Jakarta. The Depok District Court in West Java sentenced First Travel bosses Andika Surachman and Anniesa Hasibuan to prison terms of 20 years and 18 years, respectively, on Wednesday (30/05) for scamming more than 60,000 would-be pilgrims.
The court also ordered them to each pay a Rp 10 billion fine or serve an additional eight months in prison.
The married couple were found guilty of having taking Rp 848 billion ($60 million) from customers who were each hoodwinked into paying Rp 14.3 million – Rp 4 million less than the going rate – for cheap tour packages to perform umrah, or the minor hajj.
Customers were promised that they would be sent to Mecca a year after they paid the money.
According to the judges, First Travel had collected Rp 1.3 trillion from 93,295 would-be pilgrims between January 2015 and June 2017, with only 29,985 having received the promised service.
Some of the thousands of other customers eventually reported the matter to the police when the travel agency repeatedly failed to deliver on its promises. The couple were named suspects in August last year.
"We give the convicts seven days to decide whether to appeal this verdict," presiding judge Sobandi said, as reported by state-run news agency Antara.
State prosecutors said they would also consider an appeal against the sentences.
Besides the couple, the court also sentenced former First Travel finance director Siti Nuraidah "Kiki" Hasibuan – Anniesa's younger sister – to 15 years in jail on May 7.
At least 63,310 customers have lost all the money they paid over to First Travel.
Anniesa is also known as a designer of modest wear, or Islamic clothing for women, having made her debut at New York Fashion Week in September 2016. She was the first designer to feature hijabs in each outfit presented on the NYFW runway.
This milestone saw her included in Forbes Indonesia's 2017 Inspiring Women list alongside prominent persons such as Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati and businesswoman Nurhayati Subakat.
Forbes Indonesia removed Anniesa from the list after she was named a suspect in August.
The couple frequently posted photos of themselves on Instagram, showing off their glamorous lifestyle.
When police seized the couple's assets in August, they found an extravagantly luxurious house in Kebagusan, South Jakarta, with the curtains alone reportedly having cost Rp 700 million. There were also some luxury cars in the garage.
"Many bought into the couple's fairytale success story because they represented the dream most middle-class Indonesians have of the future," Surabaya-based writer Johannes Nugroho said, commenting on the phenomenon from a sociological perspective.
"Theirs was the Indonesian dream come true: a struggling couple that eventually made it to the top of their game; rich and glamorous and above all, respectably pious.
"The irony is that the couple's trappings of wealth, ostentatiously flaunted, mimicked the typical lifestyle of the rich portrayed in Indonesian soap operas, or sinetron."