From ANDREW DRUMMOND
Bangkok, May 23 2011
PLAYING THE COURTS IN SOUTH EAST ASIA - BRIBES AT DAWN IN BALI
Death threats, fraud and corruption, Point Piper in Sydney harbour is once again connected with controversy, but this time involving the men who built Australia's most expensive house.
Now a case in Indonesia is one of several which suggest foreigners are more than willing to manipulate the local justice systems in southeast Asia.
Barry Grossman finishes his meal of duck and rice in a modest Bangkok back-packer neighbourhood before lighting up yet another Indonesian clove cigarette. His hands shake as he chain smokes. He says it's due to nerves.
Villa Veneto the classic Point Piper Mansion that Grossman was involved in building for recruitment tycoon Andrew Banks has recently sold in Sydney for a record $52 million.
Nicest property on Sydney Harbour
But 51 year old Grossman says he is not basking in any reflected glory despite having supplied much of the limestone masonry that went into this landmark villa designed by leading architect Michael Suttor and and described by one industry insider as '... a one-off classical masterpiece, probably the nicest property in Sydney Harbour.'
Man with a Belfast accent
Grossman has lived on the Indonesian resort island of Bali for many years. A few months ago he says fled Indonesia in an outrigger canoe after several years of death threats and persecution, he says, by a few senior law enforcement officials bribed by a former Australian business associate to arrange his imprisonment. Worried about his Indonesian wife Ris and their 10 year old Bali born daughter Serena who are still in Indonesia, he plays a recorded telephone call he received in March 2010:
In a heavy Belfast accent the caller says 'the code word is Captain Black,' referring to an obsolete UFF code and continues: 'You owe a friend of ours some money. We don't want to get Colombian on you but if I get another call from this fellow we'll send a couple of boys over. You'll get no more warnings.'
A document signed by Australian Rory MacTiernan, left, Grossman's Indonesian Company Secretary, claims that moments after the call to Grossman, he received a call from Sydney based Villa Veneto builder, Patrick J. Finlay, who told him that his Belfast IRA friends were angry with Grossman.
Only a few weeks' later, claims Grossman, two Finlay associates from Sydney named Stan and Caesar visited Grossman and MacTiernan (left) in Bali. During a meeting recorded by Grossman, Finlay's associates recounted that when they had visited Bali with Finlay in March of 2008, Finlay was accompanied by an imposing man described by Caesar as a 'Special Forces Gorilla from South Africa' who he thought was then in Bali to 'come hunting' for Grossman. 'This Afrikaner, he used to kill black people,'
Grossman says Stan told him: 'He used to work for the South African government killing Black people.' 'F*ck, he was a scary guy Barry. I kept away from him. I was petrified,' he added, before saying that Finlay often was also accompanied by 7 or 8 police, including the Chief of Police, at the Hotel where they spent their Easter 2008 vacation
No return on investment
So what is all this about? IRA? A South African thug. Only a few years ago the major characters in this story all sat down together at a gala dinner to celebrate Finlay winning the New South Wales 'Masterbuilder of the Year Award'.
Well it's a simple financial dispute which got out of hand. Having supplied the stone for Villa Veneto, Grossman offered Finlay shares in his business. Finlay, the builder of Villa Veneto. says Grossman, contracted to pay US$980,000 for 49% of the shares in my company.
David Purll, the plumber agreed to pay AU$200,000 for 10%. Finlay, he says, paid about $80,000 in total and Purll paid $50,000 before they decided not to go ahead. To cut a long story short neither has seen anything for his investment and Grossman's company has gone west.
But while these matters are generally civil in Australia in South East Asia a number of ways are used to solve such a problem. Some of course violent.
Grossman claimed that the initial investments were only the first instalment and without the additional investment the company could not go ahead. He said he had already spent the much of the initial investment in buying quarry rights. Finlay's refusal to continue investing and his subsequent attacks on Grossman had scuppered the venture.
Finlay joined with another Australian Wayne Plant, the owner of a chain of cafes, who claimed he was losing out 'big time' on a major investment with Grossman in a restaurant and beauty salon business in Kuta Beach.
