Rendi A. Witular, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Mogul Sjamsul Nursalim is an example of one of the most notorious of the country's bad debtors, who, as of now, has yet to show good faith in settling his huge debt to the state.
The Litigation Assistance Team (TPBH) for the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency (IBRA) has long declared Sjamsul, owner of the Gadjah Tunggal Group, as the most ""noncooperative"" large debtor.
Along with Sjamsul, TPBH has also targeted other large debtors, such as Usman Admadjaja, Trijono Gondokusumo, Samadikun Hartono and Kaharudin Ongko.
In the wake of the 1997 financial crisis, Sjamsul's now-defunct Bank Dagang Negara Indonesia (BDNI) received some Rp 40 trillion (US$4.4 billion) in liquidity assistance (BLBI) from the central bank to help cope with massive bank runs plaguing the industry at the time.
The amount places Sjamsul as the second-largest debtor of state funds after the Salim Group, which owes some Rp 52.7 trillion.
Despite the bailout facility, BDNI's financial troubles deepened, forcing IBRA to take over the bank in April 1998 before it eventually liquidated it. Consequently, Sjamsul is obliged to repay the BLBI facility.
Sjamsul settled part of the debt by ceding his ownership in BDNI to IBRA. The value of the BDNI asset was claimed to be around Rp 11.5 trillion. He agreed to repay the remaining debt via a combination of cash payment and transfer of ownership in a variety of fixed assets.
Under a 1998 deal, known as the Master of Settlement and Acquisition Agreement (MSAA), Sjamsul was supposed to pay in advance Rp 1 trillion in cash to IBRA, and to surrender shares in various companies to repay the remaining Rp 27.5 trillion debt.
However, Sjamsul has failed to comply with the agreement. So far, he has paid only Rp 572 billion of the cash advance requirement. Also, he has only surrendered ownership in some 12 companies, which, according to IBRA, are only worth around Rp 4.1 trillion. Sjamsul has not handed over his shares in PT Gadjah Tunggal, Southeast Asia's largest tire-maker.
To make himself untouchable by the law and to avoid his obligations, Sjamsul was reported to have ""bought"" several of the country's top officials, including Attorney General M.A. Rachman.
As reported by Tempo weekly magazine in its Nov. 17 edition, Sjamsul is believed to have bribed Rachman in order to prevent his being pursued for corruption by prosecutors.
In April 2001, Sjamsul was declared the suspect in a corruption case involving BLBI funds.
However, he managed to flee the country and is currently taking shelter in Singapore to avoid arrest.
Quite apart from the absence of an extradition agreement between Indonesia and Singapore, the government has made no serious attempt to bring Sjamsul back to the country to face the music.