Sunday, 3 May 2009

Bali’s expatriate crooks and fraudsters; be warned buyers of villas.

Bali’s expatriate crooks and fraudsters; be warned buyers of villas.
By Made Mephitis-Mephitis
Apr 30, 2007, 07:12

Bali Villas Bellefontaine, fraudster then and now.

Lawrence Bellefontaine presents himself as a highly respected expatriate in Bali, president of the local tennis club and who operates one of the tropical island’s largest Bali villas real estate businesses, PT Bali Affordable Lifestyles International (AKA PT Bali or rather PT B.A.L.I.). The facts are though that his real name is Barry Bellefontaine who sailed from his native Honolulu with his wife in their expensive 50-foot-yacht in July 1995 to Bali. Not un-coincidentally it seems, in June 1995 the state Office of Consumer Protection in Honolulu filed a lawsuit against him for “misleading” his customers. But Barry AKA Lawrence Bellefontaine decided to set sail with all his ill-gotten gains for Bali, Indonesia.

Just as well perhaps, as in August 1996, the state ordered Bellefontaine and his firm to pay $4 million in fines for misleading investors of his US investment company, Asian American Corp. which specialized in taking people’s money to buy rare coins, or it seems not! Previous customers of Mr. Bellefontaine claim he skipped town, did a bunk with their money and coins, which it seems was premeditated. You see, the US Office of Consumer Protection only recovered about $100,000 in coins but could not get back anywhere near the $4 million because Barry / Lawrence Bellefontaine did not have any real assets in the USA; but Mr. Bellefontaine clearly had tons of his investor’s cash on hand to finance his yacht and new luxurious lifestyle in Bali! Many of his cheated customers in the USA say they sank their life savings into what they thought was a safe and better investment than anything else on offer and with someone they could trust! Unfortunately they could not trust Bellefontaine who sailed off into the sunset not telling anyone where he was going.

Perhaps Barry or is it Lawrence has changed his ways though; we think not! Even if you get past the fact Mr. Bellefontaine clearly is still avoiding certain ex-customers and justice in the USA, he describes his company as “Honest, Reliable, Experienced, Professional Real Estate Agents with over 30 years international experience”. Yet like other nasty expatriates on Bali selling holiday homes to foreigners from his web site, ptbalirealestate dot con, claims to offer remarkable, even millionaire making invest opportunities on Freehold properties. Thing is, foreigners can not own land in Bali, only Indonesian citizens can, which can only mean Lawrence Bellefontaine is still the same old liar and cheat. Further proof of this is Bellefontaine even claims his company is 100% Indonesian owned, but how can it be when you look at their web site’s registration data, which clearly contains several falsehoods? Ptbalirealestate dot con, a clear misuse of the Indonesian registered company designation “PT” is actually registered to: Lawrence Bellefontaine, Jl. Karangsari #2, Sanur, Bali with the false zip code and phone number 00000 ID / +1.9999999999. Even “better” and perhaps laughable is the admin contact for “their” other domain baliluxuryvillasales dot con, which lists the admin contact as “Captain Lawrence”; we know that the foreign expatriates in Bali are the most pretentious expats in the world, but this pirate from Hawaii really takes the salted biscuit!

However, although we would not normally jump to the defense of someone we consider to be human garbage as we do Mr. Bellefontaine, we would point out that his falsehood purveying real estate business is just as bad as it seems every other foreign owned real estate business is in Bali. We also believe many if not most of the other foreign expat owners of businesses in Bali are likely just as crooked as Bellefontaine; we have said all along Bali’s expatriate community [sic] is full of crooks evading real justice in a land where only bought “justice” exists.

It never ceases to amaze us how so many nasty expatriates in Bali go about presenting themselves as legitimate, professional, ethical businessmen while all the time they are thieves, shop keepers, sex abusers including pedophiles (yes they are, UNICEF says Bali is a foreign pedophile black spot) and “spiritual enlightenment” seekers (pot smoking la-la's). Every Bali villas real estate web site in English (what else) we have seen all have advertisements stating “Freehold land for sale” and “Luxury Villa Freehold For Sale”. Even companies claiming to be Australian owned are guilty of misleading gullible foreign “investors” enchanted by friendly Balinese smiles and the hypnotic palm trees and gamelan music, looking for their slice of paradise and perhaps a rental income in Bali. Listen up, it is all a pack of lies, do not be so naïve, do not get stung by these pompous foreign crooks.

Once someone makes an enquiry with these Balinese villas sales companies, likely after they have fallen in love with a property and believe the false concept everything in Bali is smiles and wonderful, elements of the truth start to creep out from these expatriate sales creeps in Bahama shorts. First comes the news that an Indonesian “name giver” has to own the land the villa sits on, as “technically” foreigners can not own land in Bali; “technically” indeed! Foreigners can not own land as individuals; that is the law and quite some technicality we would say! So the term “name giver” is also a subterfuge, lies, a way of making foreigners with more money than sense believe they can own something they never can; “name givers” therefore are the Indonesian people foreigners are conned into buying land for!

Now of course most foreigners interested in buying a property in Bali would not fall for that one alone and in isolation; the later being the issue, as every villa sales agent is at it and there is nowhere in Bali it seems of course to get impartial professional advice. So these pillars of expatriate society in Bali then go on to tell their victims about how they secure their rights to the villa and land by way of a nominee agreement, signed by the “name giver”, giving exclusive unencumbered rights to the land for 25 years with an automatic 25 year renewal, plus automatic title to the land if Indonesia ever changes its land ownership laws to allow foreign owners. Some sales agents tell punters that these agreements have been proven in Bali’s law courts; BS, BS, BS!