The gossip generated about him was all encompassing in the small foreign community in Kuta and his adversaries were spitting venom in the bars. Grossman said. He was depicted as an out and out criminal, and violent at that. That was not helped when he received a few days behind bars for a brawl in a bar. The fight he said, was with a German who had joined the hostile group, a man, he said, was selling fake ancient Chinese artifacts for a living..
Finally in November 2007, Finlay, 61, lodged a police complaint in Bali alleging that late in 2006 he ordered $236,000 worth of stone building products from Grossman which were to be used at undisclosed Sydney projects by his Sydney firm, P. J. Finlay Construction and Development Pty.Ltd.
His police complaint claims that he paid Grossman in full for the product but that it was never delivered.
Grossman flatly denies that Finlay has ever ordered any product from him. An affidavit signed by MacTiernan supports this claim.
Finlay's police complaint is indeed odd. He does not provide any form of back-up in the form of an order, details of the consignment. In fact there is no paperwork at all relating to the order of stone.
'Almost five years since he made his police complaint, Finlay hasn't even provided details about the mysterious order being used by a compromised criminal justice system to prosecute me for fraud. He has not given any details about the product specifications, quantities, price or other details typically documented in an order of this kind,' said Grossman.
'Nobody is that stupid'
He argued: 'It beggars belief that anyone would pay that amount of money in advance for export product in a foreign country without a contract, purchase order, email, receipt or any other document to indicate that there ever was an order and related payments.' 'Nobody,' he says, 'is that stupid and anyone who is would certainly make formal enquiries once the order fell over due.'
Checking the court records Grossman's claims appear to be true. Records also show that by his own admission Finlay was had been paying Indonesia officials, and an unofficial mafia, large sums of money to have the 'Grossman problem' sorted out and he was deeply unhappy that his cash was not doing much for him. He did however finally get a charge to stick,and was even allowed access to the prison to photograph Grossman behind bars for his own satisfaction.
'I have been destroyed'
'My business and reputation have been destroyed and my family traumatised because Finlay and Villa Veneto plumber Dave Purll broke their 2006 contracts to buy shares in my company before trying to take over my business by getting me banged up in an Indonesian prison,' is how Grossman sees it.
Grossman's Indonesian workforce when building Villa Veneto
'Many people have been affected,' he added, referring to the Indonesians who used to be employed in connection with his stone business, which stopped all operations in 2009 after Finlay's police complaint against Grossman.
The opposing positions by Grossman and Finlay present a fairly simple case for Indonesia's criminal justice system. Presumably, either there is evidence to proceed and convict Grossman or he will be found innocent. But, oh, if it were that simple.
Grossman refers to Indonesia's long struggle with corruption and to what even the President has referred to as a powerful and entrenched 'legal mafia' comprising corrupt elements in the police, the prosecutor's office and the judiciary who are easily accessed through an elaborate network of case brokers. He says that 'criminalizing business adversaries by bribing law enforcement officials is unfortunately quite common in Indonesia.'
'The prosecutor assigned to this case formally determined several times in 2009/10 that there was not enough evidence to prosecute the case. He took the position that Finlay's complaint was a civil rather than criminal matter. When he later refused his superior's instructions to proceed anyway, the case was stood over for trial without his knowledge or approval and he was dismissed from his position before being reassigned to a post outside of Bali.'
When contacted, Finlay insisted that he 'would never pay bribes to police or officials.'
But he refused to answer any specific questions about the charge he had placed against Grossman. He did however refer to 'stinking, corrupt Bali officials' and called Grossman 'an out and out conman.'
He said he was scared of Grossman, who was a 'violent man' and had threatended the lives of him and his family. He did not travel to Bali anymore.
Wayne Plant and David Purrl were also diismissive of Grossman's claims, saying too that Grossman was a 'con man'. Plant said he was seriously out of pocket as a result. Grossman, of course, regards this as an outrageous libel.
Payments to officials and 'Legoese'
But how far were Finlay and Purrl prepared to go to get satisfaction? The signed records of Finlay's examinations by Bali Police show that while Grossman was in jail, Finlay complained to Bali police about feeling cheated by various people who he paid approximately $70,000 for help to sort out the 'Grossman problem.'
