On October 15, 2018, 46-year-old tech expert Jason, from New York, flew to Hong Kong on a week-long business trip. He checked into a room at the Four Seasons, in Central, and when a lunch appointment was cancelled, he happily nursed an afternoon drink at the hotel’s Pool Bar. “Then I looked up,” he recalls, “and this incredible, striking woman walked in.” Jason remembers her warmly embracing the waiting staff, who responded with a fawning adoration reserved for regular clients. “She was shown to the table next to me, we made eye contact, she smiled, and that was it,” Jason says. Newly separated from his wife, he could be forgiven his enchantment: her lips were full, her flowing, lustrous hair framing a youthful caramel face, and she wore an elegant white trouser suit tailored to accentuate her lithe body. “After a couple of minutes, I leaned over and asked, ‘Is there anything you recommend?’ And she said, ‘I’m here all the time, this is my favourite place. Are you with anyone? Come sit with me and I’ll feed you.’” Her name, she said, was Azura Luna Mangunhardjono, and she regaled Jason with her storied life. She told him she had grown up shuttled between London, Paris and Bali. “Lunch ended and she put it on her house account, telling me she owned 10 per cent of that Four Seasons,” says Jason. “We exchanged phone numbers, I flew on to Beijing, Seoul, Tokyo, and over the course of the week, we texted. She was flirtatious, sending photos and saying I should come see her in Hong Kong, and I’m thinking, ‘Wow, I’ve never met anyone like this.’ So I changed my flight home and went back.” And so a week after their first encounter, Azura treated Jason to her favourite Chinese restaurants around Hong Kong. She invited him to her 20th-floor apartment at 1 Robinson Road, in an upmarket area of Mid-Levels where such places can command HK$100,000 (US$12,800) per square foot, and residency unlocks the high circles of Hong Kong society. Jason “was blown away” as he stepped onto the polished parquet floors. There were art deco paintings, buddha statues, oversized divans, ornate flower arrangements and a baby grand piano. Eyelines soared past chandeliers, through floor-to-ceiling windows and over trees to the HSBC headquarters and the Bank of China Tower on the island’s famous skyline. “She’s pouring wine, showing me an Excel sheet of her [wine] collection worth millions of euros, all stored in Switzerland. She tells a caretaker there what bottles she wants, he pulls them out and sends them to her in Hong Kong.” That night, Azura opened several French bottles, courtesy of what she described as a generous allowance from her family, who she said were among the 10 wealthiest in Indonesia. She told Jason that her mother was a jet-setting attorney, who had once been paid to help Bill Clinton get elected. Now her father was dead, Azura said she would inherit US$30 million – and possibly a yacht or an estate. Later, Azura told Jason that she was an Indonesian princess, her allowance was US$150,000 a month, and that she would travel only by private jet. She showed him photographs of her feet sheathed in designer shoes, resting on the seat of what appeared to be a Gulfstream. Her phone contained endless selfies taken at Paris Fashion Week, California spa retreats, Italian beaches or wading into windswept rooftop pools in Manhattan. Then there was a picture of her with a Rolls-Royce bearing what appeared to be a UK licence plate, BO55 AZL, parked alongside a private jet. “That’s one photo I keep coming back to,” Jason says, “because even when I started to suspect her stories didn’t add up, how do you get a licence plate like that?” The vanity plate, identifying a car rented from AZ Luxe in London, was close to Azura’s initials, as monogrammed on the pockets of her pyjamas and oversized Louis Vuitton handbags: ALM. Perhaps AZL signified her first and middle names, Azura Luna? In the fog of infatuation, Jason did not question whether the car belonged to her. A little over a month later, on the morning of Monday, November 26, 2018, six police officers from Los Angeles’ West Hollywood Station surrounded one of the prestigious private bungalows in the 12-acre gardens of the Beverly Hills Hotel, at the wealthiest end of Sunset Boulevard. Affluent LA resident Sophia claims she had purchased more than US$86,000 worth of Hermès handbags from Azura Mangunhardjono’s private collection over the past year. They were being sold, Sophia believed, to raise money for one of Azura’s charities. But when Sophia took four of the exclusive handbags for authentication, two consignment stores informed her they were fakes. So she