Sunday, 3 May 2009

Serene Bali Villas or illegal nasty spamming private residences?

Serene Bali Villas or illegal nasty spamming private residences?
By Mr. S Hormel
Mar 9, 2006, 05:56

For details of what nasty Serene Villas in Seminyak Bali have been up to (villa web site owners be warned), and the evidence that suggests they are operating illegal Balinese holiday villas and an unlawful travel agency business, see end of article. But first, to our main story element;

We can almost hear the “serene” cries of joy at Bali’s police HQ and business / villa licensing office; “Perhaps we can all afford a Mercedes each soon?” For here cometh the long expected corrupt police and local government officers’ golden goose, the plethora of foreign owned illegal villa operations in Bali. Now front Jakarta businesses owned by the Suharto mob which own majority shares in Bali’s large hotels and are suffering a guest shortage these days have petitioned the Balinese police and other offices of uniform without public service to crack down on illegal villas. Now the tourism business is collapsing and nasty dumb hotel owners with questionable backgrounds outside the hospitality business are desperate for guests but are not prepared to tackle the root causes of their profit demise; the fact far fewer people want to come to such a lawless, corrupt, risky, Islamic “values” threatened island. Oh no, they want to blame a much easier target and try and get their business from them! Easier and more typical for them to think about trying to get a larger slice of a decreasing pie than bake something bigger.

And what better a target to blame and go for than the thousands of unlawful foreign owned villa operations in Bali? Unlicensed vacation homes built as private residences by foreigners believing everything would be ok based on what everyone tells them. Of course hotels likely do not loose the business they fret over and end up believing they do to villas is blind to them, as tourists who stay at villas likely would not stay at their often ugly, overpriced, falsely PR nepotistic Asian travel industry machine acclaimed, mass tourism hotels in the first place does not matter. After all, this is Indonesia, let’s blame someone else and “get them”!

This crackdown is also all being conducted under the typically nasty veil of Indonesian feigned tolerance, understanding, conciliation and fair remedy by the authorities, who publicly state they wish to bring these illegal villas “into commercial compliance”; but of course this is complete BS. Nasty people pretending to be decent human beings all the time knowing it is not possible for foreign owned holiday homes to become licensed and legal. Why? Because; a) This would mean the foreign owners would have to give away all villa access rights and enjoyment benefits to Indonesians as a company would need to be formed in order to apply for an operational license, and apart from preventively expensive public companies, foreigners can not be directors of more appropriate smaller “PTs”, and b) In many Balinese regencies it is no longer possible to get villa operational licenses as the local authorities have stopped issuing them to stop more villas being built. So unlawful foreign villa owners are going to find themselves truly between a rock and a hard place with corrupt law enforcement offices in the middle!

So foreigners who own holiday homes will only be realistically able to rent out their properties as vacation villas while being in “commercial compliance” if a) The government changes the rules regarding small hotel / lodgings ownership by foreigners and is prepared to issue more operational villas, or b) If obliging law enforcement officials turn a blind eye to what is going on, no doubt for a “few” greenbacks!

But there is another way – screw the Indonesian Authorities
There is however seemingly a legal way around all of this for illegal villa owners; form a club in your home country. The concept is fairly simple, as long as foreign illegal villa owner’s “guests” are happy to go along with it. If an owner forms a club, a membership based company in their home country; a “friend’s club”, a “bicycle supporters” club, an “Australian beer appreciation club”, it does not matter what the club is. By charging a membership fee for a limited membership period (coincidently the same period as each member wishes to go on holiday in Bali) and simply allowing members as a free bonus a free stay at the membership owner’s private house in Bali well, you get the picture. Then all the overseas clubs need to do is be creative with their web sites, travel agents (hint, don’t use Indonesian based travel agents), etc. to ensure they are not offering villa rentals, and there you go! But a word to such illegal villa owners who want to continue to rent their properties out; do it quick, the authorities are talking about bringing illegal villas into commercial compliance within 3 months or closing them down! So just form your club and pay taxes in your home country to retain all legal benefits to your property in Bali while legally allowing others to stay there. If enough villa owners do this, watch what will happen. Faced with the prospect of nasty PR and International law litigation, which the Indonesians clearly know zero about (we believe they do not even know their own law outside creatively interpreting money making criminal codes) involving overseas companies (clubs) and tax authorities, we wager they will suddenly start allowing foreign ownership of commercial villas and also start issuing additional operational licenses; any takers? By the way, we would recommend unlicensed villa owners immediately take their properties off the rental market / Internet as once the corrupt mafia police of Bali have extorted money from you, they are almost certain to come back again one day, even if you have legalized what you are doing.