The documents show that by March 2008, Finlay had thrown tens of thousands of dollars at locals to sort Grossman out. During his October 2008 police examination, he said that he had paid a Pakistani carpet seller named Ali Khan (right) AUS$40,000 to deal with Grossman.
Then an Indonesian girlfriend called Khetsia Melainy introduced Finlay to an uncle named 'Theo' who was said to be a Jakarta policeman. According to police records signed by Finlay, he told police 'Theo said he could help straighten out my problem with Grossman and introduced me to several people who claimed to have formal authority at Mabes.' (Indonesian National Police Headquarters)
In the company of his lawyer, Finlay told Bali police that he went on to pay the team assembled by Theo IRP 200,000,000 (then worth almost AUS$30,000) through an Italian bagman named Alex at various Bali cafes and car parks before complaining that he felt cheated by the men he paid
Finlay has refused to comment on the alleged payments other than issue a blaket denial that he pays bribes.
Of the men Finlay allegedly paid, four have since given notarised affidavits in which they confirm taking cash from him 'to pay operational costs and law enforcement officials' to achieve the mission he gave them. They are members of a group called 'Legoese,' an informal Ambon brotherhood in Jakarta, who sometimes work with police to 'sort problems and collect debts'.
David Purrl also signed a statement against Grossman claiming the stone was meant for his company.
Notarised affidavits however sworn by several self-confessed members of Finlay's Legoese team, also show that Finlay instructed them early in 2008 to assemble a team to collect a debt of rp. 2,500,000,000 (about AUD 350,000 at the time) which he claimed Grossman owed him as a result of payments made by him for 'the purchase of Goliath shares.'
Get him in jail
One team member, Franky Steven Latul, swears that 'in Finlay's opinion it was of paramount importance to use any available means to arrest and imprison Grossman in Indonesia, so to kick off our mission Finlay promised to give us IRP 200,000,000 for operational expenses, including payments to law enforcement officials who helped achieve our team mission.'
According to Franky, 'Finlay said recovering the money he already paid for Goliath shares was not too important and that the primary objective was that Grossman be arrested, held and later imprisoned in Indonesia.'. Theo and Jhonnie Sunardjo, two more self-confessed members of Finlay's team, use almost the identical words in their affidavits.
In March 2008, Franky together with a team comprising Miko, Endi and three police officers from MABES, traveled to Bali and met with Alex, a Finlay associate, at a cafÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â© in Kuta. Franky claims that 'during the meeting, Alex gave them IRP 130,000,000 which had been left with Alex by Finlay to pay the balance of operational money due' after they had already received $10,000 at an earlier meeting with Finlay's bagman in Bali.
According to Grossman, 'Finlay's Jakarta team showed up at my wife's Bali restaurant and aggressively tried to squeeze me to paying a non-existent debt they claimed I owed Finlay.
'They represented themselves as Jakarta police and when they refused to show me any document authorizing their attendance and all but two refused to show police identification, I smelled a rat and told them to leave.'
After failing to intimidate Grossman, Franky says the team, 'including three police from National Police Headquarters,' helped Finlay with his complaint to Bali police but later withdrew from any further involvement. Grossman says this was because Finlay failed to provide promised witnesses and evidence to support his allegations against Grossman.
But a more likely scenario, it can be argued, is that they had heard of Finaly's complaints and decided to let him stew in his own juices..People in Asia as a rule do not sign statements en bloc without an incentive, especially these type of people.
According to the affidavit of Legoese 65 year old Noel Patrick Pattihahuan (below right) he was contacted by Finlay and Finlay's girlfriend who tried to get him to help arrange Grossman's arrest shortly before he was jailed by Bali police. In around September 2008, Pattihahuan claims Finlay's girlfriend called him and asked if he would meet with Finlay to discuss the matter, adding that Finlay had then already 'lodged a sum of money with his lawyer in Bali to be used to pay local police and other authorities for help to collect a debt of IRP 2,500,000 from Grossman and to arrange his imprisonment.'
By late September 2010, Grossman says his health had deteriorated and his company had long since stopped production. 'I needed medical attention and I did not have money to fight these devils anymore.'
He had got bail.
