Rp 9.29 billion returned, but probe goes on in airfare case

The Foreign Ministry has recovered Rp 9.29 billion (US$1 million) or nearly half of the total state funds embezzled during 2008-2009 by officials in a graft case involving the marking up of airfares for diplomats’ overseas trips.

The ministry has sent a letter to the Deputy Attorney General for Special Crimes Marwan Effendy saying that as of Feb. 11 it had returned about $1 million to the state treasury.

The letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Jakarta Post, was signed by the ministry’s inspector general Dienne H. Moehario.

Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah confirmed on Monday the ministry had returned these funds.
“As Foreign Minister [Marty Natalegawa] said, we are committed to reducing the state loss by returning the money,” he told the Post.

Marwan said that this was still less than the total estimated losses from alleged airfare graft practices occurring between 2008 and 2009.

He added the ministry should also return the losses accrued in similar cases up to 2008.

The total estimated state losses in the case are believed to reach $2.19 million. This was caused by marked up overseas airfares for diplomats in foreign posts who were transferred to Jakarta between 2008 and 2009.

Ministry files showed that the airfares for 273 of the 512 total diplomat transfers (or 53 percent of cases) during 2009 were marked up, compared to 2008 when airfares for 329 of the 673 diplomat transfers (or 49 percent) were marked up.

Foreign Ministry officials allegedly collaborated with seven travel agents to mark up the airfares.
According to Teuku, the returned funds were not taken from the Foreign Ministry’s treasury.

“The funds were from officials whom the Foreign Ministry’s inspectorate general had declared responsible in each case,” he said. He declined to reveal their identity.

The spokesman said earlier the ministry’s inspectorate general had dismissed three officials in the case.

Teuku denied that his ministry was trying to influence the investigation by the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) by returning the funds.

“The AGO has their own authority. There is no way we could interfere with them,” he said.
Marwan also declined to comment when asked if the repayment of state losses would change the course of the AGO’s investigation.

The case had been handled by the AGO’s investigators since January but it has reportedly stalled.
Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) has reported the case to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has said the ministry had imposed stern administrative punishments on those involved and found guilty of marking up tickets.

ICW investigation coordinator Agus Sunaryanto said neither disciplinary sanctions nor restitution of state losses would lead to eligibility to exoneration from crimes.

“Law enforcers, whether from the KPK or the AGO, must investigate the case regardless of the probe conducted by the ministry’s inspectorate general,” he said.

Some legislators expressed support for Marty, saying the graft case could be used to generate momentum to clear his office of markup practices and rotten officials.

Lawmaker Hayono Isman of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party, for example, said the case could be considered as a “blessing in disguise”.