called the police. Azura was arrested and escorted from her bungalow in handcuffs to the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station for “selling items under false pretences”, says detective Juan Bonilla. She was released, passport in hand, the same day, aided by two lawyers from a Washington DC-based law firm. Sophia would later say the lawyers visited her home to inquire about Azura, but feeling threatened, Sophia refused to talk to them. Soon afterwards the law firm received a letter from Sophia’s lawyer, citing harassment, and Sophia never heard from them again. Azura denies any wrongdoing in this or any other cases of malfeasance, and police confirm no formal charges can be brought until the handbags in question are authenticated by an Hermès expert. But, says detective Bonilla, “as soon as Hermès gives me the results I’ll be filing the case. And in the event I file the charges, there would be a warrant issued, and if she comes back to the area she will be arrested.” In a WhatsApp message, on November 21 this year, Sophia writes: “Hermès said all fake!” However, Hermès has not directly confirmed this. Why was Azura hawking counterfeit handbags? Had her fortunes taken a turn for the worse? No one knew for sure, but news of her detainment was the loose thread that would lead to an unravelling that not even those closest to her could have predicted. It's a story with echoes of that of New York high society grifter Anna Delvey, whose career inspired Netflix series Inventing Anna. After her release, Azura continued to exchange messages with Jason in New York but said nothing of her arrest. When Jason later found out about the incident, she denied it. Then in early 2019, he started looking into his girlfriend’s other claims. “Here’s where things get really dark,” he says. Also known as Alexandra, Ally or Miss M, Azura always appeared well-connected and well-to-do. In 2010, she launched the Pavitra jewellery line in Hong Kong with Swiss business partner Mathias Hug, which opened doors for her to the city’s design community. She was part of the organising committee for Hong Kong Ambassadors of Design, which, on November 4, 2016, welcomed then chief secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor as guest of honour at its annual fundraiser ball. Azura projected herself as “charming, fun and larger than life”, says her public-relations friend Naomi. “Azura was so lovely. She loved kids and we would hang out, take walks on Bowen Road. She was just trying to live a normal life.” Another friend, marketing executive Mandy, says that while Azura did “live a somewhat surreal life, she was always kind, hospitable and generous to a fault, both with her many friends and their children. The stories now emerging come as a huge shock to me.” Hong Kong-based fund partner Diane met Azura in 2003 through Azura’s then husband, hotelier Brad Kirk. She describes her then as “nicely dressed but [with] nothing special about her”,until “she saw the society of Hong Kong, she saw the amount of wealth” and was seduced by it. Over time, Diane says their friendship suffered setbacks. Azura borrowed a painting from Diane for a special occasion and did not return it; there were Indonesian artworks of questionable provenance sold at “friend’s prices” to raise money for “charities” that might or might not have existed; credit cards were left at home when it was time to settle restaurant bills. Then a friend informed Diane that “being friends with Azura was hurting my reputation, so I stopped talking to her about four years ago”. But Azura always edged her way back in. “If you met her, you’d fall in love with her,” says Diane. “She’s so charming and charismatic. Otherwise, how would she do what she does?” “Azura’s a pure professional,” says Robert, 59, a former lover based in LA. “No one is better at making you comfortable. No joke.” “And she could do it with such conviction,” says Jason. “She brings characters alive. It was amazing, the stories were so deep. I would think to myself, ‘this is bulls***’... but she said she wasn’t on Google because she was so rich.” She often told me she was one of the most gifted children ever, according to some kind of IQ test. She would talk of her Harvard friends, her Brown University friends. It was all bulls***, but she was very good at playing a part What can be verified is that, in 2003, Kirk, then a hotelier with the InterContinental Hotels Group, relocated to Hong Kong from Bali with his beautiful bride. While Kirk confirms Azura is his ex-wife, who he brought to Hong Kong for the first time that year, he says he has long since moved on. “She is not