Wednesday, April 21, 1999

Isle banker’s
asset liquidation
sought in court

A court filing shows that
Sukamto Sia used his stake in
Bank of Honolulu as collateral

By Peter Wagner


Noted for his gold watches, fine wines, and fancy cars, Indonesian businessman Sukamto Sia may soon be the subject of a fire sale.

A court-appointed trustee has asked that Sia's Chapter 11 bankruptcy case -- aimed at restructuring his debts -- be converted to a Chapter 7 liquidation. If granted, nearly everything of value owned by Sia at the time of his bankruptcy would be sold to pay his creditors. The request is to be heard by Bankruptcy Judge Lloyd King on May 17.

But finding Sia's assets, most of them in Asia and other countries, hasn't been easy. And the value of his property will likely fall considerably short of the $296.4 million he owes to international banks, gambling casinos and other creditors.

According to trustee Guido Giacometti, Sia's estate and his numerous business holdings are still being assessed. "We're still in the information-gathering stage," he said today.

In a court filing last week, Giacometti said he is investigating Sia's 76 percent stock ownership in Bank of Honolulu, which according to bankruptcy filings was pledged to two Singapore banks as collateral on loans. The banks are CommerzBank, owed $40 million, and Societe Generale, owed $22.9 million. Giacometti said he is investigating the validity of the bank's liens.

"Our goal is to see if there is a way to release that stock from those pledges, but at this point it's uncertain," Giacometti said.

Sia in November stepped down as chairman of the local bank, after his arrest in Las Vegas on charges of passing $8 million in bad checks at two casinos. He filed for bankruptcy shortly after his resignation.

On Feb. 4, under order by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., he resigned as a member of the bank's board of directors and agreed to fully disassociate himself from the bank's operations. The bank today had no comment on Sia's bankruptcy or his stock interest in the company.

In his Chapter 11 filing, Sia claimed $9,364,000 in personal assets and $296,461,374 in debts. Most of the property is in Singapore, including two houses valued at $7.3 million that Sia wants exempted from liquidation.

In Hawaii, his property includes an undeveloped residential lot at 4967 Maunalani Circle valued at $1 million and about $1 million in personal property.

But Honolulu attorney Ke-Ching Ning, hired to help Giacometti track down and recover Sia's assets, said the Singapore houses aren't eligible for exemption because they aren't in Hawaii.

Under U.S. bankruptcy law, debtors are allowed up to $30,000 in personal exemptions -- usually a car of modest value, clothes and appliances -- to get back on their feet after bankruptcy. Sia is claiming $849,340 in exemptions, including $651,000 in insurance policies; $50,000 in furniture; two gold watches valued at $10,000 apiece; $120,000 in cash and other property. Among property Giacometti has targeted for liquidation is a $90,000 Bank of America account in Singapore and several luxury cars -- including a Rolls Royce "Silver Spur" and a Mercedes Benz -- owned by Sia in Honolulu.

At a meeting with creditors in December, Sia blamed his woes on the Asian economic crisis, and asked to repay his debts over a period of five or six years.

Formerly known as Sukarman Sukamto, the 39-year-old Sia showed up at the meeting with two bodyguards.

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