First of all just look at the sheer blatant idiocy of what Bali’s villa salesmen are saying! If an agreement can legally automatically renew after 25 years for another 25 years, why can’t they have a 50 year agreement from the start? This con is based on the “Hak Pakai” right to use permit which allows a foreigner who is resident in and contributing to the economy of Indonesia the right to have exclusive use of property for 25 years, which then can be extended for another 25 years if both the property owner and they mutually agree. But Bali’s nasty villa sales brigade are not selling “right of use”, they are selling false “freeholds”. Even if they were selling Hak Pakai agreements, foreigners would have to come live, work and pay taxes in Indonesia; we will come to that nasty aspect later. Bali’s villa agents will repudiate this by saying the latest Hak Pakai legislation (No. 7 of 1996 or RMA 7/96) was accompanied with a letter by the then Minister for Agraria stating this law should also apply to foreigners who were only in Indonesia from time-to-time; the problem is, it was only a letter, it was not and is not part of the law.

So these jumped up liars selling bits of meaningless paper have to come up with yet more subterfuges to con foreigners they are buying something they can not own; enter the nominee agreement which they claim to have been already upheld in Bali’s courts, pah! If the law does not allow you to own something, how can unlawful nominee agreements have been upheld in court? First of all this Hak Pakai RMA 7/96 letter from the then Minister for Agraria is worth as much in an Indonesian court as an empty Snickers bar wrapper; Indonesian courts regularly ignore the current President’s recent decrees, let alone some letter written by an ex-junior minister years ago. OK, maybe some bent (aren’t they all) judge in Bali took some dollars from some foreigner and made a highly dubious ruling, once, but would that ruling stand up in Indonesia’s Supreme Court in Jakarta? We don’t think so! The fact these foreign sales cronies write into their worthless unlawful bits of paper such things as “automatic renewals” and “automatic title transfer to the foreigner if ever Indonesian law allows it” makes the documents even more unlawful; because no country, especially Indonesia allows what is called retrospective law. Remember how many of the Bali bombers and their stooge Bashir got off lightly because they were tried under criminal codes that were enacted after the bombing and therefore could not be applied to the terrorists for that pre-legislation attack?

But the con by these un-convicted crooks does not end there, oh no! Part of the lure for gullible foreigners to pay thousands if not millions of dollars for worthless bits of paper is the “investment” prospect, which is just as much a falsehood of course as the villa ownership crock. People like confirmed on the run fraudster Bellefontaine make foreigners believe they can earn massive rental revenues and that their “investment” (worthless bit of paper) will grow dramatically. The problem with this apart from the obvious pre-illustrated fact that foreign investors will have nothing to sell some other poor schlep but a worthless bit of paper, is that foreigners can not legally rent their properties out to anyone, not even foreign tourists! Many think they can of course and do, therefore breaking Indonesian law by offering their personal holiday homes as commercial vacation villa rentals. Unlawful? Absolutely, unless a villa or any other type of commercial (fee accepting) accommodation has an Indonesian operational license, it is operating illegally, period.

OK, so all the foreign “owner” of a villa needs to do is get an Indonesian operational permit right? Sorry, just as it is not possible for a foreigner to own land in Bali, it is equally not possible or perhaps viable for them to get an operational license. The only way a foreigner can get an operational license for “their” villa is to form an expensive public company (not possible for single villa operations) or a foreign investment company called a Penanaman Modal Asing (PMA). But the problems there are any foreigner wanting to start a PMA must submit the company’s trading plan prior to acquiring whatever it is they will be doing (no good if you have already “bought” a villa) and that PMA’s are not allowed to own land; the later fact should warn foreigners what the courts will think about a nominee / name giver agreement! The only other option for a foreigner is to have Indonesians form a private company (PT) for “you” in which you can neither be a shareholder or a director, which can then (hopefully) get an operational license to offer rentals, and pay taxes, and administration fees, and filing fees. But then what does the foreigner own? Why they own an even more worthless piece of paper as not only is the land in an Indonesian’s name but now everything on it is in Indonesians’ names; some freehold!

Also be warned, the wealthy military connected Javanese owners of hotels across the island are not happy with all these illegal and even legal “foreign owned” villas because they are sucking their business away during a very bad time for Bali tourism wise. It is likely there will soon be no new permits available for villas in the south of Bali! Plus there are already reports of illegal villas being closed down by the authorities; Some investment Mr. Bellefontaine!

We say if you have been tricked into buying a worthless bit of paper already in Bali; a) Let us know about it and b) If there are not some Balinese you can trust totally with your investment to form a PT and get your villa legal, consider an exclusive agreement with as reputable as you can find registered villa management company who can perhaps apply for an operational license on your behalf. No, you won’t likely get a great amount of the money they charge guests staying at your home in Bali, but at least you are a lot less likely of having that home taken away from you. Although we do not recommend him per say, the most established company on the island we believe is that operated by Pieter Rieger of balivillas dot com. But even this option has a sting in the tale of course. As the foreign owner of something in Bali, you have to register with the tax authority; yes you do. The problem then comes that Indonesia claims tax on people's worldwide incomes. Oh sure, there are tax balancing agreements with other countries where you can offset your tax liability in one by proving you paid tax into another. But Indonesia has incredibly very high income tax levels, and foreigners may well be asked to pay a percentage of the money they earn working in their home country!

Therefore, our earnest advice is ff you have not yet bought your worthless bit of paper masquerading as Balinese villas, don’t; don’t buy into this fraudulently sold dream and don’t line the pockets of the nasty expatriate villa sales crooks in Bali.

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