Forced Restitution Needed to Combat Endemic Corruption in Indonesia

By Ina Parlina | Source: The Jakarta Post
Judges and legal experts in Indonesia are still looking for effective ways to deter people from committing corruption, which is to blame for many of the ills that have stalled the country’s development. 

Some believe that enacting a law on asset forfeiture could be a practical way to deter corruption, but a discussion organized by the Supreme Court suggested that the key measure had already been addressed in the 12-year-old Corruption Law’s article on restitution, which is rarely implemented by law enforcers.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday invited representatives from the Attorney General’s Office (AGO), the Presidential Working Unit for the Supervision and Management of Development (UKP4) and civil society groups to a discussion on the principle of restitution.

This principle is considered crucial as law enforcers cannot solely rely on the principle of asset forfeiture.

In the discussion, UKP4’s legal expert and former Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (PPATK) chief, Yunus Husein, said prosecutors had frequently failed to reach their own asset seizure targets.

In April, for instance, media reports said that the South Sulawesi and West Sulawesi Prosecutors Offices had yet to recover 16.5 billion rupiah (US$1.6 million) in stolen state assets as shown in the 2011 second semester audit report by the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK).

Puji Basuki, director of Legal Action and Execution at AGO’s Special Crimes Unit, said hunting down stolen assets was challenging. “We often found that they had no assets left to pay restitution,” he said.

The discussion concluded that a regulation on restitution was needed to encourage law enforcers to impose forced restitution on graft convicts.

The Supreme Court responded positively to the suggestion, saying that it would enact such a regulation that would be binding to all law enforcers.

“I will bring this suggestion to the chief justice before we prepare a draft,” said Justice Artidjo Alkotsar, who is also the Supreme Court’s Criminal Chamber Head.

Supreme Court Justice Suhadi suggested adopting the Civil Law’s asset forfeiture mechanism, or to at least assess and record assets during investigations to prevent changing hands.

“Conservatoir beslag (sequestration ruling) provides guarantees, but at the same time, the assets can still be used by the owners,” he said.

More questions surfaced during the discussion, including calculation mechanisms as well as the implementation of restitution for in absentia trials and for those who are found guilty of causing state losses but did not benefit from the corruption.

Despite the problems, the discussion agreed that convicts should pay as much restitution as they could afford and that any remaining amount should be converted to additional prison time.

Former legislator Zulkarnaen Djabar and businessman son Dendy Prasetya are the latest graft convicts to be ordered by the court to reimburse $1.15 million in state losses in addition to serving
prison time.

However, they are bound to provisions that allow only assets related to the alleged crimes to be confiscated during the investigation.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) recently froze the assets of graft defendant and police general Djoko Susilo even though they were not attained during the period that the alleged crimes were committed.

The KPK, however, argued that the assets could be used as collateral should Djoko not pay his restitution.

The KPK in 2012 recovered a scant 113 billion rupiah ($11.4 million) in state funds from convicted corruptors, down from 134.65 billion rupiah ($13.6 million) in 2011, 179.99 billion rupiah ($18.1 million) in 2010 and 142.99 billion rupiah ($14.4 million) in 2009.