Members of the public see KPK as successful in catching corruptors. (Antara Photo/Sigid Kurniawan)

KPK Mulls Seeking Interpol Assistance to Repatriate Business Tycoon Sjamsul Nursalim for Questioning


JUNE 10, 2017

Jakarta. The country's national antigraft agency may request help from Interpol in repatriating business tycoon Sjamsul Nursalim from Singapore, where he is believed to have been living since being implicated in a 2004 embezzlement case.

Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) spokesperson Febri Diansyah told reporters on Thursday (08/06) that the agency is "seriously" considering seeking Interpol assistance in extraditing Sjamsul back to Indonesia.

Sjamsul is the owner of tire maker Gajah Tunggal Group and has been involved with other large commercial enterprises in the past, including Mitra Adi Perkasa.

 The Case

Now-defunct commerical lender Bank Dagang Negara Indonesia (BDNI), which Sjamsul owned, received nearly Rp 28 trillion ($2.11 billion) in liquidity support from the country's central bank, Bank Indonesia, in the aftermath of the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis.

BDNI was among many commercial lenders in the country whose operations were frozen in 1998 due to the widespread economic crisis. To regain public trust and pull the nation's banking sector back on its feet, the government spent massive amounts of so-called bailout money to troubled lenders, including Sjamsul's bank.

However, the government assistance required BDNI to pay back Rp 4.8 trillion over time; Sjamsul has only paid back Rp 1.1 trillion.

In 2004, Syafruddin Arsyad Temenggung, chairman of the Indonesia Bank Restructuring Agency (IBRA), issued a letter forgiving the remainder of BDNI's debt, which amounted to Rp 3.7 trillion.

However, Syafruddin's letter later raised suspicions from government officials, including then-KPK chairman Abraham Samad and former head of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN), Sutiyoso.

In early 2014, Abraham initiated a probe into alleged irregularities surrounding Syafruddin's letter, who was appointed IBRA chairman in 2002.

Abraham even indicated that the antigraft agency would summon former President Megawati Soekarnoputri for questioning, as Syafruddin alleged his decision was based on a presidential regulation signed by Megawati in Dec. 2002 that freed some liquidity assistance recipients from their obligation to pay their debts to the state.

However, Abraham was forced to step down from his post as investigations into an identity card forgery case escalated in February 2015, following a spat between KPK and the National Police after Abraham named Megawati's former aide, Insp. Gen. Budi Gunawan, a graft suspect. Investigations into that case have stalled since Abraham's dismissal.

Former BIN head Sutiyoso named Sjamsul one of 33 fugitives on its most wanted list in 2006, though the business tycoon, now in Singapore, has managed to evade police questioning. Gajah Tunggal also remains one of the largest integrated tire manufacturers in Southeast Asia.

KPK's new commissioners, however, named Syafruddin, but not Sjamsul, a suspect in the case in April.

In the aftermath of the 1997-98 financial crisis, Bank Indonesia dished out as much as Rp 144.5 trillion in bailout money for national lenders, the bulk of which has yet to be paid back.

Sjamsul Not Yet Named a Suspect

KPK previously summoned Sjamsul and his wife, Itjih Nursalim, as witnesses in relation to Syafruddin's case, though both were no-shows.

However, in order for KPK to receive Interpol assistance, the antigraft body first must officially name Sjamsul a suspect.

The international police agency, in accordance with internal regulations, cannot issue an international "red notice," or arrest and extradition charge, before respective governments name fugitives as suspects in a criminal case.

Still, KPK is working closely with Singapore's Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau to gather information and evidence regarding the case, in an attempt to ultimately force the tycoon back to Indonesia.

Febri did not explain how KPK will press charges against Sjamsul.

In 2007, Singapore and Indonesia signed a mutual extradition treaty and enhanced defense cooperation, though both agreements are still pending ratification by the House of Representatives.