Serene Villas Seminyak Bali
We believe Serene Bali Villas in Seminyak to be owned by one Mr. Stephen J. Michie and to be both operating illegally and particularly nastily. First the question of legality: We have been forwarded two emails by separate 3rd parties between Serene Bali Villas and others, where the subject of whether Serene Villas have operational licenses or not was asked. In one reply Serene Villas staff avoided answering the question altogether, in another they claimed to have a Pondok Wisata operational license. Either way, it appears they are offering villas illegally. We say this because our understanding of the Pondok Wisata or “Homestay” operational license is that is covers up to 3 “units” (older licenses) or 5 bedrooms (newer licenses); anything more would require a full hotel license. When we visited Serene Bali Villas Seminyak’s web site, it became immediately and obviously clear to us they had quite a number of multiple bedroom villas, way in excess of 3 units and / or 5 bedrooms.

Not just that, Serene Villas’ web site is also clearly offering other people’s Balinese villas, which means Stephen Michie et al are apparently acting as travel agents, yet do not appear to have a travel agent’s license, hmmm! Now, to be candid, we would not normally feature or name illegal villas or businesses as we believe Mr. Michie operates unless they are nasty too, so for that reason we have made an exception because of what Serene Villas get up to. If you own a villa in Bali, have a web site for that villa and provide a online guest book for guests that have stayed with you to leave comment about their stay with you for potential guests to read, you might want to go and check it to see if Stephen Michie and friends have posted a “Do not stay here, come to Serene Villas Bali” message.

We have seen an email from Serene Villas in Seminyak admitting to having posted an advertisement on another villa’s web site guestbook trying to get the other villa’s potential guests to go to Serene instead. When the other villa complained to Stephen Michie et al, someone claiming to be Serene Villas’ webmaster replied saying he had done it but it was an accident; yeh right! When it was pointed out to Mr. Michie and his webmaster and friends that they were clearly liars, that you only had to do a search on Google for “Serene Villas Bali guestbook” you would find literally hundreds, even thousands of other poor villa owner’s web site guestbooks which had also been so spammed; Michie and co apparently decided not to reply further. The irony of this of course is that it seems clear an illegal villa and travel agent operation not only has been cheating the Indonesian people out of tax and other operational payments which pay for schools, etc. but is also stealing business away from legitimate villa operations that do pay taxes! If we are right that Serene Villas in Seminyak are trading illegally on several counts, this is one foreign owned Balinese villa everyone should hope to soon see the back of.

As for the question of unlawful foreign owned villas in Bali, Bali’s wobble pundit Jack Daniels reported in his far from the "Truth Ministry" (pah, more like Truth Miser) Bali Update that President Yudhoyono has issued a decree to make doing business in Indonesia easier. We say “BS” Bambang, decrees mean nothing more than worthless statements of delusion by people who think too highly of themselves. If you want to make doing business in Indonesia easier, prove it; allow foreign owners of illegal villa operations an easy set of conditions whereby they can become legal. Don’t rape the investors who have already parted with their money within your economy while trying to court new victims. Allow foreigners to become sole traders and allow them to get operational permits and pay tax. Give foreigners who invest in Indonesia special visas which allow them to stay and work in Indonesia developing (solely) their business, not make separate and unrealistic KITAS visas which require foreign investors to have hotel management experience the only legal option. If you want investor confidence earn it, don’t wobble out falsehoods that you think people want to hear just because that has been the Indonesian way; break the mould and mold.

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