Banjarmasin. Film director Hanung Bramantyo on Monday answered a summons served by the police in South Kalimantan to be questioned over a Rp 1.2 trillion ($131 million) embezzlement case involving businessman Lihan, Indonesia’s answer to Bernard Madoff, the Ponzi scheme fraudster.
The money had been gathered from investors and was used to fund various activities, including the making of Hanung’s “Asmaul Husna” film, South Kalimantan Police chief detective Comr. Machfud Arifin said.
“We will explore where the Rp 1.2 trillion flowed. Today we examined Hanung as a witness,” Machfud said. Police believe Rp. 1.4 billion went toward the production of Hanung’s film.
Arifin said that police had only been able to recover Rp 30 billion so far in the form of cash, cars and property.
But as Lihan, who was arrested in early December, was also known as a philanthropist, it not easy to trace where all the money went.
“He even sponsored Chris John’s trip to Los Angeles,” Arifin said, referring to one of the country’s top boxers. “The suspect also used the money to build a restaurant and a printing press and buy Rp 15 billion in Merpati shares,” he said, adding that so far police found there were 3,774 investors in Lihan’s database.
“From his database we found that the biggest investor was a businessman from Jakarta who gave Rp 175 billion to Lihan,” Arifin said.
Lihan’s mode of operation was to promise his victims gains of between 10 percent and 40 percent a month. However, Lihan began to have difficulties paying investors in the middle of last year.
It has since been revealed that he had been paying investors their profits with money taken from newer investors.
“His modus operandi was simple but effective,” Arifin said. “He claimed to have a diamond business, because South Kalimantan is well known as a producer of diamonds. Surprisingly, the victims believed him even though they did not receive any guarantees.”
Lihan started his business five years ago. To back up his extravagant investment claims, he published stories in the local media and even wrote two books, published in July and August 2008 that were sold at bookstores nationwide. Former Sports Minister Adyaksa Dault and Muhammadiyah chairman Din Syamsuddin wrote the forewords.
Police also named Lihan’s wife Zumratul Adawiyah as a suspect but she has not been detained. Both of them could be charged with violating banking and Islamic banking laws, money laundering, fraud and embezzlement, which carry up to 5 years in jail.