Subject: 6 Tempo Investigation Reports: Smuggling Super-Luxurious Car Using
Diplomatic Impunity; Elusive Ali; Invisible Ferrari; E. Timor Embassy Involved
- Diplomatic Impunity
- The Elusive Ali
- The Invisible Ferrari
- Ready to Play
- Aderito Tilman, Timor Leste Public Prosecutor: Other Embassies in Jakarta Involved
- Foreign Affairs Spokesman, Kristiarto Soeryo Legowo: The Case is Resolved
Tempo Magazine No. 49/VIII/05-11 August, 2008
UNDER the cover of diplomatic facilities, super-luxury cars—Bentleys, Ferraris, Maseratis and Rolls-Royces—were imported for years without paying tax or import duties. It is estimated that this resulted in the state suffering losses of some Rp248 billion over the last five years. A number of parties are suspected of being involved, including officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Finance, 33 embassies in Jakarta and an importer named Ali Muhammad. Former Timor Leste Ambassador to Indonesia Arlindo Marçal will soon be indicted by the country's Attorney General's Office for involvement in the case. The irony, however, is that it appears that these cases will never go to court in Indonesia.
Rolls-Royce Phantom 2007
Price: Rp870 million
The above vehicle was registered in the name of Jordanian Ambassador to Indonesia, His Excellency Mohammad Hassan Dawodieh. He sold the car in March, a year after the Rolls-Royce arrived in Jakarta.
It wouldn't take a professional appraiser to work out that the super-luxury car was being sold off super-cheap. A Rolls-Royce Phantom is not just any old vehicle—one such car became the "golden chariot" of Elizabeth II, Queen of England. The car combines the taste of the British aristocracy and the reliability of renowned German technology. A new Phantom sells for Rp3.5 billion. Even secondhand, it would cost at least Rp2.6 billion if it was about a year old.
The marked-down price is not the only oddity. It should be unlawful to sell the Phantom because it entered Indonesia using diplomatic facilities. According to a 2002 Finance Department Decree, no car that enters Indonesia through diplomatic channels can be sold unless it is two or more years old, seriously damaged, or if the owner leaves the country. Now in this case, the car was less then one year old, only its brakes were defective and Ambassador Dawodieh had not been transferred to a new posting.
Miraculously however, the car was till able to slip through the Finance Department's regulations net. The Phantom has already changed hands and is now owned by a share broker in Jakarta.
Tempo discovered that this was all able to happen thanks to a variety of different scams, which a well-known car importer, Ali Muhammad, is suspected of being behind. And he was not acting alone. Diplomatic staff from 33 foreign representative countries, rogue elements in the Department of Finance Directorate General for Customs & Excise and officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs' Directorate General for Protocol & Consular Affairs are also suspected of being involved in this tightly organized network.
Their motive of course was money. Thanks to existing diplomatic facilities, the cars were eligible for exemptions from import duties and other taxes, the amount of which can be as much as 150 percent of the vehicle's value. These fees are only paid when the car is sold by diplomatic staff owners to a second party, two years later at the earliest. The size of the fee however is calculated based on the value of the vehicle at the time of sale.
As a consequence of the sale of this particular Phantom, the financial losses incurred by the state were substantial. Sold at a price of only Rp870 million, the total fees paid came to a paltry Rp1.73 billion. Yet if the car had been imported through normal channels, the government would have received at least Rp5.83 billion, which translates into a potential loss of state income of around Rp4.1 billion.
And these losses were from the sale of just this one car. According to Tempo's findings, over the last five years 225 cars valued at Rp400 million or more have entered Indonesia through foreign diplomatic channels. Around 150 of these cars were super-expensive models such as Rolls-Royces, Porsches, Ferraris and Lamborghinis, although the majority were Mercedes-Benz.
It is unknown just how many of these cars were actually used by the diplomatic corps, although data from the Metro Jaya Police provides some picture. Over this period, only 45 of the cars in this class were registered with CD or corps diplomatique number plates. On the assumption that the average price of the cars was Rp2 billion per unit, this means that in five years the state has suffered potential income losses of around Rp248 billion. This calculation become even more "crazy" because it is believed that the illegal practice has been widespread since 1985 (see The Importers' Calculator). It is this money that has been the source of a feeding frenzy.
FOREIGN diplomatic representatives do indeed obtain facilities to import luxury cars without having to pay import duty or other taxes. This is a consequence of the 1961 Geneva Convention that was ratified by Indonesia in 1985. Matters pertaining to exemptions from vehicle import duty and tax are regulated under Finance Department Decree No. 90/2002.
