Jakarta. Indonesian officials are taken aback by the revelation that several regional heads own high roller-level accounts in casinos abroad, raising suspicions that the accounts might have been used for money laundering.
The Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (PPATK) announced the finding last week but refused to identify the officials involved.
Law enforcers and officials at the Home Affairs Ministry were quick to say they would follow up on the case, while others, including House of Representatives speaker Puan Maharani, said they regretted the fact that the sensitive information was made public.
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo meanwhile has already condemned a regional head for keeping an account in an overseas casino.
"You can't say anything positive about a regional head who saves his money in a casino," Jokowi said on Wednesday.
PPATK head Kiagus Ahmad Badaruddin said on Friday the center had tracked several regional heads who have been depositing money in overseas accounts.
While parking money abroad is not illegal, the PPATK was alerted to large sums of money being put into casino accounts.
"We tracked the financial transactions of several regional heads who were suspected of keeping funds in foreign currencies. The amount was quite significant, around Rp 50 billion ($3.6 million) deposited in casino accounts abroad," Kiagus said.
Money launderers often use casinos to launder ill-gotten money by making them appear as if they were gambling winnings, Kiagus said.
Gambling is illegal in Indonesia but its citizens cannot be charged with the crime if they do it in a country where gambling is legal. Singapore and Malaysia are popular gambling destinations for Indonesians.
National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. M. Iqbal said the police are ready to investigate the case. "If a report is made, with two to three pieces of evidence we can start an investigation," he said.
Akmal Malik, the director-general of regional autonomy at the Home Affairs Ministry, said the ministry will ban the regional heads identified by the PPATK from traveling abroad.
"We will put them on the blacklist. They won't be able to travel overseas anymore," Akmal said.
He also said the ministry will also tighten the requirements for regional leaders when they want to travel abroad.
The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) said it had already identified one regional head with a casino account. His subordinate is currently a suspect in a KPK investigation.
"We hope the investigation will lead us [to the account owner]," KPK chairman Agus Rahardjo said on Tuesday.
Others, however, said the PPATK had created an unnecessary fuss by announcing an unsubstantiated suspicion to the public without proper investigation by law enforcers.
"It would be nice if these things were not immediately made public, because they could create confusion or a presumption of guilt for the people concerned," House speaker Puan said on Monday.