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Indon fugitive Joko Tjandra finds new home in PNG

ROWAN CALLICK
THE AUSTRALIAN

AN INDONESIAN TYCOON who fled Jakarta a day before he was sentenced to jail for fraud by the Supreme Court, and who is on the Interpol wanted list, has been granted citizenship of Papua New Guinea at a secret ceremony.

The constitution and associated regulations of PNG require new citizens to be resident in the country for eight years. They also include a number of other stringent conditions, including strictly policed financial probity.

Joko Tjandra, 61, was first charged with corruption in 1999, over $57 million which he allegedly received illegally via Pande Lubis, who was the deputy chairman of the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency set up following the Asian financial crisis.

Pande was convicted in 2004 and jailed for four years, over his misuse of Bank Bali funds. Joko was acquitted.

But under a new chief justice, the Supreme Court granted the prosecutor's request for a review of the case. As a result, in June 2009 former central bank governor Syahril Sabirin was jailed for two years.

Two days later, and a day before Joko was to return to court for its verdict and possible sentencing, he fled. The court this time convicted and sentenced him, also to two years' jail, in absentia.

He was ordered in addition to repay the $57m he received over the sale of Bank Bali debt collection rights.

He flew in a private jet to PNG, where associated family members own a large conglomerate, Papindo Trading, which is an especially large retailer, owning Super Value Stores, and which has recently bid to lease 100,000ha in Central Province for a rice-growing project.

When Joko fled, Indonesian Attorney-General's Office spokesman Jasman Pandjaitan said: "We've asked Interpol to help us to bring Joko back to serve his sentence."

It is believed that he has split his time since then, chiefly between Singapore, Malaysia, Dubai and PNG, travelling by private jet.

Late last year, he is understood to have been flown in a Falcon jet between Malaysia and PNG, necessitating travelling over Indonesian air space - and provoking a diplomatic incident.

The Falcon was originally owned by the PNG government when Michael Somare was prime minister, and was sold and leased back to the government after Sir Michael lost office last August.

A week ago, 11 people, from six countries including Australia, were granted PNG citizenship at a ceremony in the state function room of Parliament House.

Joko, the 12th person to be awarded the honour last week, was not present. But it is understood he received his citizenship documentation in private, before the ceremony.

The citizenship was awarded only a few days from the start of voting, on Saturday, in a tumultuous national election, when PNG is at its most distracted.

The Post-Courier newspaper asked in an editorial: "Who endorsed Joko's application for citizenship? Is it true that Prime Minister Peter O'Neill tried to stop the presentation of the certificates?

"We have not only given refuge to an international fugitive but given him citizenship. What are our international obligations? PNG's image is at stake."

Comments

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Colin Huggins

Well, I wonder whether our fugitive was also on that Falcon jet with some PNG politician "buddies"? No wonder the Indonesian military took such an interest in the flight path!

Surely Interpol can intervene and take this fellow back to Jakarta to serve his sentence.

I suppose if you have "interests" in PNG that it is no wonder that the Somares, O'Neills and Namahs get so interested and excited, especially with at least $57 million to splash around. And that might just be the tip of the iceberg in monetary terms. Oh, for those lovely Swiss and other hidden bank accounts!

Oh what a tangled web has been woven. But what do Bob Carr, Julie Bishop, Richard Marles, Hillary Clinton and others from foreign affairs and diplomatic missions in Port Moresby have to say - The blind eye approach?

Let’s just hope that sense and prudence emerges from the upcoming elections with new aspiring politicians more concerned about the welfare of the people of PNG.

Maybe Phillipa Carr has already answered for all. Just put the money into a cannon and shoot skyways, then some deserving people might get some of this "loose loot" that appears to be coming from here, there and everywhere.

P Kipefa

Brings to the mind two things, our pollies really know how to legitimise corruption, while the ordinary people really know how to ignore such.

Mrs Barbara Short

Now we know why the Indonesians were so interested in the old Falcon jet when it flew over Indonesian air space.
It might also explain how Namah got so rich.
PNG might need to learn a few more lessons in diplomacy.
Congratulations to the Post Courier's editor.

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