Wednesday, May 23, 2001

Sia hid costly
wine, files show

The embattled former Honolulu
investor now faces 22 charges

By Tim Ruel

Indicted businessman Sukamto Sia is alleged to have hid several thousand pounds in fine wine from his creditors after he filed for personal bankruptcy protection.

Air freight documents recently filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court show in the summer of 1999, containers of wine were ordered to be shipped to the Los Angeles residence of Sia and his girlfriend Kelly Randall.

Officials investigating Sia believe the bankrupt financier secretly shipped the wine from Honolulu to the Bel Air estate to avoid losing the private collection to his creditors.

Sia filed personal bankruptcy in November 1998, after he was arrested for bouncing checks at casinos in Las Vegas. At the time, the former Honolulu investor claimed a collection of a few hundred wine bottles worth $60,000. The bottles were later auctioned to pay creditors.

The shipping documents, however, indicate the collection was far larger than Sia originally let on. "He basically lied to me," said Guido Giacometti, the trustee appointed to review Sia's assets and pay creditors.

After Sia failed to get his bankruptcy case dismissed, investigators began a thorough search of Sia's financial records, which turned up the freight documents. Giacometti said he does not know for sure where the wine came from, where it could be now or how much it might be worth.

The freight documents point to two separate air shipments, one on July 29, 1999, and one on Aug. 20, 1999. It is unclear exactly how many containers were shipped each time, but the weight of each container was 2,900 pounds.

A case of 12 regular-sized bottles of wine weighs an average of about 35 pounds.

"I had no idea of the extent of it," Giacometti said of Sia's collection.

Sia's bankruptcy attorney Renton Nip declined comment about the freight records, saying he was not familiar with them. Nip is listed as the contact for Indobridge Investments Ltd., the British Virgin Islands holding company that owns the $4.6 million Bel Air mansion where the wine was supposed to be shipped.

Federal prosecutors are seeking the forfeiture of the Bel Air property, alleging the nine-acre estate was actually bought with illegal funds through Sia's business associate Johannes Sjah.

Sia, 42, has been staying at the residence for the past several months while on bail, undergoing medical treatment for a lump in his neck at the University of Southern California.

Last week, Sia was indicted for a third time by a federal grand jury, and faces a total of 22 charges including bankruptcy fraud, bank fraud and wire fraud.

Sjah and Randall were included in the new indictment, along with Sia's younger brothers Suwardi and Sumitro Sukamto, and Sia associate Khee Pow Yong.

No pleas have been entered yet on the charges, and no hearing is scheduled.

Sia's attorney David Minkin said the allegations in the new indictment are unfounded. Sia has pleaded not guilty to the previous charges.

The wine shipment is not included in the new charges, but federal prosecutors have noted the investigation could turn up more counts against Sia.

Meanwhile, Giacometti is trying to learn more about the shipment of wine.

The Bankruptcy Court last week directed the shipping company, Royal Hawaiian Movers Inc., to turn over any information related to the order. An official with Royal Hawaiian Movers could not be reached for comment.

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