All import licenses are issue by the Diplomatic Facilities section at the Department of Foreign Affairs' Directorate General for Protocol & Consular Affairs. It is to this office that embassy staff or diplomats go to if they want to submit a request prior to importing a car. If the request is approved, the application is then submitted to the Technical Director for Customs Affairs at the Finance Department's Directorate General for Customs & Excise.
Importers also obtain a Form B from the Customs & Excise Office. This document explains that the car is to be imported legally but that the payment of duties and tax on the vehicle is to be deferred. Furnished with Form B, diplomats then take care of the vehicle's documents—including a CD number plate from the National Police.
In order to prevent these facilities from being misused, Article 10 in the 2002 Finance Department Decree stipulates that there are three conditions that must be met if the car is to be sold to an Indonesian. They are: if it is two or more years old, the diplomat concerned has returned home, or the car is seriously damaged. It is precisely these stipulations however that provides the loophole to allow importers to manipulate the regulation.
First, importers persuade a state diplomatic representative to import a luxury or super-luxury car of the type much sought-after by Indonesian consumers. Usually, the diplomats that are approached are those who have only just been appointed to a new post. This is because they still have a quota to import cars into Indonesia. A Tempo source at one particular embassy related how importers always know when there is a new diplomat at an embassy. "Almost all of them have new diplomats, they always turn up," they said.
Importers also prefer diplomats from "poor" countries. This is presumably related to their government's weak supervision while facilities to import cars at these embassies are just as wide open as for embassies from rich countries.
This is most evident in the case of the Burmese embassy. Mid-last year, diplomats from the turbulent country allegedly imported three Ferraris in the space of just two weeks. Yet the factory price of the cars is around Rp2 billion.
Similar types of cars have also been imported by many other embassies including Lebanon, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cambodia, Algeria and Bangladesh (see Who's Playing). In order to ascertain that they were just "imports" for future sale, in April Tempo journalists observed the front gates of these embassies for a period of one week. The result: not one of the cars was seen to enter or leave any of the embassies.
Questions about these findings were referred to the respective embassies, but only the Bangladesh embassy made an official response. The embassy is recorded as having imported a Porsche last year. But in his written reply, Head of Chancery S.M. Anisul Haque refuted the legitimacy of the document. "None of our diplomats have ever imported a super-luxury car," he wrote.
Anisul Haque's response is surprising because it suggests that there may be another modus operandi being used. Up until now, the cars have been brought into the country by importers cooperating with diplomats. The diplomat is invited to use private funds or just loan their name, and then all they have to do is sign the documents, accept a fee and the other matter pertaining to the importation are dealt with by the importer. Usually the fee is US$10,000 (around Rp93 million) per car—it can be less, perhaps more. Now, the Bangladesh embassy's protests indicate that there may be a third modus operandi: the use of fictitious names.
Criminal practices using such methods may well be taking place. A Tempo source related how there was once one embassy that was shocked to discover that all of a sudden they had been listed as having imported a super-luxury car.
The other indication is that many of the importation documents are suspected of being false. One of the characteristics is the non-consecutive numbers of the "letter requesting" a tax exception from a particular embassy. In January 2007 for example, a letter of request with the number 59 was issued. But then in the following month, the number of a document in the same category reverted back to 10.
Whichever modus operandi is being used, the story ends the same way. As soon as the cars are taken out of the bonded zone (a government supervised tax-exempt zone), the cars are immediately "bought" by the importer for sale to an Indonesian. But administrative matters pertaining to the transaction are usually not legalized until two years later, so as not to breach the regulations. By this time however the price of the car has dropped significantly and the duties and taxes owing are also very low. Over these two years, the car can cruise around using a "made up" police license number.
Included among these are temporary numbers. "Before, prior to 1999, many diplomatic cars used these numbers," said a source at the National Police. "The cost of obtaining such a number is Rp20-40 million," they said.
However the scam disappeared entirely in 1998. Rusdihardjo, the National Chief of Police at the time, abolished the "magical" number plates. Nevertheless, the importers were pretty bright. "When they are being used on the roads, the cars use a stick-on number," said the same source. Meaning the cars use the number of another vehicle that is officially registered.
If the car's owner wants to quickly transfer the ownership of the vehicle, there is another means available: just report to the Department of Foreign Affairs that the imported car is badly damaged. The benefits of this method are twofold. Aside from making the transaction legal, the price of the car can be made as low as possible.
