Saturday, October 24, 1998

1993 file photo of businessman Sukarman Sukamto,
who later changed his name to Sukarman Sia.

Isle banker
Sukarman Sia
in trouble from
Asia to Vegas

Lawsuits in Singapore seek
$63.4 million, and two Las Vegas
casinos say he owes $8 million

By Helen Altonn


Bank of Honolulu chairman Sukarman Sia, formerly known as Sukarman Sukamto, appears to be in financial trouble on both sides of the ocean.

The 39-year-old Indonesian businessman spent a night in jail last week in Las Vegas after he was arrested for writing $8 million in checks to two casinos without sufficient funds and couldn't meet bail.

Several banks also are suing him in Singapore for a total of $63.4 million, according to the Straits Times in Singapore.

One lawsuit, brought by Credit Suisse against Sia and two offshore-incorporated companies for $19.2 million, is going to trial. It involves credit facilities, overdrafts and guarantees granted to him.

Three other lawsuits filed by a Societe Generale branch and an individual, Low Teck Kwong, are awaiting trial dates.

One seeks repayment of a $26.1 million loan from Sia, the Straits Times said. Law also sued Sia over a contract for an unknown amount.

Sia and his investment firm, Beswil Investment, face claims by Societe Generale for a total $18.1 million for securities-related transactions.

Complaints from two Las Vegas casinos resulted in Sia's arrest when he arrived at the Las Vegas Airport Oct. 16 to attend the new Bellagio hotel-casino's opening.

Chief Deputy Daniel Ahlstrom, in the Clark County District Attorney's Office, said Sia "was charged with writing a number of checks that did not clear his bank because of insufficient funds."

Caesars Palace and the Rio filed the complaints. Sia wrote five insufficient-funds checks totaling $6 million at the Rio on June 29 this year, and two checks totaling $2 million at Caesars Palace June 30 and July 31 last year, the Associated Press reported.

Ahlstrom said Sia spent a night in Clark County Jail because he couldn't meet the bail, initially set at the amount of the checks.

He said he and Sia's Las Vegas attorney, David Chesnoff, discussed a number of options with the court and reduced the bail to $200,000.

Sia pleaded innocent to the charges and was released Oct. 17. He is scheduled to appear in a Las Vegas court Nov. 10.

Chesnoff couldn't be reached for comment.

Ahlstrom said, "We are very confident we are going to get this thing resolved."

He said his office has a form that any business in Nevada can fill out to file bad-check complaints. The law requires certain procedures to alert the person, he said.

The business must send a certified letter to the offender's known address, for example.

"It's rather an elaborate process. We reject a certain percentage of (complaints)," he said.

He said the bad-check statute in Nevada also mandates that a case be dismissed if a person wants a deferred prosecution and indebtedness is satisfied.

He said Sia "has been a total gentleman ... a very upstanding, decent person about this. He's probably got problems with the Asian financial situation. I'm sure we're going to solve it."

Ahlstrom questioned reports that Sukamto checked into the Bellagio after release from jail and lost $5.5 million at the baccarat tables.

"His attorney, myself and a number of other attorneys spent a great deal of time together when this happened," he said. "I pretty much knew where everybody was at any given time. Not that it couldn't happen, not that it didn't happen, but I would be surprised if it happened."

A native of Indonesia, Sia lived in Honolulu from the late 1980s until about 1994.

His business involvements in Hawaii included the sale of land to the state for the new Hawaii Convention Center and development of the Landmark condominium building in Waikiki.

He has been involved in power struggles of several Singapore-listed companies.

He formerly was chairman of Transmarco, a trading firm in Singapore, but sold most of his shares earlier this month.

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