Indonesia seeks S’pore help to hunt graft suspects

April 6, 2010
Singapore Democrats

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AFP

Indonesian police want to work more closely with Singapore to track down corruption suspects who have taken sanctuary in the city state, national police chief detective Ito Sumardi said Monday.

Singapore came under the spotlight last week when a young tax official suspected of laundering millions of dollars was apprehended there and returned to Jakarta.

The ease with which Indonesian police were allowed to enter Singapore, track down the official, Gayus Tambunan, 30, and convince him to return to Indonesia has focused attention on other alleged criminals hiding there.

Sumardi said 10 to 20 Indonesian suspects were living in Singapore, which has a reputation as the cleanest country in Asia.

“We need to bring them back to Indonesia… They’re economic criminals. They consider Singapore a safe place to stay,” he told AFP.

“First, our target is to bring back six suspects linked to the Bank Century case. They’re all hiding in Singapore,” he said, referring to a scandal over a 700-million-dollar bank bailout in 2008.

“After that, we’ll try to find those involved in other cases. Based on police checks, we believe the number of suspects in Singapore is in the teens, including those involved in the Bank Century case.”

In a recent update to lawmakers, Deputy Attorney General Darmono said most of 18 alleged graft suspects currently subject to extradition requests were hiding in Singapore.

Another 10 had fled abroad, mostly to Singapore, but were not subject to extradition requests, he added.

Sumardi said the police and attorney general’s office might be tracking different suspects and he could not provide a definitive figure for the number of fugitives believed to be in Singapore.

Indonesian officials have complained for years about what they say is the freedom enjoyed by such fugitives in Singapore, where they have allegedly pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into banks and property.

“We’ll be working with the Singapore authorities such as the police and immigration department, and we’ll use specific approaches to convince the suspects to return to Indonesia,” Sumardi said.

Indonesia and Singapore signed a long-delayed extradition treaty in 2007 but it has not come into force due to Singapore’s insistence on linking it to defence ties, Indonesian officials said.

Attorney General Hendarman Supandji said last week that unlike other Indonesian suspects, Gayus did not have powerful connections and therefore could not hold out for long.

“Businessmen have a wide reach to anywhere, they have no boundaries. Civil servants have limited reach,” he said.

Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told AFP last month he planned to raise Indonesia’s concerns in “informal talks” with Singaporean leaders later this year.

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