Former Justice Minister Denies He Lobbied PNG to Look After Graft Fugitive

By webadmin on 12:36 pm Jul 27, 2012
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Markus Junianto Sihaloho

Markus Junianto Sihaloho

Former Justice Minister Yusril Ihza Mahendra has denied reports that he helped graft fugitive Djoko Tjandra obtain Papua New Guinean citizenship.

The veteran lawyer told a press conference on Thursday that he was shocked at recent allegations in local media identifying him as the person who helped Djoko win approval for naturalization in June.

“It’s been said that I gave false testimony about Djoko’s legal status in order to help him get citizenship there,” he said.

“But these reports are all fabricated and not based on any facts whatsoever.”

Yusril also ridiculed the notion that his recommendation would have been enough to convince officials in Port Moresby to grant Djoko citizenship.

“How could anything I say trump the Indonesian government’s law enforcement, security and diplomatic authorities? Would the PNG government believe me over Jakarta? If so, then these rumors are truly extraordinary,” he said.

Djoko fled Indonesia on June 10, 2009, just a day before he was convicted by the Supreme Court of embezzling Rp 546 billion ($57.9 million) in bailout funds meant for his bank, Bank Bali, during the 1998 financial crisis.

The court sentenced him in absentia to two years in prison, fined him Rp 15 million and ordered him to return the embezzled funds.

In June this year, the PNG government granted him citizenship, but said it was unaware of his fugitive status. Djoko has been listed as a wanted person by Interpol since 2009. Legal experts have argued that Indonesia will find it difficult trying to get PNG to give up Djoko.

Hikmahanto Juwana, an expert in international law at the University of Indonesia, said recently that the PNG government showed little political will in adhering to Indonesia’s request to bring the fugitive business tycoon back to the country, particularly after granting him citizenship.

“In Papua New Guinea, police [action] relies heavily on its bureaucracy,” he said.

He suspected Djoko had invested heavily in the neighboring country and that citizenship was granted to him as a reward.

Justice Minister Amir Syamsuddin said on Sunday that the government was still lobbying PNG to give up Djoko.

Amir said getting Djoko home would be a lengthy process because the countries did not have an extradition agreement. The fugitive could also challenge a decision from PNG authorities to bring him back to Indonesia in a local court, he added.