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Another expat victim

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.



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10 Responses to Another expat victim

  1. Damien English July 29, 2010 at 8:08 am #

    Hello There

    My name is Damien and I am British, living and working in England. I am about to return to Bali for another holiday, and to marry my future wife on the beach in Tanjung Benoa. My family have been to Bali many times in the past and we all love it there. In fact, My father has regularly talked about semi-retiring in Bali during the cold british winter months. However, at the age of 28 and still working hard to pay the mortgage, I am a long way from retiring myself.

    However, my family have made many local friends in Bali, and we are always in touch with them via email and phone. One of my friends out there, Rio, is similar age to me and we get on extremely well. We have known each other for about 5 years now. We have talked about opening a business together, so that his family can benefit from a slightly improved quality of living should it be successful. I really would like to open a little bar/restaurant in Tanjung Benoa, that Rio and his family can run, along with my input from back home. I myself work in the world of IT, but I was born and raised in Pubs with my family who ran their own business, so for me, running a small bar/restaurant is not a problem. Should the business be successful, then I have thought of opening others in the future, should it be possible.

    My concern, is how I go about finding the right people for the legal side of things, finding a lease property, food and drink suppliers, restaurant supplies such as tables chairs etc etc.
    I am currently learning Bahasa Indonesia and my knowledge of the language is slow but progressive. If anyone can help me, then please drop me a line at

    Thank you in advance.

    • made June 6, 2013 at 2:56 am #

      Hi Damien,

      I could help what you need. I have experience how to run restaurant business in Bali.

  2. admin July 29, 2010 at 12:21 pm #

    As I am sure you can imagine that it’s not easy trying to run a business remotely. Friends don’t always make the best business partners either. Only a few bars and restaurants are successful, even with the increase in tourism. I am not saying don’t go ahead with your plan, but you need to take these things into consideration. Maybe you could try to come up with an idea that is a little more unique – just a suggestion.

  3. Eko - Channel1 October 22, 2010 at 3:58 pm #

    Dear All,

    My personal opinion if you are really think to do some investment or starting your business partnership especially in Bali, please, please do your home works first, not to mentioned that you have no clue about law, regulation and local ethic but also there are hundreds of cases where foreigner become a victim of ‘what a call’ partnership and their trusty !!

    Especially in term of owning a property, the most common method in entering this arrangement is ‘HAK Tanggungan’ this are similar to mortgage system, involving a few notary deed such as the statement of indebtedness, since a couple of years back the Indonesian Government already warn to all Indonesian Public notary to stop providing service under this arrangement, is simply because the foreigner is an individual and NOT legal financial institution under Indonesian Law, so they are NOT allow to lend the money to Indonesian and get the interest out of it, the institution who are allows to do this arrangement in Banks..

    So once again to stop this bad story happen again and again, please do your home works before put your investment into risk and get as much as possible information about how, what, why, where…etc to do things in Bali.


  4. Stefi February 9, 2011 at 11:45 pm #

    Dear everyone,
    As I read your comments I really started thinking of moving to Bali. There is only one question which you might can advise or help me. Would I find a job as an investment advisor in Bali?
    My story is, I work in real estate for 8 yrs now, I have versatile experience including selling,renting, property management, investment advises etc. I worked for Irish, Israeli, Hungarian real estate agencies,in the good old ages, around 2003-2004-2005 I sold many investments for foreigners, also worked a bit in Dublin. I am located in Budapest, Hungary at the moment and I think I just had enough of Europe and would love to move.
    I read your lines and actually I was that property consultant or investment advisor who organized the legal part, mortgages, viewings, anything including purchasing a property and make sure everything is done properly and the purcahse is going smoothly. Nobody has ever came back and wanted my head, so I guess I did a great and precize job
    🙂 I would like to ask you Guys, If you hear any information of a job in real estate in Bali, then I would be more than happy to email my CV.
    Thanks a lot in advance

  5. admin February 9, 2011 at 11:50 pm #

    Property transactions are handled by notaries in Indonesia. I don’t believe it is easy or even possible for a foreigner to become a notary. You would probably be looking for a job in sales or marketing. I would suggest contacting agencies directly. It’s very competitive however and most jobs will be found through personal contacts and networking.

    • Stefi February 9, 2011 at 11:54 pm #


      Thanks for the quick response. Well, I didn’t mean to work as a notary, I don’t have the qualification for that. I thought maybe there is a foreign real estate company who deals with investors and need a professional sales person or advisor with experience.
      Do you think I would have any chance to find a job like that through the internet? As I don’t know anybody there, I try to contact people as I did it here.

      Thank you for all your advises


  6. Mike June 7, 2011 at 2:39 am #

    I have met this woman. She struck me as a total neurotic. She also believes that she is being followed by American spies and that someone has poisoned her water supply and now only drinks from the dripping aircons.

  7. Marites l. cresencio July 6, 2011 at 12:25 am #


    It was really great reading bad and good stories, on how to start business in Bali, indeed ,it is a”MUST” that we should do our homework first and do the 21st century 101 steps on how to do business and have to discerned whats everything goes in.

    I am a businesswoman,contractor ,distributor and supplier.

    Actually, i am now in those stages because i have plans to open up also a business here..i am now on my 4 weeks going around investigating , if it would really be PROFITABLE doing it here….

    Knowing posts like this ,fantastic it is..!

    regards to all,



  8. Huda August 19, 2011 at 3:26 am #

    my friend would like to sell his house plus villa (3 bedroom villa) with 1000m2 wide. She want to offer start from 9,5 billion rupiah. may be this could be something for you, i hope it is usefull information. Just try to help my friend. Let me know on , i will connect you to her/ her husband.

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