Haeril Halim, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | National | Wed, February 19 2014, 7:56 AM
The Law and Human Rights Ministry announced on Tuesday that the Hong Kong High Court had approved the Indonesian government’s request to repatriate the assets of the graft-ridden Bank Century, now Bank Mutiara, from the former British colony.
Law and Human Rights Minister Amir Syamsuddin said the court’s ruling was a major victory for Indonesia as it could serve as a legal basis for the confiscation of other Bank Century assets stashed in other countries.
Through the Hong Kong ruling, Amir said the government would be able to seize US$4.07 million of the total $6.8 million hidden in Hong Kong by the bank’s former owners Hesham al-Warraq, a Saudi Arabian national, and Rafat Ali Rizvi, a British citizen, who were sentenced in absentia to 15 years behind bars in 2011.
“We will still expedite legal efforts in order for the Indonesian government to be able to get legal assurance for repatriating the rest of the assets,” Amir said, adding that the assets to be repatriated were mostly in the form of bonds and cash.
The ministry’s international division director, Cahyo Muzhar, however, said the lawyers of the two former owners were relentless in their attempts to block the move by the Indonesian government to repatriate the assets.
“They have appealed the court’s ruling. We are establishing very good legal cooperation with the Hong Kong government and we are optimistic that we can win at the appellate court later,” Cahyo said.
Amir said that the government would confiscate all assets belonging to the convicts, whether the assets were directly or indirectly managed by them.
“Even the assets that the convicts systemically hid in legal entities [in Hong Kong],” he said.
“This is an important achievement as it will serve as a precedent for the Indonesian government to repatriate other assets of Bank Century in other countries.”
The Central Jakarta District Court has mandated the government to repatriate the bank’s assets hidden by Rafat, Hesham and former Bank Century owner Robert Tantular, who was sentenced to nine years of prison time in 2010 by the Supreme Court. The rest of the assets that the government is still pursuing in Hong Kong allegedly belong to Robert.
In January 2012, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ordered ministers, in cooperation with other state institutions, to repatriate assets lost in the Century bailout, which the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) said resulted in state losses of Rp 7.4 trillion ($624 million).
The assets of Bank Century are hidden in 14 countries, including China’s Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland and the UK.
Some of the bank’s assets were kept at different banks in Singapore and the UK. Meanwhile, another $155.99 million of the bank’s assets was kept at the Dresdner Bank (now LGT Bank) in Switzerland, with $24 million in Singapore and $18.44 million in the UK.
Cahyo said the Indonesian government was currently cooperating with the British island of Jersey to repatriate Century’s assets of $16.5 million, which have been frozen by the Indonesian government in cooperation with local authorities.
Hendrawan Supratikno, a member of the House of Representatives Bank Century monitoring team that was formed after the House concluded irregularities in the Century bailout, lauded the Hong Kong High Court ruling, saying the ruling is good progress in the process of recovering Century’s assets.
However, he said that $4.07 million was very little compared to more than Rp 7 trillion lost from the Century bailout.
Meanwhile, Vice President Boediono planned to skip a House session in which he was expected to testify on the Bank Century scandal. House Deputy Speaker Pramono Anung Wibowo said Boediono had sent a letter to House leadership about his plan not to meet the summons.
“He has sent an official letter to let us know that he can’t make it tomorrow,” Pramono said as quoted by tribunnews.com.
The House team overseeing the criminal investigation into the Bank Century scandal has twice sent summonses to Boediono.