In the latest dubious business allegation involving the abuse of religious endorsements, the Financial Services Authority ( OJK ) on Monday summoned popular Muslim cleric Yusuf Mansur for running an investment business without the necessary legal documentation.
The summons came about a week after the agency disclosed to the public that there were around 40 entities running illegal investment businesses.
Yusuf went to the agency to explain the status of his business known by his followers as Patungan Usaha, which literally means joint venture.
Nurhaida, the agency's commissioner for capital market supervision, said an entity must have a license before it is allowed to manage public funds for investment purposes.
Such a requirement is stipulated in Law No. 8/1995 on capital markets.
'The activity [of Patungan Usaha] is included in public offering practices and only listed companies are allowed to do that,' she said. Yusuf's business, on the other hand, is neither a listed company nor a legal entity.
Kusumaningtuti S Soetiono, the commissioner for consumer education and protection, said Patungan Usaha had halted operations pending the issuance of its license.
'Pak Ustad [Yusuf] said that he would comply with the existing regulations. He would start by establishing a legal entity and then submit an application to the OJK. Everything must follow the capital market regulations,' Kusumaningtuti said.
Patungan Usaha had attracted more than 2,000 investors thus far and had spent Rp 180 billion ( US$18 million ) to takeover Topas Hotel in Cengkareng, Banten.
Yusuf created Patungan Usaha in 2012. He claimed the business was part of an effort to bring back the country's assets and resources, which according to him, are currently under the control of foreigners.
Patungan Usaha's first project was to establish a hotel and an apartment building near Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Cengkareng, Tangerang, to serve haj and umroh ( minor haj ) pilgrims.
According to information on Patungan Usaha's website, people will receive membership and an annual 8 percent return by contributing Rp 12 million ( US$1,191 ) per person. 'Participants will get their investment funds back [cash back] after 10 years and they will continue to get returns,' it says.
'In the future, we will develop this to 'rebuy' Indonesia. Together we can purchase telecommunication companies, banks, insurance firms, airlines and others. [All we have to do is] Just join,' it adds.
Speaking after his meeting with OJK commissioners, Yusuf denied that the agency had ordered him to halt Patungan Usaha's operations.
'It was my initiative as a cleric [to stop the business]. Indonesia lacks examples and now I am giving an example,' said Yusuf, who was jailed twice in 1996 and 1998 for failing to pay debts.
'When the legal issues [regarding Patungan Usaha] have been resolved, we will resume business.'
According to Yusuf, he is ready to return the funds that have been transferred to him if asked to do so by Patungan Usaha's members.
Investment businesses, particularly those endorsed by religious figures or institutions, have become of public concern following several reports of fraud worth more than $150 million within past months.
In March, Golden Traders Indonesia Syariah ( GTIS ), the country's first sharia-based gold investment firm based in Malaysia, was accused of perpetrating Ponzi-like fraud worth more than $100 million using its gold investment scheme.
The chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council ( MUI ) had endorsed the investment company by issuing a sharia-compliant certificate to help lure many devoted Muslims into putting their gold and money into the company.
The police are still trying to find criminal intent in the case.