Stolen graft loot can be seized from Singapore
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While Indonesia has no extradition treaty with Singapore, it can still seize convicted graft crooks’ assets in the city state, often criticized as a safe haven for thieving lawmakers and businesspeople.
The Singaporean Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau says the Indonesian government can track and confiscate assets belonging to graft convicts.
“You can go after money or assets amassed through corrupt practices in Singapore. But it has to be done on a legal basis,” bureau chief Eric Tan Chong Sian told the press at the 8th meeting of Southeast Asia Parties Against Corruption (SEAPAC) in Yogyakarta on Tuesday.
He emphasized, “We don’t welcome corrupt people in Singapore and we don’t welcome corrupt assets either.”
He said that repatriation of stolen funds was possible if Indonesian authorities followed the correct legal procedure, including submitting an application to the Singaporean central authority.
“You have to make an application and must have dealt appropriately with the graft convict — meaning that he or she has to have been charged with corruption. You must prove that the money in Singapore came from corrupt practices, then you can make a confiscation order in Indonesia and have it executed in Singapore.
“We are more than happy to wait for the application, seize the assets and return them to Indonesia,” he said, adding that his country had returned such assets to a number of countries, including Indonesia.
He referred to a case when Singapore — albeit after a 17-year legal process — returned US$81 million of assets stashed by Kartika Tahir, widow of Haji Tahir, senior official with state-owned oil and gas company Pertamina in the 1970s.
Chong Sian reiterated Singapore’s commitment to work with antigraft bodies from other countries to fight corruption. The bureau helped the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in the case of businesswoman Nunun Nurbaeti, convicted in the 2004 vote-buying scandal, who absconded to Singapore.
“We knew that Nunun was in Singapore. She was in the country on a social visit pass so she was there legally. So what did we do? We made sure that she couldn’t extend her stay. We were happy that the KPK managed to get her in another country that has extradition treaty with Indonesia,” he said.
In early 2010, Nunun left Indonesia for Singapore, seeking treatment for her “severe amnesia” just after the KPK summoned her as a witness for questioning and trial. She was finally arrested in Thailand in December 2011 and sentenced to 2.5 years in prison.
KPK deputy chief Bambang Widjojanto is delighted go after corruption proceeds laundered in other countries.
“We only have to follow the proper procedure and wait for asset tracking,” he said.
At the meeting, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto said that a team led by the deputy attorney general would track purloined assets abroad.
Singapore has long been seen as a paradise for criminals to hide and launder their ill-gotten gains. Indonesia has yet to ratify a 2007 extradition treaty, which also grants both countries the right to military training in each other’s territories. Indonesian lawmakers rejected ratification, arguing it favored Singapore and compromised Indonesia’s security and sovereignty.