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Jakarta Post

Jakarta 'welcomes home' BNI loan fraud fugitive from Belgrade

  • Moch. Fiqih Prawira Adjie

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, July 9, 2020   /   04:33 pm
Jakarta 'welcomes home' BNI loan fraud fugitive from Belgrade Loan fraud suspect Maria Pauline Lumowa (center, in orange shirt) arrives at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport on July 9, 2020 under the escort of National Police personnel and the Law and Human Rights Ministry's extradition team. The Republic of Serbia granted Indonesia's extradition for the fugitive, who has been wanted for 17 years for allegedly steading billions of rupiah from Bank Negara Indonesia in a 2003 loan fraud case. (JP/Seto Wardhana)

Indonesia has succeeded in extraditing from the Republic of Serbia fugitive Maria Pauline Lumowa, who has been wanted for 17 years as a suspect in a major fraud case.

Maria, born an Indonesian national, fled the country in 2003 just before she was named as a suspect for allegedly stealing billions of rupiah from state-owned lender Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI) in a fraudulent loan scam.

Led by Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly, the ministry's extradition team escorted Maria as the group arrived on Thursday at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport from Belgrade, where the Serbian government formally handed her over to Indonesian authorities.

“I am pleased to say that we have officially completed the process of [extraditing] fugitive Maria Pauline Lumowa from the Serbian government,” Yasonna said in a press statement on Wednesday.

Maria was named as a suspect for fraudulent gains she made in loans from BNI issued to her company PT Gramarindo Group, which she co-owned with Adrian Waworuntu. She allegedly used a fictitious letter of credit to obtain US$136 million and 56 million euro ($118,846) in bank loans between 2002 and 2003, equivalent to Rp 1.7 trillion ($118.74 million) at that time.

BNI grew suspicious about the company and reported the case in June 2003 to the National Police, which opened a loan fraud investigation.

But Maria reportedly fled to Singapore in September 2003, just a month before the police investigation team named her as a suspect in the case. Interpol issued a red notice in December 2003 for Maria, who had by then been on the run for three months.

Meanwhile, the South Jakarta District Court tried and sentenced Adrian in 2005 to life imprisonment for corruption.

Yasonna said in a statement that authorities later discovered that Maria  – who was born in Paleloan, North Sulawesi in 1958 – had obtained Dutch citizenship in 1979 and was hiding in the Netherlands, from where she reportedly made several trips to Singapore.

He added that the ministry had sent requests for her extradition to the Dutch government in 2010 and 2014, but they were rejected.

The Interpol National Central Bureau (NCB) in Belgrade apprehended Maria on July 16, 2019, as she was entering the country through Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport and alerted the Indonesian NCB in Jakarta.

The Law and Human Rights Ministry then issued a request for Maria's temporary detainment and extradition from Serbia.

“Indonesia and Serbia do not have an extradition treaty, but through a high-level approach to the Serbian government and [based on] the good relationship between the two nations, our request to extradite Maria was granted. [...] In our meeting on Tuesday Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić also underlined that commitment," Yasonna said.

"The extradition process is one of the few in the world that gain the direct attention of the head of state,” he added. 

A statement from the law ministry said that Maria's extradition was "reciprocal", claiming that "Indonesia had granted Serbia's request to extradite [Dimitar] Nikolov Iliev as a perpetrator of customer data theft in 2015".

Iliev, a Bulgarian national, was reportedly arrested in Serbia and extradited to Indonesia, where he was tried and sentenced in May 2016 by the Denpasar District Court to 12 years in prison for stealing the data of 1,568 customers from more than 500 ATMs in Bali. Iliev last made headlines in 2017, when he was recaptured in the Timor Leste capital of Dili after escaping Kerobokan Penitentiary on June 19.