part of my life and has not been for over nine years,” he says, “so I would prefer not to discuss her. No amount of background information provided by me would assist you or anyone in their current pursuit of the truth.” One of Azura’s Indonesian passports – issued by the country’s consulate general in Hong Kong on October 4, 2011, and expired on October 4, 2016 – gives her name as Azura Luna Mangunhardjono Kirk, born in Jakarta on October 27, 1974. A travel document issued in Paris on May 10 this year – expired August 10 – is absent the name “Kirk”. Much as Jason would hear a year later, Azura told Robert “she went to countless boarding schools all over the world. She often told me she was one of the most gifted children ever, according to some kind of IQ test. She would talk of her Harvard friends, her Brown University friends. It was all bulls***, but she was very good at playing a part”. Robert says Azura travelled with “two huge Louis Vuitton suitcases packed with casual clothes, club clothes, Chanel suits, Elizabeth Taylor-quality bracelets, watches, necklaces and earrings galore. They were barely able to be carried when full. She would make hotel people come up to the room and pack for her.” Diane met Robert in late 2017, when he visited Azura in Hong Kong as she urged him to return, or even better relocate, to her adopted city. By the time Azura was wooing Jason, in late 2018, Robert had contacted Diane, curious about whether she knew of other men who had suffered experiences with Azura similar to his. Having had time to digest what he considered his hoodwinking, Robert was sceptical that his could be an isolated case. Diane was surprised to hear the break-up had been acrimonious and that Roberthad wired Azura upwards of US$150,000 to help her with her supposedly dying father in 2017. “She also hounded me to donate to some charity event in Hong Kong,” says Robert. “Some big-deal gig. She needed me to do US$30,000. And yup, a**-face me wired it. Months later I contacted that charity. They kindly responded that they never got money from me or her.” A spokeswoman for Hong Kong-based THE ONE International, founded by David Harilela and which has ties to a local Rotary group, says that in 2013 Azura did donate HK$20,000 to the charity’s annual humanitarian award. A photograph on social media of a plaque inscribed with Azura’s name was confirmed as authentic by the organisation and as being in recognition of this contribution towards building an orphanage in Bangladesh. But Azura’s good intentions appear to have been at war with her ambitions for wealth and luxury. According to Robert, he gave Azura an American Express black card. He also says she returned some of the money she had spent on it after he “flipped out” over her financial extravagance. Robert and Diane were by now keeping an eye on “The Ripoff Report”, a website upon whose message board had gathered men and women from LA, Paris, New York and Hong Kong who had thought they knew Azura, only to later discover they knew next to nothing about her. As for who started the site, no one is saying. But those who anonymously or pseudonymously posted stories of subterfuge, skulduggery and scam-artistry leading to shock, anger, betrayal and in some cases substantial financial losses – when collated, in excess of half a million US dollars – now realised their grievances were far from isolated. As more online accusations surfaced – one anonymous user posting: “Her real name is Enjang Widhi Palupi, born in Kediri, East Java on October 27th, 1978” – a WhatsApp group dedicated to Azura’s misconduct came into being. Bit by bit the group began to assemble a fuller picture of Azura Mangunhardjono. The emerging reality was not the inspiring woman portrayed on Azura’s Instagram account: a mixture of wealth, ostentation and skin, seasoned with a few Dalai Lama quotes. Most of Azura’s posts from 2018 break five figures in likes, but these drop to mere double digits in January, 2019. A post on May 6 – attracting 171 likes from a supposed 294,000 followers – seemed to signal a small army of bots were suddenly not getting paid. A “princess” to her 18 subjects on Twitter, Azura’s loftier LinkedIn account – 429 contacts – describes her as managing director of “APAC Advisory Group”. Listing psychology at Dartmouth College, in New Hampshire, the United States, as a completed area of study, she rounds out her credentials with an MBA from Britain’s Cambridge University and a foray into aerospace engineering at MIT, in the US. Dartmouth communications spokeswoman Diana Lawrence told Post Magazine : “There are no alumnae at Dartmouth under the name Azura