JAKARTA: An alleged assault on a 17-year-old teenager by the son of a mid-ranking taxman in February has led to increased scrutiny of the wealth of civil servants in Indonesia.
The assault, which was captured on video and has since gone viral on social media, shows a teenager lying motionless on the street as he is stomped and kicked by another person.
In the video, the perpetrator is heard saying: ”I am not afraid if someone’s child dies. Go ahead and report it to the police!”
Following the assault, Cristalino David Ozora ended up in a coma.
Soon after, police identified the perpetrator - 20-year-old university student Mario Dandy Satriyo - and arrested him.
The assault is believed to have started after Mario heard that David had allegedly mistreated Mario’s girlfriend.
Netizens were quick to scrutinise Mario’s social media accounts. His Instagram posts gave the appearance of a lavish lifestyle. These include photos of him driving a 1.7 billion rupiah (US$114,000) Jeep Rubicon SUV and riding a Harley-Davidson motorbike.
Soon, as it emerged that Mario is related to an official from the Jakarta Tax Office, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati condemned the assault and told local media that she would impose disciplinary action against officials found to have engaged in corruption.
At a press conference last month, the minister said there were 964 employees in her ministry who were suspected of having assets that did not match their income level. She did not elaborate on who they were and what type of action will be taken against them.
On Monday (Apr 3), the Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) detained Mario’s father - Rafael Alun Trisambodo - after weeks of investigations. Authorities said that the tax official had allegedly conspired with a tax consultant to enrich himself.
Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Mahfud MD - who is also the chairman of the National Coordinating Committee for the Prevention and Eradication of Money Laundering Crimes - said in parliament last week that there were 491 civil servants in the finance ministry thought to be involved in money laundering.
“The number of people is 491. Don't just talk about Rafael (Trisambodo). There is a network here," said Mr Mahfud.
CNA looks at how the alleged assault led to a graft investigation and subsequent scrutiny into the wealth of civil servants.
SON’S CASE LED TO FATHER’S UNDOING
Before the case, Trisambodo was a mid-ranking tax official with the Ministry of Finance. He was an investigator for tax evasion cases.
Following increased scrutiny after his son’s arrest for the assault, Trisambodo was dismissed from his position as a government worker in March for undeclared assets and underreporting them.
At a press conference on Monday after his arrest, KPK’s chief Firli Bahuri said that investigators seized foreign currencies from Trisambodo amounting to 32.2 billion rupiah kept in safe deposit boxes.
“He allegedly accepted gratuities from taxpayers for tampering with tax audit findings,” Mr Bahuri said at the press conference.
Investigators also confiscated luxury items from his home in an affluent neighbourhood in South Jakarta, including dozens of luxury bags, motorcycles, jewellery and an unspecified amount of money.
Mr Bahuri revealed that Trisambodo’s wealth increased by 24 billion rupiah in just eight years from the time he first reported his wealth to the authorities.
It is mandatory for civil servants of a certain rank to report their wealth to the KPK.
In 2011, Trisambodo reportedly had about 20 billion rupiah. This increased to 44 billion rupiah in 2019 and later to 55 billion rupiah in 2020.
According to local media, Trisambodo’s assets are almost equal to the finance minister, who has a declared wealth of 58 billion rupiah.
Mdm Mulyani, though, has had several high-profile jobs, such as 12 years as a minister and stints as a managing director of the World Bank in the United States.
The Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (PPATK) - an Indonesian government agency responsible for financial intelligence - had previously also said that suspicious transactions of about 500 billion rupiah had been linked to Trisambodo and his family over the last few years.
Trisambodo is now detained at the KPK until Apr 22 as the agency continues its investigations against him.
OTHER CASES IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Trisambodo’s case has sparked outrage in Indonesia. This is especially so as the end of March is typically the deadline for one to declare their taxes to the authorities.
Amid the outcry, other cases involving civil servants or their family members flaunting their wealth have been highlighted on social media, and other officials are in the spotlight.
The home ministry said last week that it had summoned regional secretary of Riau province SF Hariyanto after photos of his wife with luxury items went viral earlier in March.
In trying to salvage the situation, Mr Hariyanto told local media that the branded items were counterfeit products.
“I'm trying to explain this because I have directly cross-checked these things. For example, it was said that a bag (belonging to my wife) is said to be worth hundreds of millions, but that is absolutely not true.
“Because it is a counterfeit item worth about 2 million to 5 million rupiah,” he told local media while showing several alleged counterfeit items belonging to his wife.
But eagle-eyed netizens claimed that the items shown to reporters were different from the ones pictured in the viral photos.
Separately, photos of Hariyanto’s daughter celebrating her 17th birthday at the Ritz Carlton also went viral. This time, Hariyanto claimed that the party was not held at the hotel as netizens had thought, but instead at a store that is similarly named Ritz Carlton.
In another case, an official with the transport ministry also came under scrutiny from the public last week.
The ministry temporarily suspended Muhammad Rizky Alamsyah - a civil servant with the directorate general of sea transportation - after pictures of his wife's lavish lifestyle went viral.
One of the photos showed her sipping a drink while seated on a business-class flight with a luxury bag. Others had her carrying branded bags while abroad or in a car.
But Mr Alamsyah’s reported wealth is just about 1.48 billion rupiah.
“Muhammad Rizki Alamsyah has now been temporarily suspended from his position to make it easier (for us) to carry out further investigations," said transport ministry spokesperson Adita Irawati.
“If it is proven that there has been a disciplinary violation, of course, sanctions will be given according to the applicable regulations,” she added.
JOKOWI REMINDS CIVIL SERVANTS TO LIVE MODEST LIFESTYLE
Amid the increased scrutiny of the wealth of civil servants, the government has banned public officials from staging iftar gatherings during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Ramadan runs from Mar 23 to Apr 21.
In a directive, Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung on Mar 23 said that President Joko Widodo had asked public officials and civil servants to perform their iftar modestly.
“Right now, civil servants and public officials are under intense public scrutiny. Therefore, the president is asking public officials and civil servants to perform their iftar modestly and not to invite officials for iftar.
“So that modesty as shown by the president will always be the reference (of their lifestyle),” said Mr Anung.
A few days later, the president clarified that the ban was only meant for ministers and heads of government institutions.
“I need to convey this directive because there is so much public attention on the lives of our officials,” said Mr Widodo.
“For this reason, I ask the government officials to welcome this year's fasting month with a spirit of simplicity, not to overdo it and to divert the budget that is usually used for breaking the fast together for more useful activities … such as giving it to the poor and orphans."
When asked if the case involving Trisambodo and others in the spotlight had led to the decision by Mr Widodo to clamp down on the iftar gatherings, public policy expert Agus Pambagio from think-tank PH & H Public Policy Interest Group told CNA that “it is one of the reasons”.
“But in my opinion, it is not a policy. It is an internal instruction for the Cabinet, so one of the reasons could be the flexing (of wealth).”
He said that such instructions from the top are not effective in curbing the posh lifestyles of civil servants and the underlying cause of it - corruption.
“No need to have new directives. Just catch the perpetrators,” Mr Pambagio said, stressing that the only way to fight corruption in the country is to enforce the law.
Separately, social issues researcher with the University of Indonesia Devie Rahmawati opined that it is okay for civil servants to showcase their wealth, provided that it is from legitimate sources.
“What needs to be done is checking where people’s wealth stems from. If it is not from corruption, then it is not a problem,” she said.
Editor's note: The headline of this article has been updated to reflect the fact that the incident was an alleged assault.