qantas flight QF44 from Denpasar to Sydney before boarding QF415 from Sydney to Melbourne. He landed in Sydney at 6.25am and in Melbourne at 10.35am, Nine News reported. Health experts warn he was likely contagious during both flights and could have passed the disease onto scores of people.

‘We are working with airline officials to identify and contact passengers who shared both the international flight into Sydney and the domestic flight into Melbourne,’ Dr Finn Romanes said. He urged anyone with concerns to visit a doctor or hospital immediately.

‘People who were at Melbourne Airport on Saturday March 10, particularly around the domestic baggage collection area, who develop illness from now until Wednesday April 4 should alert their doctor or hospital emergency department.’ The department also warned he was potentially contagious when he ate at north-east Melbourne restaurant Lentil as Anything about 2pm on Saturday. [Daily Mail March 19, 2018]


Bali phone scams: meet ‘Sam’ and her dodgy timeshare mates

There is this thing going on in Bali, and most probably elsewhere, where hotel guests receive a phone call in their room from “a friend”. Said chum will have asked for you (and in this case, me) by full name and no doubt charmed the operator into connecting the call. Which is how I come to be speaking to “Samantha”, who sounds as if she has stepped straight off the set of EastEnders and is telling me I have won a free holiday “opportunity” in Bali. “Do you like Bali, Susan Gail?” No one has ever called me by my full name, not even my parents. Dad was in charge of registering my birth and Mother never forgave him. It was meant to be Gaye, with a classy “e” and everything. But “Samantha” knows none of this.

I point out I am already in Bali and like it very much. But how does she know me and, crucially, where I’m staying? “We work closely with the Indonesian government,” she tells me, in a voice that is becoming ever so slightly aggressive. When higher authorities are cited, I always feel irrationally guilty.

Does the government somehow know how many ikat cushion covers I have stashed in my bag? Is there a legal limit to the number of pineapple-shaped soap dishes and lemon grass candles that a holidaymaker may purchase? And let’s not get started on the purloined Etro soaps from a certain Jimbaran resort that are perfuming the darker recesses of my suitcase.

As “Samantha” continues her spiel, I move around with the phone and look for tiny cameras or listening devices. Crikey, have I been secretly watched late at night swooning over that perky commentator John Avlon on New Day? In my defense of star crushes, CNN is the only channel that seems to work at most hotels I visit. John and I go way back.

“So, Susan Gail, when are you available for your free appointment?” It transpires to be a timeshare scheme of some kind (how terribly 1980s) and “Samantha” eventually slams down the receiver when I refuse to play the game.

A Bali-based Australian friend tells me it’s widely believed someone at Denpasar airport could be in cahoots with “Samantha” and her dodgy mates, providing information from our entry forms. Like immigration documents almost everywhere, one of the questions to complete is where you are staying. Gotcha. My Bali friend says whenever she re-enters Indonesia she always fills the form with the name of a closed property, such as Pan Pacific Nirwana, shut since last July and reportedly now in the clutches of Trump Hotels. Better still, she says, just write Bali Hai Hotel; there’s one in Broome and another in Acapulco, apparently. So there you go. Your call. [The Australian March 17, 2018]


Harper Bazaar singles out 8 spas for ‘Star Spa’ status in Bali

Romy Oltuski writing for Harpers Bazaar has just published an article focused on Bali titled: “8 Over-the-Top Spa Experiences You’ll Only Find in Bali?” In the words of Oltuski:

“. . .those who consider the spa to be their Mecca, Bali is the world capital of spoiling yourself rotten.”

The 8 following spas in Bali warrant special mention:

Spa on the Rocks at AYANA

COMO Shambhala Estate, near Ubud

Four Seasons Sayan, Ubud

Anantara, Uluwatu

Mandapa, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve, near Ubud

Alila Villas, Uluwatu

Banyan Tree, Ungasan

Amandari, near Ubud

[ March 20, 2018]