Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, May 26, 2001

Former bank chairman pleads not guilty to charges

By Frank Cho
Advertiser Staff Writer

Bankrupt businessman Sukamto Sia pleaded not guilty yesterday to bank fraud, conspiracy and money-laundering charges stemming from a grand jury indictment last week, the latest installment in the Indonesian developer's long-running legal battle with federal prosecutors.

Bank fraud is the most serious charge faced by Sukamto Sia, former chairman of the failed Bank of Honolulu.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

Sia, dressed in an aloha shirt and dark slacks, told the court yesterday that he understood the charges. He said little else during the brief proceeding before U.S. Magistrate Kevin Chang.

Chang set Sia's trial date for Oct. 16.

Also pleading not guilty was Kelly Randall, 33, who was indicted along with Sia's two younger brothers and two business associates. Randall was released after posting $100,000 bond.

Sia's brothers, Sumitro Sukamto, 37, and Suwardi Sukamto, 35, did not show up and are not believed to be in the country, Assistant U.S. Attorney Omer Poirier said.

Poirier said Suwardi's Honolulu attorney is aware of the indictment, but declined to comment further.

Khee Pow Yong, 47, and Johannes Sjah, 51, were also named in the 22-count indictment handed down May 16 but they did not show up to enter a plea. The pair are accused of helping Sia commit bankruptcy fraud and money laundering.

Poirier said warrants have been issued and the FBI is working to have Sia's brothers and associates arrested.

Sia was secretly indicted and then arrested for the first time in August 2000 on three counts of bankruptcy fraud. He pleaded not guilty to those charges.

Sia, former chairman of the failed Bank of Honolulu, had filed for bankruptcy protection Nov. 6, 1998, after being arrested for gambling debts in Las Vegas. Sia reported nearly $296.4 million in debts, but the globetrotting financier said he had only $9.3 million in assets.

All of those charges were dropped by the Las Vegas district attorney after Sia reached a civil settlement with the casinos over the debt.

Sia was indicted again in Honolulu on Oct. 18 — the first superseding indictment. That indictment added six new counts, including charges of money laundering to the growing list of allegations against Sia.

The most recent indictment added 13 counts, 12 of which named Sia. It also added charges of bank fraud, the most serious crime charged yet against the former bank chairman.

Since his arrest, Sia has been under a supervised-release program as part of a $1.5 million bail arrangement. Federal prosecutors have raised concerns that Sia may try to flee the country rather than face prosecution. If convicted, Sia could be sentenced to federal prison.

Following the arraignment, another federal judge yesterday denied a motion by Sia's lawyers to lower his bail or amend other parts of the bail arrangement.

"It's unfortunate," said William McCorriston, Sia's chief attorney, referring to the judge's decision to not modify the bail arrangement.

Sia, who is living under house arrest in Los Angeles while he undergoes treatment for a medical condition, declined to comment.

Frank Cho can be reached by phone at 525-8088, or by e-mail at fcho@honoluluadvertiser.com.