It is this method that is believed to have been used in the case of the Jordanian Ambassador's Rolls-Royce Phantom. The car only arrived in Jakarta on May 3, 2007. Then in January this year the Department of Foreign Affairs received a report that the Phantom was damaged. Not only that, the Pak Ambassador simultaneously asked for permission to sell it. In order to make it look convincing, attached to the written request was information detailing the damage to the car from PT Permorin—a luxury car workshop in the Tanah Abang area of Central Jakarta.
Tempo's investigations discovered that the document detailing the damage to the Phantom from PT Permorin was in fact authentic. However, "Only the brakes were defective," said Mumu Mulyadi, the deputy manager of the workshop when speaking with Tempo. Of course this cannot be said to be serious damage. According to Mumu, if similar damage was incurred by a Mercedes-Benz, the cost of the repairs would probably amount to no more than Rp10 million.
Tempo sent the document dated April 9, 2008 to Mohammad Hassan Dawodieh along with a request for an interview to confirm these suspicions. But by the deadline for this story to go to print, there had been no reply from the Jordanian embassy.
FOR many years this cunning business of using diplomatic imports as a cover to import super-luxury cars ran without a glitch. It stank to high heaven, the modus operandi was clear, but the perpetrators were unable to be brought to court.
This is what happened in case of a "seizure" by the Tanjung Priok Customs & Excise One-Stop Service Office at the end of 2007. At the time, the office succeeded in impounding three super-luxury cars that they suspected would be sold in Indonesia, but that had been imported using special diplomatic facilities. A Rolls-Royce Phantom in the name of Pakistan Ambassador His Excellency Ali Baz, a Ferrari owned by Maria Fernanda Villa Pireart, the Third Secretary to the Chilean Ambassador, and a Lamborghini owned by M. T. Azizullah Omar, the Second Secretary to the Afghanistan Ambassador.
This instance of the alleged misuse of diplomatic facilities—which had the potential to become an icon for law enforcement in Indonesia—ended bitterly however. The three cars were all re-exported and the case deemed to be non-existent (see Three Cracks in the Screen).
Fortunately a breath of fresh air has blown in from Timor Leste. The Attorney General's Office there is in the process of investigating the importation of super-luxury cars by the former Timor Leste Ambassador to Indonesia, Arlindo Fransisco Marçal. "I appeal to law enforcement agencies in Indonesia to also conduct an investigation," said Aderito Antonio Pinto Tilman, the Dili prosecutor who is investigating the case. This is important, because, said the alumnus of Diponegoro University, "There are 33 embassies that have done the same thing."
In the case dossier currently being compiled by the Dili District Attorney, it also notes that Marçal committed the allegedly irregular practice in cooperation with Ali Muhammad and Joko Hardono, the Foreign Affairs Department's Director of Protocol Affairs at the time.
Ali does indeed appear to be deeply involved in the scam. Tempo discovered that he is also linked with the importation of the three super-luxury cars that were re-exported by the Customs & Excise office late last year.
According to the importation documents seen by Tempo, it states that the three re-exported cars were supplied by Aloha Trading Pte Ltd, Singapore. This company, along with two other Singaporean companies—Lincorp Singapore Pte Ltd and Euro Autocraft Trading Pte Ltd—supplied most of the cars imported by foreign diplomats in Indonesia over the last few years.
Now, in order to find the connection between the three companies, in early March Tempo took its investigation to Singapore. At the company registration agency in the International Plaza Building on Anson Road, Tempo purchased a document containing the profiles of Aloha, Lincorp and Euro. The price was S$5 or around Rp35,000 per document. Upon reading it, the owner of the three companies turned out to be none other than Ali Muhammad.
Unfortunately, finding Ali was not so easy. He was not at the Euro Autocraft office on the 23rd floor of the Chevron House building, which is just a registered office or an address for company registration purposes. Nor was he found at the Aloha Trading offices in the Orchard Tower, which turned out to just be Aloha's sales bureau—a small dilapidated shop around 3 x 5 meters square flanked by a massage parlor.
As of this report going to print, Tempo has only been able to speak to Ali by phone twice. "I don't deal in cars anymore. I stopped one and a half years ago. I've learnt my lesson OK," he said. That was the first conversation, on Tuesday July 22.
The following day, Ali was still saying nothing. "I'm living in Saudi Arabia now. This evening I'll be on my way to Saudi Arabia again, I don't live in the Republic of Dreams anymore," he said on the phone. But who knows where he actually was. Furnished with the schedule of flights to Saudi Arabia that night, attempts to intercept Ali at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport were also a failure.
