An Australian legal firm which has been handling the defences for some of the ‘Bali 9’ has been implicated in allegations of fraud, corruption, and conspiracy on the Indonesian holiday island.
Austrindo, of Kuta Beach, Bali, run by former Perth lawyer Peter Johnson, 65, been named in the Supreme Court in Jakarta as the place where contracts had been doctored in a fraud carried out on a client who was cheated out of property.
Australians are believed to have lost millions of dollars after investing in property in deals which have gone wrong.
The scandal came to light after Briton Peter Butler, 44, a professional football coach, who played for West Ham and in Perth, Western Australia, helped set up a football academy, blew the whistle after a six year fight against two Australians who, he said, had ripped him off on a plan to build a resort in Bali.
Peter Dickinson, the head of a WA security firm Protection 1 and ‘entrepreneur’ Paul Hanna from Perth, once an influential figure in the America’s Cup in Freemantle, were ordered to pay out AUS$423,623, after a judge at Jakarta Supreme Court stated they were guilty of ‘highly illegal acts’.
On Thursday Dickinsion and Hanna failed to turn up at Denpasar High Court to answer how they were going to settle the judgment. The case was adjourned until August 2nd. Lawyer Franciscar Passar said: “We will be pursuing this case to the end.”
Butler contacted the ‘Flying Sporran’ to warn others of the pitfalls of doing business in Bali. He sued a total of five defendants including Dickinson’s now estranged wife, Kate Shanahan Dickinson, Peter Johnson, and an Indonesian nominee.
But as it was a civil action, only Dickinson and Hanna, those who directly financially benefited, were ordered to pay. Johnson, however, claims Butler, was the person who manipulated the whole process, not only forging documents but with the local assistance of his lawyer and shareholder Mohammad Rifan, using ‘local influence’ .
Rifan last year defended the 14-yr-old Australian boy who was arrested for drugs possession and turned up in on his instructions court wearing a bizarre mask. He also defended Andrew Chan – the alleged enforcer in the Bali 9 case.
The Supreme Court ruled that Johnson was not merely a business consultant, as he had claimed, but had legally assisted Dickinson and Hanna to carry out their acts.
Now a West Australian group of Bali property ‘owners’ which include, a policeman, a television company boss, and a hotelier, are planning to take legal action back home, after they discovered the homes they had bought had either not been built, of if they had, were being rented out and the cash was being put in someone else’s pocket.
If the two Perth men do not pay up technically the sales could be deemed illegal and Butler can take action to seize the properties which had been bought for from AU$50,000 to AU$200,000.
But Butler says: “I am not that sort of person. I am not going to do that – but I will pursue Dickinson and Hanna.”
A founder member of Austrindo has also come forward to say she was a witness to Dickinson removing Butler from his own company on paperwork in his office and described ‘paid for’ collusion with local authorities and police.
Peter Butler, now back home in Stainlands, Halifax on leave from coaching Terengganu Football Team in Malaysia, says he was lured into going into partnership with Dickinson and Hanna, while he was coaching in West Australia. He played 550 first team games for West Ham United and coached BEC-Tero in Thailand, Yangon FC in Burma (Myanmar), the Singapore Armed Forces, as well as teams in Indonesia. He speaks Bahasa Indonesia fluently.
“ I have coached football all over Asia, from Indonesia to Thailand to Burma.
“But believe you me; dealing with Burmese strong men of the military junta is a lot more pleasant than dealing with these scammers in Bali.
“My life was threatened. The Bali police would do nothing. The Bali courts would do nothing. It was a long fight. I fought it on a matter of principal. Everybody said I would lose because the corruption was so bad. But I stuck to my guns and won, but I had to do it from a distance.
“The compensation will never make up for what I lost. I had to send my family first to Malaysia, while I fought on. But I finally left because I did not want to be around my so called colleagues, one of whom was even arrested on a drugs charge, but released after making a pay-off. I did not like the lifestyle of people who were supposed to be my friends.”
Perhaps amazingly the men who now stand accused were supposedly previously pillars of society in West Australia.
Peter Johnson, 65, a former Perth lawyer was the recipient of the Australia Medal (General Service) for assisting Australians during the Bali Bombings. He appears to enjoy the confidence of some Australian diplomats based in Bali and has taken Indonesian citizenship while his wife has taken Australian citizenship
Paul Hanna Perth entrepreneur was a WA man about town. He invested in engineering projects in gold fields, charted ships to view the America’s Cup, and imported cars, and has even appeared an on ABC TV discussion programme giving advice to would be millionaires.
