‘Pocketing’ Evidence

Evidence worth Rp28 billion in the Asian Agri case has been deposited in the account of the company’s lawyer, risking the money getting lost or decreasing.

THE 15-page letter was directed to the Chief of the National Police, General Sutanto. Its sender was Petrus Bala Pattyona, lawyer of the defendant in the PT Asian Agri Oil & Fats Ltd fraud case, Vincentius Amin Sutanto. Attached to the letter was a 79-page document. Essentially, both the letter and the document inquired after the fate of US$3.1 million of cash (about Rp28 billion). “We would like to request information about the evidence material in the case of our client,” said Petrus.

Petrus was inquiring about the evidence that appeared not to be in the hands of the police, but instead was featuring in the account of the lawyer of PT Asian Agri Oil & Fats, Andi Kelana. The prosecutor did not show the evidence at the trial. At last week’s Tuesday session, Andi Kelana, who had been scheduled to attend, also did not show up.

In essence, the case concerns the stealing of money of Asian Agri Oil & Fats, one of the subsidiaries of the Raja Garuda Mas Group owned by Sukanto Tanoto. Vincent, along with Hendri Susilo, 48, and Agustinus Ferry Sutanto, 32, are being charged with stealing Asian Agri’s money, which they subsequently deposited in the account of Asian Agri Jaya and Asian Agri Utama. Both the latter companies are owned by Vincent and Hendri.

On November 13, 2006, Vincent made a twofold application for the transfer of Asian Agri Oil & Fats’ money that had been kept in an account at Fortis Bank, Singapore. The letter contained a request to this bank to transfer US$1.2 million to the account of PT Asian Agri Utama and US$1.9 million to that of PT Asian Agri Jaya at Panin Bank. The applications were made and signed by Vincent by forging the signature of an executive of the company. In short, money worth Rp28 billion then changed accounts.

On November 16, Hendri withdrew Rp200 million from Panin Bank’s Lindeteves branch in West Jakarta. He gave Rp150 million of it to Vincent and kept the rest. On the same day, Hendri even took time to cash a similar amount at Panin Bank’s Kelapa Gading branch in North Jakarta. However, while the teller was counting the money, he unexpectedly received a phone call from Vincent, who ordered him not to collect the cash as it was problem-ridden. Hendri promptly left the bank without taking the money with him.

Upon discovering the theft, Asian Agri Oil acted instantly. On November 16, 2006, the company reported the case to the police. Not long afterward, Hendri was arrested by the police, who seized Rp23 million from him. Vincent fled to Singapore, but “turned himself in” on December 12, 2006. However, before his case reached the police, Vincent reported tax evasion allegedly committed by the Raja Garuda Mas subsidiary to the Corruption Eradication Commission.

After Vincent and associates were detained, the police asked Panin Bank to freeze the two accounts of their companies. About two months later, Ranto Simanjuntak of the Legal Affairs Division of Raja Garuda Mas sent a letter to the police, asking for the stolen money to be deposited for safekeeping in a Panin Bank account in the name of Asian Agri’s lawyer, Andi Kelana. In response, on February 23, 2007, the police dragged Hendri to Panin Bank’s main branch at Senayan. There, the police asked the accounts to be closed and the money, as requested by Ranto, put into Andi Kelana’s account.

That is one of the issues questioned by Petrus. “If both accounts have been blocked, why should the money be transferred?” he wondered. In his view, that transfer ignored the Criminal Code (KUHP), which requires that evidence material must be kept at the state-seized objects holding house. What’s more, Rp28 billion of cash can produce interest. “So, where is the interest going?” Petrus wondered.

Chief of the Fiscal Monetary and Foreign Exhange Unit of the Special Crimes Detective Directorate of the Jakarta Police, Sr. Comr. Adj. Aris Munandar, emphasized that the transfer had been exclusively done at the request of Asian Agri. “The police do not have an account. If it is deposited for safekeeping in the account of the interrogator, that would be quite wrong,” Aris said, adding that it is the police’s right to designate where to put evidence material for safekeeping. “The important thing is that it is accountable.”

As a preventive measure, said Aris, the safekeeping account was immediately blocked on February 23, 2007. As a consequence, he said, the account cannot be used for transactions and neither can it produce interest. “So we are not conspiring,” said Aris.

The police, for their part, turned the Vincent case over to the public prosecutor’s office on March 21, 2007. Transferred at the same time, Aris said, was evidence material in the form of Rp223 million in cash and the Rp28 billion put for safekeeping in Andi Kelana’s account. With regard to the money in Andi’s account, the prosecutor’s office takes the same stand as the police. This money must stay in Andi’s account. As for the Rp223 million cash, Rp200 million was placed for safekeeping in a Bank Mandiri account in the name of the High Prosecutor’s Office, while the remaining Rp23 million would be used as evidence in court.

It was on account of this evidence material issue that Petrus requested the court to have Andi Kelana appear at last week’s session. The prosecutor’s office, too, had scheduled his presence. “We had sent an invitation, but he did not come,” said Prosecutor Supardi. “I don’t know his reason.”

Andi Kelana refused to comment on the money in his account. “It is a confidential matter. I cannot talk about it,” said the lawyer of the group of Asian Agri businesses, both those in Indonesia and those in Singapore.

Asian Agri’s counsel in the Vincent case, Dwianto Prihartono, confessed not to know why Asian Agri placed the money for safekeeping in Andi Kelana’s account. “I have never talked about this matter with Ranto Simanjuntak,” he said. To his knowledge, next to himself there is Arfiandi Fauzan assigned by Asian Agri as lawyer in this case. That was why, when asked about the position of the money stolen by Vincent, he claimed he could not give any information. “I don’t know about this matter,” Dwianto said.

In the eyes of a KUHP expert from the University of Indonesia, Rudy Satryo, confiscated goods must be put in the state-seized objects holding house, as laid down in Article 44 of the KUHP. If the seized object is cash, it can be put into a police account or deposited for safekeeping at a bank. The police, he said, are also allowed to put it for safekeeping in another place. “What counts is that the evidence concerned can be presented each time it is needed,” he said. “But, to be true, this carries the risk of the money getting lost or decreasing.”

Director of the Indonesian Justice Monitoring Society, Hasril Hertanto, shares that view. The KUHP, he said, does allow the trusting for safekeeping of evidence material to a contending party. “Only, the risk is high, even if it is blocked,” he said. Although an account is blocked, its owner can lift the block. So, said Hasril, this is different from freezing the account. “In the latter case, a legal ruling is required to reopen it.”

Abdul Manan, Indriani Dyah Setiowati.

Tempo Magazine, No. 44/VII/July 03 - 09, 2007


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