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Friday, September 22, 2000

Former Isle
banker Sia sent
to halfway house

His release on $1.5 million
bail ends a 3-week stay
in an Oahu holding cell

By Tim Ruel

Businessman Sukamto Sia has begun his stay at the Miller Hale halfway house in Honolulu while awaiting a fraud trial next month.

The former Honolulu investor had spent three weeks in a holding cell at Oahu Community Correctional Center while waiting for space to become available at the house. He was released yesterday after friends posted $1.5 million in bail. The bond includes four properties worth a total of $1.2 million, plus $300,000 cash.

Federal authorities had tried to stop the release from Miller Hale by filing a motion last week, alleging people have escaped the halfway house in the past.

Government officials say they continue to believe Sia is a risk for flight to another country. "He has strong incentive and strong ability to run," Assistant U.S. Attorney Omer Poirier said yesterday.

The government alleged yesterday that Sia had once told an attorney seeking payment of a gambling debt that he was not concerned about criminal prosecution because he had lots of passports. David Chesnoff, attorney for Sia, said the defense has not responded to that allegation.

John Edmunds, Sia's former attorney, previously argued that Sia would not be a flight risk because of the bail posted by friends.

Last month, FBI agents arrested Sia in the middle of a meeting with bankruptcy creditors. A federal grand jury had indicted Sia on three counts of fraud. Sia has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The maximum penalty for each charge is five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

The indictment alleges Sia hid millions of dollars in the sale of his private Gulfstream jet, and spent two state tax refunds that should have gone to bankruptcy trustee Guido Giacometti.

Sia, former majority owner of Bank of Honolulu, filed Chapter 11 reorganization in November 1998, citing $296 million in debts and $9.3 million in assets. The filing came a month after Sia was arrested in Las Vegas for bouncing millions of dollars in checks at several casinos. The case was later converted to Chapter 7 liquidation.

Federal Magistrate Barry Kurren had agreed earlier this month to release Sia to private custody on about $800,000 bail. But Chief U.S. District Judge David Ezra overturned the ruling on appeal two days later, raising Sia's bail to $1.5 million and ordering that Sia be released to the Miller Hale halfway house.

Sia's trial is scheduled for Oct. 31 before Ezra.

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