Peter Butler met Peter Dickinson in 2001 when he was in Perth as player-manager of Sorrento F.C. and where he helped set up a football academy. They became friends and Dickinson persuaded Butler to invest in 33.3% in a company which he planned to set up called P.T. Soka Beach Management Company.
This was to manage and a resort called Taksu ‘the indefinable essence that makes something or some place special’ on West Bali at a place called Suraberatha . Butler was happy. It was a dream paradise location and the company was formed at the offices of Peter Johnson’s company Austrindo.
Austrindo is a well-known Bali legal company which has captured a lot of the Australian and foreign tourist trade on Bali. Johnson of course speaks fluent English and plays the role of the ‘mate you can trust’ with aplomb.
For many Australians it has been the first place to go with their legal or property problems. But it did not take too long for Peter Butler to feel ill at ease.
“They (Dickinson and Hanna) started changing the plans of the resort. They wanted to make it a health resort with a meditation cone. It was all going about face. Money was being spent and little was happening, and what little was done looked shoddy”.
Hanna and Dickinson offered to buy him out, Butler says. That seemed a blessing. But he never got the offer in writing. They did not need to. Taksu was that some place special which his friends had already determined he would no longer part own.
Johnson had already transferred Butler’s shareholding into the name of his Indonesian wife Ary Johnson after mistakenly putting it into the name of Dickinson’s estranged wife Kate, who almost certainly knew nothing about it. Butler had already been robbed.
“I discovered that the my name in the company was first transferred to Peter Dickinson’s wife’s name, then later to the name of Johnson’s wife. Dickinson’s wife was a very nice person and would have had nothing to do with this if she knew. She has now left him and I understand has been put through a lot of grief.”
His attempts to get his money back were fruitless. His attempts to prosecute for fraud met with total disinterest from Bali Police who seemed to know what it was all about. And worryingly for him when he finally got a civil case to court both the Tabanan District Court and the Denpasar High Court both courts totally ignored bank evidence of Butler’s payments to his partners.
“At one stage Peter Dickinson even claimed that the money he paid was to settle an alleged debt I owed him in Australia. My so called friends had completely turned in Bali and were spending cash in sizeable amounts on their life-style.”
Many people would have given up at this state. Butler was told he could not win and bad things would happen to him if he fought his case. But he would not take the fraud lying down.
“People said I could not win. Corruption was institutionalized on Bali. Well I could not win there but I could in Jakarta”.
Just how easy it is to be tricked out of your land in Bali is perhaps best described by Putu Marsh an Indonesian married to Terry Marsh, of Braeside, Victoria.
After she heard the verdict she contacted Peter Butler to congratulate him and apologise. Putu Marsh, now of Brae Side, Victoria, was a 10% partner with Johnson when he decided to open up his own company called Austrindo. In fact she opened the office for him while Johnson worked as a ‘greeter’ at another law firm to bring in foreign customers.
“It’s very simple. Peter would just order to pay off the courts in all the cases where he felt it necessary. The lawyer would give a price and Peter would pay. I am sure the lawyer took his percentage was well.
“I was present in the office when Mr. Johnson crossed off Peter Butler’s name on the Soka company records.
“He said Peter had asked him to take it off. I was concerned and I told him that he should put his signature next to the deletion.
“ I felt very guilty about it all. Peter Butler is such a nice man. I later told him what I had seen. I feel very guilty about saying nothing about it in court. I just gave ‘I don’t know’ sort of answers.
“Austrindo presents itself as ‘the honest’ company for foreigners to go to in Bali. There are honest people there, but this is probably not believed by so many people any more, at least I do not think so judging by the angry people that started coming through the doors during my last few months there.”
“Quite often it happened Austrindo had one lawyer representing the plaintiff, while another of our other lawyers represented the defendant. It was a win win situation. The foreigner will not know what is happening. While Rifan also did the drugs cases, his main income came from ‘foreigner problems’. He has a 10 per cent shareholding in Austrindo as I do. It seems to mean nothing. Johnson would not pay me for my share when I left.”
“As for house buyers, Peter would find the nominee from amongst his Indonesian family or staff. Technically I still own quite a few properties bought by Australians in Bali, but Peter controls a lot more, and of course that leaves him a strong position when he is dealing with clients.”
This month a Bali judge was discharged from office by a judicial committee in Jakarta in a rare move against corruption in the local justice system. His crime – going to the home of Austrindo’s chief lawyer and shareholder Muhammad Rifan to sing karaoke, not once but three times during a trial.