Mangunhardjono.” MIT’s Abby Abazorius says the institution “typically does not definitively confirm that a person did not attend MIT, as there can be situations where someone enrolled under a different name, participated in a special program. I checked with the MIT Registrar’s Office and they do not have a record of an individual with either of the names provided in our enrolment records.” Kevin Stacey, senior writer in physical sciences at Brown University, an alma mater Azura often cited to her suitors, says, “We do not have a person named Azura Mangunhardjono listed in our database.” To Diane’s knowledge, no one has met Azura’s parents, or step-parents, despite her tales of visiting relatives at family estates outside Paris. In a Facebook post Q&A promoting a handbag manufacturer, Azura writes that her mother lives in San Sebastián de Los Reyes, Madrid, Spain. When not claiming her to be the famous attorney with links to the Clintons, Azura told others her mother was as dead as her father; and sometimes that he, when not dead or requiring six-figure surgeries, needed money to deal with his extortionate girlfriend. A Facebook page exists in Azura’s name and photos of her were added on June 5 this year, with a profile-as-warning stating: “A con who steals from friends and pulls romantic scams on men.” Azura’s former landlord, Wellfine Properties, had Hong Kong solicitors Huen and Partners draw up a writ of summons on March 12, this year, claiming HK$460,000 in unpaid rent and other fees. A Hong-Kong-based organisation has filed a police report and hired a lawyer to recover HK$170,000 for an item Azura bid on at auction and then neglected to pay for. Police did not respond to requests for comment. Another former friend contends that Azura owes her £20,000 (US$25,800) for a wine tab. Azura’s helper of eight years says she is owed HK$76,000 in wages, and has taken her claim to the labour tribunal. Even her carpet cleaners and florists say Azura owes them money. A common reaction to being duped is embarrassment – only stupid people get taken in – but this is not the reality. “The function of grandiose charm and over-the-top yet convincing behaviour is often driven, above all else, by a strong desire to be admired and valued by others,” says Georgina Delamain, a clinical hypnotherapist, psychotherapist and counsellor based in Hong Kong. “Underneath it all, there is typically an unstable, fragile and vulnerable sense of self that is very capable of adapting to what others want or think they need.” The function of grandiose charm and over-the-top yet convincing behaviour is often driven, above all else, by a strong desire to be admired and valued by others Georgina Delamain, clinical hypnotherapist, psychotherapist and counsellor When Lori, another former friend of Azura, saw the Ripoff Report she felt the same twinge she and her husband had when they had bought “shares” in a rare, supposedly 22-carat pink diamond worth “countless millions”, which Azura had shown them at their home in 2013. She was visiting with her then fiancé, an American banker named Chris, whom Lori suspects once owned the Robinson Road flat. Lori says she and her husband contracted into a “share deal” on the jewel, with an option to withdraw their US$250,000 buy-in after one year. But when that time arrived, and Lori’s husband asked for the funds to be returned, there were nail-pulled instalments. She says Azura still owes them US$65,000. “I’m not ashamed to say that I trusted someone to be who she said she was,” says Lori, sipping tea at a private club near 1 Robinson Road. “We just want her to stop. If someone had exposed her before, we wouldn’t have got caught up in this.” Azura was known to have a collection of limited-edition Hermès bags, which in the case of a new alligator Birkin, sell for US$60,000 at the LA consignment store where Sophia discovered she had been duped last November. So in April 2018, when Hong Kong-based luxury-goods manufacturer Laurent was offered a large sum of money to source a rarer vintage Birkin from Azura for a client, it was a commission he was happy to take. Despite having paid Azura for the bag, by early 2019, it still had not appeared. Eventually, he felt obliged to repay his client, knowing he may never see his money again. Then, through a web search, Laurent found the Ripoff Report along with Diane and Robert. He also filed a complaint with the Hong Kong police, whose public relations branch wrote, on November 22: “Police received a report from a 46-year-old foreign man on June 11, stating that he had paid some HK$390,000 to a foreign woman to buy some handbags. “However, the informant failed to receive any goods. The case is classified as ‘Obtaining Property by Deception’. Investigation by District Investigation Team 4 of Central District is underway. No arrest has been made so far.” By the time Azura was arrested in LA, in November 2018, Jason’s Hong Kong sojourns had led him to invite her for a getaway to London in the first few days of December. “We checked into the Berkeley,” Jason recalls. “I had said, ‘Why don’t we stay at your London house?’ And she said, ‘I prefer to be pampered at a hotel.’ She had said the house was a 10- to 15-room mansion and this was where her Rolls-Royce was. I said, ‘Can’t you show me?’ And she said, ‘Yes, of course.’ But she never showed me anything.” Still, Jason was smitten. “She’s incredible and she’s hugely intelligent and she wants me to get a ring,” he says. “She understood my weak spot of being newly separated, that I had that feeling of being alone and the uncertainty. “So she’s asking me to transfer assets to her as she wants to protect me [from his soon-to-be ex-wife]. She said she would use my assets to buy property in Bali and diamonds, all in my name. She says, ‘I need you to do this. I want you to put me on a pedestal and my family will not think poorly of me that I’m running around with this guy. Put a deposit on a ring. If you love me, you’ll give me a 10 per cent deposit. You’re going to have a € 20 million [US$22 million] wine collection. I just need the ring.’” Abdul, owner of a Parisian luxury real-estate rental agency, discovered the Ripoff Report in spring this year, and had a € 39,000 scam to add to the list. Azura had rented an apartment from Abdul’s company for an initial four days in March. He and his associate, Olga, recall Azura as “cool and easy going, saying she wanted to invest in Paris”. Abdul informed Azura that her rented flat was for sale. She said she was interested and also wanted a second property. “She said one was to be her pied-à-terre and the other would be an investment,” Olga explains. An offer was drafted and Abdul began the paperwork. “We were discussing finance and markets,” Olga says, “and she knew what she was talking about.” Three months passed and Azura had paid only for the original four days. The owner had told Abdul that if Azura was buying the apartment, she was welcome to stay for the duration of the sale. But no deposit arrived. Abdul and Olga explained to Azura that if she paid the back rent they could move forward, but despite apparently calling her bank in their presence, Azura did not pay. Olga told her to leave the apartment. “It was shocking to see someone acting that calmly in that situation,” she says of their meeting that day. Unfortunately for Abdul, the apartment’s owners took their business elsewhere, angered by the failure of the sale and the € 39,000 in unpaid rent. Azura had arrived Paris in January this year and Jason visited her there. “We restarted the relationship and I allowed myself to think this was all due to the meddling of Diane and Robert,” Jason says. Azura had told him she had a family home there and sent photos of a luxuriously appointed apartment. “We’d been Facetiming from where she was in Paris, and there was a housekeeper there, Sunita, who Azura said had been with her family for 40 years.” The relationship back on, Jason forgot about the LA handbag incident and all he had read on the Ripoff Report. Then, at an opportune moment, Sunita explained to Jason that she had known Azura for only a few weeks. “Sunita had left her job as caretaker to an elderly man after Azura convinced her to work for her,” Jason says. “They went to one apartment for about a week and were kicked out for not paying rent. They found a second place and moved in – the one I visited, a beautiful, four-bedroom apartment.” Days later, Jason was contacted by the Ripoff Report-based WhatsApp group when five of its members – Abdul, Diane, Robert, Sophia and Laurent – staged a text-message intervention. Jason says he realised he was deluding himself and he questioned Azura aboutallegations on the Ripoff Report. She “went ballistic”, he says, claiming the blog was a hoax. Then Sunita pulled him aside again. “This whole thing is a lie,” she said. “Run.” It is August before Azura agrees to a video call with Post Magazine . Wearing a simple white shirt and lying on a bed, her face is as beguiling as described. She is calling, she says, from Luanda, in Angola, where she is working with a charitable organisation, and she has broken her ankle. Azura insists she owes no one anything. “Maybe the landlord,” she concedes, but her “belongings on Robinson Road were stolen” and “those final rental payments were not my fault”. She says she wrote a cheque for her former landlord at 1 Robinson Road but “they didn’t get it”. Malaysia-born woman steals identities and fortunes in US crime spree A property-management spokesperson for 1 Robinson Road says: “She didn’t pay her rent for several months so we got a notice from the court to remove her items from the 20th floor and they stuck that notice to the door [...] We couldn’t locate her, so the apartment is now listed for rent. She has not contacted us.” Azura maintains that, while in the apartment, her maid stole from her and that it was she who gave people money, from a trust fund endowed by her “wealthy, deceased mother”. Then her eyes well up with tears, voice quavering. “I lost my parents when I was 11 years old. They were international humanitarians and died in East Timor, caught in the crossfire, protecting me from the bullets,” she says. “My mother was from Gujarat, in India, my father was Chinese-Dutch-Indonesian,” she says, adding they had met in Madrid where Azura’s mother worked at the Prado museum and her father was visiting on a backpacking trip away from his studies in Germany. “That’s the reason I’m a hopeless romantic and get into all this trouble all the time,” she confides. “I was born in Germany,” she says. “I never lived in Indonesia, except in Bali when I was with my future husband.” She continues that her early childhood was “all over – South Africa, Botswana, Mali, Europe, some parts of Asia. I learned Arabic in Egypt. I learned Sanskrit and moved all over India. My father worked with displaced people so I grew up in refugee camps, savannah, jungle, palaces, five-star hotels.” She met Brad Kirk at the Grand Hyatt Jakarta, she says, while she was helping homeless people who lived near a river that often flooded. Before that, she says, she had studied at university and “grew up as an investment banker”. She adds that she is currently taking an online course in molecular biology. “I was a child bride, probably 26, 27, 29 – it was love at first sight with Brad,” she says. “I became the mother of his two children. I truly enjoyed that.” She confirms she arrived in Hong Kong after marrying Kirk, but denies ever introducing herself as an Indonesian princess. “The first thing I always said to people is that I come from a poor family, I’m a farmer – not that I am a farmer. I don’t even wear make-up. I don’t have to justify myself, but one of the reasons I left Hong Kong is because they created fake Tinder accounts and sent men to my door.” In reality, Azura says – before the connection is lost – she rarely goes out. “I literally stay at home in my pyjamas with the dog and just sleep. I love to live a quiet life. I’m a very introverted person.” Some members of the Ripoff Report WhatsApp group claim Azura was recently in Florence, Italy, and that she skipped town without paying bills at the Hotel Continentale and the Borgo Dolci Colline. The hotels’ privacy policies forbid them from commenting. On September 26, a series of Instagram posts appeared on Azura’s account, which had been dormant since May 6. One is an apparent exchange of messages with Elon Musk. This Instagram account has since been deleted. And then she texts messages a digital boarding pass – first class, with 70kg of luggage, on Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong from New York City. Diane has said “everything Azura does is to throw you off the scent”. And with so many people out for blood, why would she return to Hong Kong? But then another text arrives, from a mobile phone on the CSL network, indicating Azura is indeed in Hong Kong. She agrees to a meeting at the Captain’s Bar, in the Mandarin Oriental hotel, but later changes the location to Starbucks in Citibank Tower. Ten minutes before the appointed time, on a recent Friday afternoon, she materialises, an oversized white shirt draping her slim frame, a large Net-a-Porter shopping bag on her right arm and a studded Valentino bag at her left side. Her brown eyes begin their seduction. The conversation is a litany of denials and refutations. She claims to be five months pregnant with twins. Her hands are visibly shaking. The following day her Instagram account indicates she is back in Paris, lodgingat Le Bristol Hotel. A message sent to Azura’s WhatsApp chat displays one grey tick: message sent but not yet delivered. Perhaps she is in the air, or has switched SIM cards. Whether newly updated or previously unnoticed, her visit to Hong Kong gives Azura’s WhatsApp profile statement a new foreboding: Para Bellum, it says. Prepare for war. Some names have been changed.