Saturday, May 8, 2010

Ex-bank owner again fails to pay Ngee Ann rent

His firm's furniture, movable property to be auctioned in May: sources

ONCE prominent bank owner Agus Anwar has failed to make the initial payment for rent owed to Ngee Ann Development despite promising to do so by April 30, sources told BT.

BT understands that Mr Agus, who used to own banks in Indonesia, had proposed on April 28 to make a partial payment of the $1.2 million that his investment holding firm, Investoasia, owes Ngee Ann Development. The proposal was made just as the landlord was about to auction Investoasia's property to offset the unpaid rent. Ngee Ann Development then called off the auction.

Sources told BT that an auction to sell Investoasia's furniture and movable property will now be held in late May, and Mr Agus is currently negotiating with Ngee Ann Development on making payments for the outstanding rent.

This is not the first time the investment holding firm has failed on its promise to pay up. According to sources, Mr Agus had made numerous promises to pay the arrears owed, such as proposing an instalment plan, but did not make payment.

Investoasia's repeated failure to pay up prompted Ngee Ann Development to file a suit against it in February this year.

According to court documents, Investoasia owes Ngee Ann Development rent for two offices it occupied on the 24th and 25th storeys of Ngee Ann City's Tower A.

It owes Ngee Ann Development 13 months' rent amounting to about $900,000 for the 24th-floor office. It also has to pay the landlord additional rent after failing to hand over the office despite a notice to do so by Dec 11 last year.

Ngee Ann Development then seized the office - and Investoasia's property in it - through a court order issued on April 1.

Investoasia also owes Ngee Ann Development another $190,000 for office space it rented on the 25th floor between September and November 2008.

The current suit is among the many filed by creditors against Mr Agus and the firms controlled by him and his family.

Last December, he applied for a stay of bankruptcy proceedings, saying that he was looking to raise income from certain sources. His application was turned down - a decision he is appealing against.

Indonesian-born Mr Agus, now in his late 50s, moved here in 2000 to start afresh amid the fallout from the 1997 financial crisis. He became a Singapore citizen in 2004, the year news reports quoted Indonesian officials as saying that he owed the Indonesian government 3.2 trillion rupiah.

The money, equivalent to $633 million at the time, was said to have been used to bail out two of his Indonesia-based banks, which collapsed as a result of the 1997 financial crisis.

The banks, Bank Istimarat and Bank Pelita, are now defunct. According to the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency (Ibra), the two banks misused the Indonesian government's emergency loan.

Data from the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra) show that Investoasia was set up in 2001 and is controlled by Mr Agus and Marcel Tjia Han Liong, chief executive and executive director of Interra Resources, a petroleum exploration and production company which is listed in Singapore and Australia. The Ngee Ann City office on the 24th floor is still listed as its registered office.

The latest financial data provided by Investoasia to Acra dates back to 2006, where it reported a $24 million loss - after tax from continuing operations - and $4.8 million in revenue.

Companies it has an interest in include Keppel Telecommunications and Transportation (Keppel T&T), in which it had a 6.5 per cent stake, according to Keppel T&T's 2009 annual report.

In January this year, High Court judge Lee Seiu Kin ordered Mr Agus to repay a $10.5 million loan he received in 2008 from Orion Oil, an investment firm.

The loan, secured through a mortgage on assets such as shares in Keppel T&T, was to have been repaid in three months with $500,000 in interest. However, Mr Agus filed a suit in court arguing that the loan was void because Orion Oil did not have a licence to lend money. This claim was rejected by Justice Lee. Mr Agus is appealing against the decision.

Last November, Mr Agus's two sons were ordered by the High Court to pay $15 million that their father owes to the local branch of Societe Generale Bank & Trust after they signed documents agreeing to be liable for his debts.

The sons appealed against the summary judgement and the Court of Appeal allowed the appeal at a hearing last month. As a result, the case will proceed to be heard in a full trial at a later date, where the facts of the case will be examined.

Source: Business Times, 8 May 2010

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