SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) on Friday (Apr 9) rebutted allegations reportedly made by an Indonesian graft official, saying that Singapore is a safe haven for Indonesian nationals under investigation for corruption.
“There is no basis to the allegations. Singapore has provided assistance to Indonesia on several past and ongoing investigations," said an MFA spokesperson in a statement.
The spokesperson said Singapore's Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) has assisted its Indonesian counterpart in serving summons requests to people under investigation.
"Singapore has also been helpful to the Indonesian authorities by providing confirmation on the whereabouts of specific Indonesian nationals under investigation," said MFA.
As reported by various Indonesian media, deputy for enforcement at Indonesia's Corruption Eradication Commission's (KPK) Karyoto on Tuesday lamented the difficulty of catching fugitives who have fled overseas, especially to Singapore, and have obtained permanent residency.
Antara news agency ran its story with the headline (translated here from Bahasa Indonesia to English): "KPK reveals difficulty in catching graft fugitives hiding in Singapore", while online news outlet Detik went with (translated): "KPK: Singapore paradise for corrupters!"
READ: Urgency of COVID-19 exacerbates corruption risk in Indonesia, says deputy chair of anti-graft commission
In its statement, MFA cited the example of Singapore facilitating a visit by the KPK in May 2018 to interview a person of interest in its investigations.
"KPK deputy chairman Nawawi Pomolango had noted the KPK’s coordination with CPIB via a public statement on Dec 30, 2020," said MFA.
LACK OF EXTRADITION TREATY?
In the media reports, Inspector-General Karyoto also alleged that the lack of extradition treaty between Indonesia and Singapore presents another challenge to KPK's work.
"The only country which has not signed any graft-related extradition treaty is Singapore," he was quoted as saying. "The nearest corrupter's paradise (to Indonesia) is Singapore."
In response, MFA pointed out that an extradition treaty agreement signed by both countries has not been ratified by Indonesian lawmakers.
"Singapore and Indonesia signed the Extradition Treaty and Defence Cooperation Agreement as a package in April 2007, witnessed by then-president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong," said MFA.
"However, both agreements are still pending ratification by the Indonesian House of Representatives."
BLAMING FOREIGN JURISDICTIONS DOESN'T HELP: MFA
The MFA spokesperson said that Singapore nevertheless "has provided and will continue to provide the necessary assistance to Indonesia, if Singapore receives a request with the necessary information through the appropriate official channels".
The two countries are "party to the Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) in Criminal Matters among Like-minded ASEAN Member Countries".
Under this treaty, "cooperation already takes place in line with Singapore’s domestic laws and international obligations", said MFA.
"Singapore has repeatedly provided assistance to Indonesia on its MLA requests.
"Singapore has also worked to strengthen cooperation through ASEAN, where discussions on an ASEAN Extradition Treaty are ongoing," the ministry added.
The spokesperson also reaffirmed Singapore's commitment to the rule of law and good governance.
"We will cooperate in law enforcement with Indonesia in accordance with our domestic laws and international obligations," the spokesperson said, adding: "It is not helpful to divert attention or blame to foreign jurisdictions."
STALLED GRAFT CASE
Mr Karyoto made his remarks days after the agency announced a landmark decision to drop a protracted corruption case against business tycoon Sjamsul Nursalim and his wife Itjih Nursalim.
The couple, believed to be living in Singapore as permanent residents, were named graft suspects in June 2019 but have never been put on trial.
KPK requested CPIB's assistance in the investigation in October 2019, according to media reports.
The termination of the case is the first in the commission’s history, according to the Jakarta Globe.