Jakarta. The Customs Office says it is collecting evidence to build a criminal case against I Gusti Ngurah Askhara Danadiputra, or Ari Askhara, the former chief executive of flag carrier Garuda Indonesia, who was allegedly involved in smuggling a vintage Harley Davidson motorcycle and Brompton bicycles on board an Airbus plane being delivered to Jakarta from its factory in Toulouse, France, in mid-November.
State-Owned Enterprises Minister Erick Thohir said last week he had dismissed Askhara and suspended several of Garuda's directors for their alleged involvement in the smuggling attempt.
Customs officers found the disassembled parts of the motorbike and bicycles inside boxes in the Airbus A330-900 Neo's cargo hold at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport on Nov. 17.
Ashkara had allegedly tagged the boxes with the name of another Garuda employee.
Heru Pambudi, the director-general of customs and excise at the Finance Ministry, said his office had launched an official inquiry into the case as soon as they discovered the smuggling attempt.
The case became public last Thursday when Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati and Erick announced the government's decision to dismiss Askhara from his position on ethical grounds.
Garuda's board of commissioners later on Saturday suspended four of the airline's directors, whose names remain undisclosed, since they were implicated in the case.
Heru said on Wednesday the Customs Office had elevated the case into the investigation stage, building a criminal case against Askhara and his colleagues.
"The investigation is ongoing. Please be patient. We will soon decide if it was a crime or not," Heru said as quoted by Antara.
Erick said on Tuesday he suspected smuggling has been an entrenched practice in the airline.
"This is systemic, not an individual event. [The perpetrators] were helping each other out," Erick said.
"The law says if you help someone commit a crime, you will get punished too," he said.
Smugglers face up to five years of jail time or a fine of Rp 5 billion ($355,000) according to Indonesian law.
The police and the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) said earlier they were also looking into possibilities to investigate the case and uncover wider practices of smuggling and corruption in the airline.