Jakarta. Singapore reacted strongly on Friday to allegations by an Indonesian anti-corruption official that the city-state has become a safe haven for graft fugitives fleeing its giant neighbor.
A senior official with the Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) said earlier that prosecuting graft suspects in foreign jurisdictions is a daunting task, especially when they already found a safe haven in Singapore.
“The only country who is not willing to sign an extradition treaty related to corruption cases is Singapore,” KPK’s deputy for enforcement Karyoto told local media in Jakarta on Tuesday.
“Graft criminals have found Singapore as their nearest safe haven,” he added,
His remarks drew a rebuke by Singapore, who accused the official of playing the blame game.
“There is no basis to the allegations. Singapore has provided assistance to Indonesia on several past and ongoing investigations,” Singapore’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement on Friday.
“For example, the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) has assisted the KPK in serving summons requests to persons under investigation. Singapore has also been helpful to the Indonesian authorities by providing confirmation on the whereabouts of specific Indonesian nationals under investigation.”
The ministry said further that both countries already signed extradition treaty in April 2007, witnessed by then-President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
However, the treaty has not come into force pending ratification by the Indonesian House of Representatives.
The Indonesian parliament, for its part, objected to the treaty being attached to bilateral defense cooperation agreement that requires Indonesia to provide Kayu Ara Island near Sumatra as a training ground and shooting practice area for the Singaporean military.
Both extradition and defense cooperation agreements were put into a single package signed by their respective defense minister.
Singapore said it will continue to provide the necessary legal assistance to Indonesia if it receives a request “through the appropriate official channels”.
“Singapore and Indonesia are party to the Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters among like-minded ASEAN Member Countries, under which cooperation already takes place in line with Singapore’s domestic laws and international obligations,” the ministry said.
“We will cooperate in law enforcement with Indonesia in accordance with our domestic laws and international obligations. It is not helpful to divert attention or blame to foreign jurisdictions.”
Earlier this month, the KPK announced the termination of corruption investigation against tycoon Sjamsul Nursalim and his wife Itjih, both are thought to be living in Singapore.
The couple were named suspects in June 2019 for allegedly embezzling trillions of rupiah as part of government’s massive bailout scheme to their Bank Dagang Negara Indonesia during the 1998 financial crisis.
The KPK, however, has not been able to interrogate them in person since they became graft suspects.