Fugitive Banker Facing Possible Extradition

June 15, 2002 03:09 AM

Laksamana.Net - Australian authorities are considering extraditing an Indonesian banker who was recently sentenced to life imprisonment for corruption involving the misuse of Rp1.95 trillion ($223 million) in central bank funds, a report said Saturday (15/6/02).

State news agency Antara reported that Australian Attorney General Darryl Williams will decide whether to sign an extradition warrant for Hendra Rahardja once he weighs up requests from the fugitive and Indonesian officials.

Imron Cotan, an official at the Indonesian Embassy in Canberra, said Friday the warrant is due to be issued once authorities in Indonesia submit additional information on the requested extradition.

He said the information is being prepared by Attorney General's Office, Justice and Human Rights Ministry, Foreign Affairs Ministry and the National Police.

The sooner the information is sent the better, he said, as Rahardja could exercise his legal rights to prevent the issuance of the extradition warrant.

Under Australian law, the fugitive has the right to file an appeal against the extradition within 3 to 18 months of the warrant's issuance.

Central Jakarta District Court on March 22, 2002, sentenced Rahardja, in his absence, to life imprisonment.

The ethnic Chinese tycoon fled Indonesia on November 19, 1997, following the liquidation of his two banks: Bank Harapan Sentosa (BHS) and Bank Guna International.

The corruption conviction relates to the embezzlement of Bank Indonesia Liquidity Support (BLBI) channeled to BHS. An investigation into alleged corruption involving Bank Guna International was dropped in November 2001 due to a lack of evidence.

Rahardja, the former chief commissioner of BHS, was arrested in Australia on June 1, 1999, by immigration officials at Sydney's Kingsford-Smith International Airport on a warrant from Indonesian authorities circulated by Interpol.

The State Audit Agency (BPK) has found that more than 95% of the 144.5 trillion rupiah ($16.8 billion) of BLBI given to numerous banks between 1997-99 was misused.

Much of the money was used for foreign exchange speculation, lending to business subsidiaries affiliated to the banks, and for repaying subsidiary loans.

Some of the money was used to build new branches, acquire fixed assets and also for interbank loans.

Rahardja is the brother of 'escaped' prisoner Eddy Tanzil, who is still at large - apparently in China - after bribing wardens and walking out of East Jakarta's Cipinang penitentiary in 1995.

Tanzil in 1994 was jailed for 20 years for his role in a $620 million corruption case involving state-owned Bank Bapindo.

Rahardja's lawyers have said the extradition of their client would be politicized and he could face racial discrimination because of his Chinese ancestry.

They said the corruption conviction was unfair because they and their client did not attend the trial, let alone present evidence or defense.

Indonesia in November 2001 refused to extradite people smuggler Abu Quassey to Australia because of Canberra's failure to extradite Rahardja.

The life sentence for Rahardja was a landmark ruling for Indonesia, but many other errant bankers who allegedly misused BLBI funds remain free.

Even Bank Indonesia governor Sjahril Sabirin, who has been sentenced to three years in jail for his role in the Bank Bali scandal, remains free because he is appealing his sentence.

Rahardja may not be so lucky, although the Indonesian government's efforts to extradite him have long been hampered by legal processes in Australia.

Cotan said the unsigned extradition warrant is currently with the Australian Department of Justice, Customs and Excise.

Foreign Affairs Minister Hassan Wirayuda in November 2001 asked his Australian counterpart Alexander Downer to accelerate Rahardja's extradition to Indonesia.

Indonesia and Australia are bound by an extradition treaty signed in April 1992. Article 2, Section 20, of the treaty stipulates that extraditable offenses include 'stealing; embezzlement; fraudulent conversion; fraudulent false accounting; obtaining property, money, valuable securities or credit by false pretences or other form of deception; receiving stolen property, any offence involving fraud'.

It's now up to Australia's Ministry of Justice and Customs and the attorney general to determine whether or not Rahardja deserves to spend the rest of his days behind bars in Indonesia.

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