Police Still On Trail of Century’s Millions

Red-faced National Police officials announced on Thursday they had only managed to recover a tiny fraction of the more than $19 million allegedly embezzled by former Bank Century major shareholder Robert Tantular, as concern grew the businessman could get off with a relatively light sentence. National Police Chief Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri told a hearing with House of Representatives Commission III on judicial affairs that assets amounting to Rp 1.19 billion ($118,000) had been seized so far. The money, he said, came from several local accounts linked to fraudulent letters of credit issued by Bank Century. Bambang conceded that the recovered amount was tiny considering the losses to the state, but added that investigations were still under way into assets believed to be held overseas. Police suspect that Tantular still has $19.25 million stashed abroad, including in Hong Kong and Britain. Police are also seeking Rp 11.6 trillion is assets belonging to two other major shareholders in the bank — Hasham Al Warraq Thalat and Rafat Ali Rijvi — some of which may have been stolen from Bank Century. A verdict in Tantular’s trial at the Central Jakarta District Court is expected soon, but prosecutors have only recommended a sentence of eight years and fines of Rp 50 billion, less than 1 percent of the Rp 6.7 trillion the government spent bailing out his bank. He could have faced up to 15 years in prison and Rp 200 billion in fines. “I wonder why he was charged with such a weak indictment. It would be easy for him to shake off a [guilty] verdict,” said Drajad Wibiwo, a member of the House’s banking commission. Emerson Yuntho, the deputy chairman of Indonesia Corruption Watch, slammed the prosecution’s recommendation as inadequate for the crime committed, especially as it had threatened the entire banking system. “With our corrupt court system and jails, we are worried that the verdict will not serve as an example to prevent similar cases from taking place,” he said.

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