Singapore a graft haven no more

Tony Hotland
The Jakarta Post
25 Apr 07

Indonesian citizens accused of corruption have long sought refuge in Singapore, something that is likely to change after the leaders of both countries sign extradition and defense treaties later this week.

Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda said Tuesday that the extradition agreement, finalized on Monday, would lead to the arrests of a number of Indonesians living in Singapore, who are also believed to have substantial bank accounts and investments in the country.

“The regulation is retroactive, so we will try to bring back corruption suspects from the time of Soeharto,” he said.

Hassan said the treaty, which has been under discussion since the 1970s, would cover 42 types of crime and would be signed in Bali this Friday.

Singapore is home to many wealthy Indonesians who are key players in the property market and business for private banks.

One third of Singapore’s high net-worth investors — those with net financial assets of more than US$1 million — are of Indonesian origin, Merrill Lynch and Capgemini said in a report, adding that these 18,000 Indonesians had total assets of $87 billion.

Indonesia has in the past accused Singapore of looking after crooked businessmen and officials, who are alleged to use the city state to launder money.

Legislator Djoko Susilo of the House of Representatives Commission I on foreign affairs said the retroactive clause in the treaty needed to be detailed and that there should be a deadline for the parliaments of both countries to either reject or ratify the treaties.

“If we deem (the agreements) to give Singapore more benefits than us, the House can refuse to ratify them,” said the National Mandate Party member.

The defense treaty, which Singapore requested be discussed alongside the extradition treaty, could give Singapore space for military training and allow it to bring a third party to its military exercises inside Indonesian territory.

Yuddy Chrisnandi of the Golkar Party, also a member of Commission I, said the ability of the government to trace and retrieve money stolen from it should be the main point of the agreement.

“Therefore, to avoid debate after the signing, the government should discuss the final draft first with the House so we can have a shared view because we have power over an international agreement,” he said.

Former Singapore prime minister, now “minister mentor” Lee Kuan Yew said Tuesday that the extradition treaty would hurt Singapore’s property and banking sectors.

“It’s laughable. Do you believe that any Indonesian who was likely to be extradited would be here at all?” Lee said in an interview with Reuters.

“It does act as an inhibitor. It does give an extra barrier for any would-be escapee from their system,” he said.

Lee also said Singapore had very strict rules and safeguards to prevent money-laundering in response to accusations at home about Indonesians fleeing to Singapore with stolen state money to evade prosecution.

Indonesia hopes extradition treaty with Singapore to be retroactive
Mohd Nasir Yusoff
25 Apr 07

Indonesian Attorney-General Abdurahman Saleh hopes the extradition treaty to be signed by the Indonesian and Singaporean governments soon will be retroactive so that it can be used to net corrupters from former president Suharto`s era.

“I have not read the treaty’s draft but I hope it will be retroactive by five years. In short, I hope it can also be applied to corrupters from the Suharto era,” he said as quoted by Antara news agency after attending a limited cabinet meeting here Tuesday.

Indonesia and Singapore officials are expected to sign the extradition treaty and a defence co-operation agreement at the Tampak Siring presidential Palace in Bali on Friday, witnessed by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Abdurahman said the Indonesian government had from the beginning hoped the agreement could be used retroactively to cover past corrupters, including those involved in the Bank Indonesia Liquidity Assistance (BLBI) scandal.

The government had been hoping that with the treaty it could more easily net corrupters who had fled to Singapore, he said, adding that “we expect to be able to bring those corrupters back.”

Under the accord, Abdurahman said Singapore was also obliged to extradite alleged corrupters who had fled to that country to Indonesia.

He, however, admitted that the problem was not that easy as it was not impossible that they have already left Singapore when both the governments were still discussing the agreement.

Justice and Human Rights Minister Hamid Awalloedin welcomed signing of the agreement as it had been awaited for a long time because it would affect law enforcement in the country.

Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said the agreement would affect 42 criminal cases.

On data of the corrupters that Singapore had received, the minister said the two countries have not discussed matters relating to the treaty’s implementation.

“We are just in the stage of agreeing on the pact which is good for our purpose and the two countries` common interests. We have not talked about who and how but we are striving maximally to make the agreement appropriate for use to meet our purposes,” he added

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