Indonesia Expat
Scams in the City

Scams in the City: Property Pitfalls

A property agency in Jakarta has been scamming expatriates by renting out apartments for terms longer than actual leases.

“Quality means operating under the highest standards of ethical behavior!” That’s a boast by KCR Property Indonesia, which has been ripping off renters by issuing fake lease agreements.

The fraudulent agency is part of a company called PT Kharisma Chindo Resources, run by Elsa Theresya Wardhani and her husband, who goes by the name of Richard Verning and also calls himself Richie and Rick P.

A screenshot of KCR's website, a property agency in Jakarta that has been scamming expatriates by renting out apartments for terms longer than actual leases
A screenshot of KCR’s website, a property agency in Jakarta that has been scamming expatriates by renting out apartments for terms longer than actual leases

 

One expatriate woman last year used Elsa’s services to find an apartment in Jakarta. She paid for two years’ rental in advance to a bank account under the name of Hari Jadi and received a signed lease agreement. A few weeks ago, the apartment’s owner visited with a one-year lease agreement, reminding the woman she would have to vacate soon, as the year was almost up.

When the two parties examined the leases, they realized their signatures had been forged by Elsa and the bank account details were different on both leases. They tried calling the agent, but all three of her known telephone numbers were inactive.

KCR’s registered address is at the Taman Rasuna Apartments in South Jakarta. Security guards at the complex say Elsa has not been seen there for over two weeks and that many police officers have been looking for her since March. One guard says debt collectors had also often been looking for her.

Several tenants, mostly Indian nationals, who rented via KCR, encountered problems when attempting to have security deposits returned. It subsequently emerged that more than a dozen families had been duped by the company and locked out of their apartments.

Anyone who has rented via KCR should double-check with their landlords that their lease agreement is in order. KCR offers apartments and houses for rent throughout Jakarta, especially in Kuningan and Kemang.

Rick P presently lists rental properties on www.rumah123.com. He has also used www.livinginindonesiaforum.org to offer an apartment for US$3,500 a month for a minimum of two years. His nationality could not be verified, but some of the victims have reported him to the Indian Embassy.

KCR’s website, www.kcrpropertyindonesia.com, which was still online at the end of March, carries the ironic slogan, “Service You Deserve. People You Trust”. The site claims the company has been operating since 2008, although it was not registered until 2013. In addition to property rentals and sales, KCR also offers visa services, cleaning services, relocation and moving, design and construction services, and rodent control.

At a glance, the website may look professional but it is rife with clumsy spelling and grammar, such as “human resourches” and “carriers” instead of “careers”. Text that is error-free has been swiped from other websites. For example, KCR’s vision of “Deliver sustainable value through innovation” is plagiarized from Santa Fe Relocation Services.

Elsewhere, entire paragraphs of KCR’s spiel have been lifted from a UK-based relocation company called Sterling. For example: “Many of our early clients still work with us today, and in a recent client survey 90% had either actively recommended us, or would if asked. We like to think that’s because we work hard to understand the challenges and goals of the companies we work with – so we can be more than just another service provider.”

Even KCR’s pest control section, which mentions “leaving dead rats up in the attic”, has been lifted from the website of a Florida-based pest extermination company.

It remains to be seen whether police will track down Elsa and Richie. An earlier case of apartment rental fraud, reported in this column in September 2015, did not result in the arrest of the perpetrator, Naomi Catharina Sahita, as her victims were asylum seekers who felt too intimidated by police to pursue legal action.

If you’re planning on purchasing a property in Indonesia, which can be a high-risk investment for foreigners, be sure to check the authenticity of the land certificate with the National Land Agency (BPN).

It is not unknown for scammers, acting as agents and/or owners, to sell properties using forged certificates. Often, such properties have only been rented from the real owner for a short period.

Fraudulent villa sales are a common problem in Bali, as is false advertising on property websites, with victims being tricked into making advance deposits for properties.

Embassy Sale

Foreigners cannot own land under freehold title in Indonesia, but that has not stopped plenty of expatriates from engaging in land scams. Some of these swindles have involved diplomats – usually as victims, but there was at least one exception, when an ambassador sold his embassy’s land and buildings.

In 2000, Pakistan’s military ruler General Pervez Musharraf decided his country could save money by owning, rather than renting embassies and diplomatic residences. No problem in Indonesia, as founding president Sukarno had gifted Pakistan an embassy building and an ambassador’s residence. Nevertheless, the Pakistan Ambassador to Indonesia at that time, Mustafa Anwer Husain, a retired major general, in July 2001 resolved to sell the embassy’s land and buildings in Menteng, Central Jakarta, to an Indonesian company. The sale was finalized in February 2002. The Pakistan media has alleged the properties were sold below market value and that kickbacks were received by the ambassador.

Husain, who had studied at the Indonesian Army Staff and Command College in 1969-70 and later served as an instructor of Musharraf, made the sale without seeking approval from the Pakistan Foreign Affairs Ministry. The deputy ambassador, Mushtaq Rizvi, blew the whistle on the allegedly illegal sale and was reassigned as “an officer on special duty” – tantamount to a suspension.

An inter-ministerial committee objected to the sale, but law enforcers lacked the motivation or clout to go after one of Musharraf’s military cronies. Following Musharraf’s fall from power in 2008, Pakistan has been investigating the sale and legislators now are demanding action be taken against the former ambassador.

Accessing evidence of alleged real estate corruption from Indonesia will be challenging for Pakistan’s anti-graft agencies. At least within Indonesia, police should be able to apprehend local property scammers, provided the perpetrators are not in the corridors of power.

 

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