Every so often, in letters to the editor and posts on forums, you come across people who have “lost their shirt” in Bali. Here is one such person in a letter to the editor in the Jakarta Post. On one hand I have sympathy for people like this, but on the other hand it is difficult to comprehend how someone would invest their life savings in a business without getting the proper legal advice and protection.

If you are planning on investing in any country, even if it is your own, it is important to understand the laws and how they pertain to your own situation. Not understanding the language is also a poor excuse. If you are not fluent in the language, you should get all legal documents translated by an independent translator into your own language.

Legal fees are relatively inexpensive in Indonesia and it is a good idea to speak to a few different notaries or lawyers until you can find someone you like and are comfortable working with. Anyway, here is the letter:

I am an American who has been living in Bali full-time for the past three-and-a-half years. I first came to Bali in 1997 and, like many other visitors, fell in love with the natural beauty of Bali and the seemingly simple way of life.

From 1997 to 2006 I visited Bali on a regular basis and over the years, with my local partner, I gave him money for land as well as for bungalows, a restaurant and various other things.

In 2006 I was able to come here to live (which had been my dream since I first stepped foot on this island) and I built a house for myself adjacent to the bungalows in East Bali. Being naive and trusting, I did not get the proper paperwork from the notary – not that that would have mattered from what I’ve experienced over recent years.

Just a little bit of background to explain my present situation is necessary but what it boils down to is that I want to live in Bali and my partner does not want me here. This story is all too common in Bali – a foreigner comes here, is told about the great investment opportunities.

The foreigner, usually not knowing the language or the laws and having to trust on the information supplied by a partner, spends money and then finds him or herself confronted by endless problems and is sent packing by an unscrupulous partner – the much poorer, sadder and wiser.

To be fair, I know that not all foreigner/local relationships are like this. I have also heard of successful partnerships, however, I can only speak from my own experience.

To date, I have made two agreements with my partner and have already given him more than half of everything I have in an effort to resolve this situation. I made these agreements in good faith yet I continue to have problems. I have been to many lawyers and notaries and have asked for help from the Bali Police (Polda) but from what I can see, the problem only gets worse.

The purpose of this letter is to bring this problem out in the open. Of course, nobody likes to talk about this side of Bali life but these days, Indonesia is seeking foreign investment so it is my hope that somehow something can be done, not only for me, but also for other foreigners who wish to make a long-term commitment and investment in Indonesia.

I am still trying to find the way to resolve this situation because I still believe that Bali can be a wonderful place to live and I would like to continue to live here.