The judge was accused of ignoring all procedures and ruled in favour of Rifan’s client in his current case at Denpasar District Court. The judge Putu Suika also admitted ‘borrowing money’ from Rifan.
The Jakarta Globe reported: “The committee did not go into details as to what civil case Putu presided over, but it was revealed at the committee hearing that Putu one-sidedly ruled in favor of the plaintiff Rifan represented without consulting other member judges.
“ Did you just invent your own procedures code?” Supreme Court justice and committee member H.M. Zaharuddin asked. Committee chairman Djaja Ahmad Jayus said it was not Putu’s first offense.
“Putu was alread was also demoted to regular judge in Mataram District Court after people accused him of embezzling a car,” Djaja said.
Putu had been Chairman of the Judicial Review looking at the ‘Bali 9’ cases including that of Scott Anthony Rush, currently serving a life sentence in Kerobakan prison, Denpasar.
He was also the judge who sentenced Angus McCaskill, 57, from Melbourne to seven years for possessing 3.5 grams of cocaine. The sentence was later reduced to one year at a High Court Appeal.
Putu said he was under threat from his superiors in the controversial case he was judging. Muhammad Rifan complained outside the hearing that the judge was just a scapegoat. His own actions, he said were just an act of ‘eastern courtesy’.
Just how duplicitous Austrindo were accused of becoming is shown in a Bali Police report dated May 2007. This is an investigation of what happened to American Michael Donnelly, who said he had to flee Bali with his two children in fear for his life after his wife took divorce action against him.
He was separately divorcing his wife Made Jeti, now a well-known Bali businesswoman, after he claims, he discovered she was leading a double life and also trying to get him to sign away all his possessions by passing Indonesian language documents in front of him and asking for his signature.
He employed Peter Johnson to represent him. The case was handled by Rifan. What he did not discover until later, was that Austrindo were also secretly representing his wife, who was planning to clean him out completely.
He said Johnson told him not to appear in court where the wife pretended they were not really married in California in 1985 and again in a local ceremony in Bali in 1994, but invented herself a Balinese wedding with him in 1996. Thus their children were illegitimate and he had no claim on them.
He asked to go to appeal, but Austrindo did not enter his appeal documents. He brought fraud cases against his wife who now had all his property. But nothing seemed to happen.
Amazingly both courts ruled that his marriage in 1994 to Made Jeta never happened despite him providing the official documents. He too had to go to the Supreme Court in Jakarta to get justice.
The investigation for which he had given Rifan a list of witnesses, whom he said were never interviewed, found no fraud had taken place. He hired new lawyers who determined:
“Individuals of the court, Polda Bali (police) and Rifan of Austrindo Law Office had collaborated to suppress witnesses, falsify evidence, and deceive him into believing that a true court deliberation and a true police investigation had taken place. In fact, it seemed, the decision and investigation were fraudulent.”
Donelly lost everything he had in Bali, but when he fled he took his two children with him. The Jakarta Police ordered Bali Police to conduct an investigation and warned Donnelly that in the circumstances it would not be safe for him to return. Bali Police did nothing.
Now back in the USA he has since written a book about his paradise lost. It’s called: “Eleven Demons – The Secrets of De-incarnation in Bali.”
Currently some 13 victims are planning to sue Dickinson and Hanna. They will not speak on the record as negotiations are in progress, but I spoke to four of them.
A committee has been formed and taken over the management of Tuksa – meanwhile five villas which have been bought have not been built – and Paul Hanna has advertised the whole project on the internet for AUS$2.9 million despite the Jakarta Supreme Court ruling.
The site itself appears to have been abandoned by builders and a restaurant which was operating there has closed down. Police were reported to have been called last month after staff were not paid. They are back at work hoping they will be paid at the end of this month.
All figures involved in the Butler controversy are ‘off island’. Hanna and Johnson are in West Australia. Dickinson is in Manchester, Britain. Neither Johnson or Dickinson returned calls or emails. Paul Hanna said: ‘This is mainly Dickinson’s problem. All I can say is we are going to fight the decision.”
Above – the resort today
Austrindo is on the list of recommended lawyers of the Australian Consulate in Bali. It does not feature on the Bali lists of the of the British, United States or Canadian legations.
COMMENT: When buying property in South East Asia never use a lawyer who is also representing the seller. When divorcing your wife in Asia make sure that the same company, or even same lawyer is not representing your wife! If you have to put your property in the name of a nominee (technically not strictly legal) find the nominee yourself. He/she owns the property! When leasing a property in SE Asia – never assume that you can continue the lease after it has expired. Having said that Peter Butler never made any of these mistakes and was still ripped off.