Indonesian anti-corruption body KPK apologises for official's disparaging remarks on Singapore

Karyoto called Singapore a safe haven for graft fugitives.
Karyoto called Singapore a safe haven for graft fugitives.PHOTO: ST FILE

JAKARTA - Indonesia's anti-graft body, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), apologised for a statement made by its senior official about the difficulty of pursuing Indonesians suspected of corruption in Singapore.

KPK spokesman Ali Fikri said that the statement was "not intended to disparage any system or laws" prevailing in Singapore.

"The KPK and the CPIB (Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau) have long collaborated closely in anti-corruption efforts in accordance with each agency's capacities and duties, including in the areas of prevention, education, and law enforcement," he said on Saturday (April 10) in a statement posted on KPK's site.

Last Tuesday, Police Inspector-General Karyoto, who is a senior officer in charge of enforcement and execution at KPK called Singapore a safe haven for graft fugitives, and said it was hard to chase Indonesian suspects, especially since both countries still did not have an extradition treaty.

In its statement, KPK said it had collaborated with its Singaporean counterpart in the investigation of a number of corruption cases, including a massive electronic ID graft case, with the latter facilitating witness interviews, exchange of information and asset tracing as requested by Indonesia, in line with the Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA).

The case involved alleged embezzlement through huge mark-ups in the procurement cost of e-ID cards, a programme launched under former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2010.

Costing the state 2.3 trillion rupiah (S$215 million) in losses, it implicated dozens of Members of Parliament, including then Speaker Setya Novanto.

Indonesia and Singapore are party to the MLA in Criminal Matters among Like-minded Asean Member Countries, under which cooperation already takes place in line with Singapore's domestic laws and international obligations.

In response to Mr Karyoto's remarks, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said last Friday (April 9) that there was no basis for the allegation, and Singapore "has been and will remain committed" to help Indonesia crack down on corruption.

MFA said: "Singapore has provided assistance to Indonesia on several past and ongoing investigations. Singapore has also been helpful to the Indonesian authorities by providing confirmation on the whereabouts of specific Indonesian nationals under investigation."

On extradition, MFA pointed out that Singapore and Indonesia had signed the Extradition Treaty and Defence Cooperation Agreement as a package in April 2007, but both were still pending ratification by the Indonesian Parliament.

Mr Ali noted that the CPIB had also facilitated KPK to summon suspects in another high-profile graft case involving Bank Indonesia Liquidity Support (BLBI) funds. KPK would soon seek CPIB's help to deliver a warrant to two suspects believed to be in Singapore now that investigations in their case had ended, he added.

KPK in the statement identified the suspects only by their initials, SN and ISN, but they are believed to be Mr Sjamsul Nursalim, owner of Bank Dagang Negara Indonesia, and his wife, Mrs Itjih Sjamsul Nursalim.

The couple were named graft suspects in June 2019, but have never been put on trial. The KPK terminated the case on April 1 - the first in the commission's history - after failing to build a strong case, local media reported.

The BLBI funds were disbursed by the central bank to help Indonesian banks survive the 1997 financial crisis, and the alleged misappropriation of funds was estimated by the Supreme Audit Agency to be 4.58 trillion rupiah.

"We hope and trust that the KPK and the CPIB will continue to maintain friendly relations and communications, in the mutual commitment to cooperate in fighting corrupt practices," Mr Ali said.

He added: "As methods used by criminals to commit corruption and evade law enforcement grow more advanced and go beyond national borders, we believe it is of utmost importance that states engage in dialogues to expand forms of cooperation to improve the effectiveness and tackle the hurdles in the law enforcement process."