Without prior planning or telling his family, he was taken by fisherman to East Timor in a small outrigger canoe. (above left)
Section 70.2 Commonwealth Criminal Code and the Feds
Earlier in 2010, Grossman formally requested that the Australian Federal Police investigate Finlay's conduct, citing section 70.2 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code which makes bribing of a foreign official a serious criminal offence in Australia.
'My fight is not with Indonesia,' says Grossman, 'it's a country I love. I have come to understand how centuries of foreign intervention and more recent domestic issues have together created the prevailing culture of corruption.
'How can I criticize a country that welcomed me for many years, when as a foreign resident I am constantly embarrassed by outsiders who come to Indonesia looking for fast profits through informal or unlawful transactions and then, when things do not go as they had hoped, try to bribe underpaid officials to do their bidding?'
To put these comment in perspective Grossman clearly wants to return to his wife and daughter in Indonesia. His request to the AFP fell on stony ground. There has never been a prosecution in Australia under the new laws. It is easy to see why AFP do not want to take this on as their first case. The laws are designed to relate to businessmen being given an unfair advantage by bribing officials, not a squabble between two Australian businessmen which got out of hand. Grossman, a former lawyer, however insists his complaint still fits all criteria.
In July 2010 the AFP Operations Committe declined to investigate Grossman's complaint. Graeme Grosse, the AFP's Coordinator for Close Operation Support, advised that 'as Mr. Finlay is a prosecution witness in the court case where you are the defendant the issues you have raised are likely to be addressed during that court case.'
'They'll hang me out to dry'
Grossman is under no illusion about what will happen if he makes corruption accusations at his trial in an Indonesian court. 'In Indonesia,' he says, 'allegations against police generally fall on deaf ears and anyone who makes them usually ends up prosecuted for criminal defamation.'
'If I made corruption allegations at my trial, they would hang me out to dry,' he says.
'It seems the only way to get home to my wife and daughter in Bali is to submit to a criminal trial in Indonesia. I am willing to do that if certain undertakings are given to monitor the trial process and ensure that there are no irregularities.'
'The immediate problem,' says Grossman, "is that I have been told that with all that has happened in this case, most officials would prefer it if I stayed away'
Grossman's story is not unique. There are many similar stories of fraud and corruption in Bali publish on a growing number of web sites and blogs.
'Its just not cricket'
"Whatever Finlay's playing at, it ain't cricket and it certainly isn't baseball. Even my 10 year old daughter Serena knows that in baseball you go to the dugout after three strikes!"
Having said that Barry Grossman used the Indonesian system himself and paid cash too. His bail and legal fees obtaining it cost him a hefty Aus$50,000 and people would be entitled to question why the Indonesians changed sides and wrote affidavits in his defence. Was it really out of the kindness of their hearts or a sense of fair play having realised they were misled? Barry Grossman denies paying them in any cash apart from minor travel expenses.
As for Wayne Plant's complaints about the salon business, Grossman said he himself was a much bigger investor and has lost twice as much as Plant. There was no incentive to run down the business.
Embassies in the region can offer little help in these sort of cases. They take the view if their citizens chose to stay in places like Indonesia they should acquaint themselves with the system...and how it works, or rather does not.
Pragmatically nothing gets done in several counties in Asia unless someone sees some cash upfront.
If foreigners cross the lines and get involved in the local legal systems they should know what to expect, diplomats say. Two Australians have in the meanwhile invested a lot of cash in Grossman with little to show for it.
Meanwhile Grossman is stranded in Bangkok after friends in the system said it would be better to leave Indonesia. But time is running out. His life is in Indonesia. He has nowhere else to go.
In 2002 the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and lawyers paid a visit to Indonesia and was shocked at what he found. Dato Param Curnaraswany said: 'I didn't realize the situation could be as bad as what I've seen. It is something I feel should never have been allowed to come to this extent.' In the same year Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW) found that 'the court is no longer a place to earn justice, it is a justice market.' The ICW study revealed corruption embedded at every stage - from the initial police investigation, through the prosecution to the final court verdict. According ICW's findings, securing a sympathetic judge can be done with an appropriate payment and once the judge is appointed, efforts can be made to buy the required verdict.