Jakarta. Indonesia's anti-graft agency on Monday declared tycoon Sjamsul Nursalim and his wife Itjih as graft suspects in the long-running Bank Indonesia Liquidity Assistance, or BLBI, bailout case.
The Corruption Eradication Agency (KPK) also plans to charge Sjamsul and Itjih with money laundering to enable the agency to recover the couple's overseas assets.
During the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis, the Indonesian government disbursed Rp 144.5 trillion ($10.7 billion) in bailout funds under the BLBI scheme to 48 commercial banks including Sjamsul's Bank Dagang Nasional Indonesia (BDNI).
According to the Supreme Audit Agency, 95 percent of the BLBI bailout funds were misappropriated.
BDNI received Rp 28.8 trillion in bailout money and was ordered to pay back Rp 4.8 trillion to the government, but the former chairman of the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency, Syafruddin Arsyad Temenggung, issued a letter exonerating Sjamsul from returning Rp 3.7 trillion left in the government payback.
Syafruddin was sentenced to 15 years in prison and fined Rp 1 billion by the Jakarta High Court in January for his decision to release Sjamsul from his obligation to compensate the government for the bailout.
"KPK has begun a new investigation into a corruption case related to [the] Syafruddin Arsyad Temenggung [case]... the suspects are SJN [Sjamsul Nursalim] and ITN [Itjih Nursalim]," KPK commissioner Saut Situmorang said in Jakarta on Monday.
Sjamsul and his wife were declared as suspects in the new graft case related to the BLBI bailout after investigators delved deeper into the Syafruddin case.
KPK investigators now believe Sjamsul and Itjih, who reside in Singapore, had profited to the tune of Rp 4.58 trillion, or caused the state to lose the same amount of money, during the BLBI bailout.
Indonesia does not have an extradition treaty with Singapore.
In April 2016, the then head of State Intelligence Agency Sutiyoso named Sjamsul a fugitive from the law who was wanted for corruption.
That has not stopped Sjamsul from expanding his business empire from his hiding.
Sjamsul and Itjih own Gajah Tunggal, the largest tire manufacturer in Indonesia, and retail group Mitra Adi Perkasa, which owns the Indonesian rights to more than 100 international brands including Starbucks, Burger King, Zahra and Samsonite. They also owned properties in Singapore under Tuan Sing Holdings.
"We can use the anti-money laundering law to trace [their] assets. [It also gives us the legal base] to cooperate with foreign authorities… to recover those assets," another KPK commissioner Laode M. Syarif said.
"We can also charge them with violating corporation laws," he said.