Joko—now the Indonesian Ambassador to Canada—also declined to comment. "It would be better for you to submit questions about diplomatic facilities to the Department of Foreign Affairs," he said though a faxed reply.
The Department of Foreign Affairs however, also failed to provide much information. Spokesperson Kristiarto Soeryo Legowo said only that they had already resolved the importation problems. "We have an obligation to maintain the dignity of foreign representatives here," he said evasively.
The Tanjung Priok Customs & Excise Office maintained the veil of silence. Fortunately, Director-General of Customs & Excise, Anwar Suprijadi was prepared to provide one small piece of information. He claimed that the cause of the scam lay with the Department Decree that is so easy to manipulate. "In administrative terms, all of it is legal. So what can we do?" he asked.
Nevertheless, the two departments have quietly been "cleaning up" behind themselves. In order to plug the loophole in the regulation on importing cars via diplomatic channels, Foreign Affairs Minister Nur Hassan Wirajuda issued a diplomatic memorandum on January 9 prohibiting state foreign representatives from importing super-luxury cars.
The inspector-general of the two departments has also carried out an internal review. Purportedly, a number of officials were transferred, both from Customs & Excise as well as the Protocol & Consular Affairs Directorate, which is in charge of diplomatic facilities at the Department of Foreign Affairs.
But according to the Coordinator of the Political Corruption Division with Indonesia Corruption Watch, Ibrahim Fahmi Badoh, these measures are not enough. "The case ought to be investigated to find out who was behind it," he said.
Three Cracks in the Screen
THIS was the origin of the uproar: the impounding of three super-luxury cars—which had been imported using diplomatic facilities—by the Tanjung Priok Customs & Excise Office in North Jakarta in late 2007. The three cars—a Rolls-Royce, a Ferrari and a Lamborghini—were imported via foreign embassies to avoid obligatory payment of import duties.
The already deeply-rooted practice involves rogue elements at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Customs & Excise and foreign embassies, as well as the suspected involvement of a businessperson named Ali Muhammad alias Ali Idung. Over the last five years, at least 225 luxury and super-luxury cars are suspected of having being sold in Indonesia through these means.
Later, the Department of Foreign Affairs requested that the three cars be re-exported via Batam. Foreign Affairs Minister Hassan Wirajuda also issued a diplomatic memorandum prohibiting the import of super-luxury cars using diplomatic facilities.
2007 September 21 Three super-luxury cars enter Tanjung Priok port. The cars are imported by the Singaporean company Aloha Trading Pte Ltd. A Rolls-Royce valued at Rp4 billion is cited as belonging to Pakistan Ambassador Ali Baz, a Ferrari valued at Rp2 billion is owned by Chilean Embassy Third Secretary Maria Fernanda Villa Pireart, and a Lamborghini valued at Rp3.8 billion is imported based on an order placed by Afghanistan Embassy Second Secretary M.T. Azizullah Omar.
October 21 A month passes and the cars are still sitting idle at the port as if they have no owners. Customs & Excise begins to suspect that the vehicles are actually intended for sale in Indonesia. Diplomatic facilities are being used to avoid import duties amounting to Rp11.8 billion for the three cars.
November 8 Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati declares that her office is investigating the procurement of the three cars. Later on she requests that legal proceedings be taken into the case because the imported cars are suspected of being procured through the misuse of import duty exemption facilities for diplomats.
November 9 A member of parliament in the field of foreign relations, Abdillah Toha, states that the diplomat entitlements to import duty exemptions can only be used for the individual benefit of diplomats.
November 10 The Department of Foreign Affairs gives its approval for the exemption of import duties on the three cars. A week beforehand, the State Secretary had issued an approval in principle for the import duty exemption.
November 23 The letter approving the import duty exemption is received by Customs.
2008 January 2 The owner of the three cars submits a re-export request.
January 7 The Foreign Affairs Department's Director-General for Protocol & Consular Affairs, Handriyo Kusumo Priyo sends a letter numbered 006/PK/I/2008 to Customs & Excise. The letter reads: "The said cars cannot be imported into Indonesia and are to be returned to the country of origin." A Tempo source at the Department revealed that the re-exportation of the cars was done to maintain good relations with the foreign embassies whose names were linked with the three cars but who it was not yet certain were actually involved.
January 9 Foreign Affairs Minister Hassan Wirajuda issues a diplomatic memorandum prohibiting the importation of super-luxury cars through diplomatic facilities.
January 12 Director-General of Customs & Excise Anwar Suprijadi issues approval for the three cars to be re-exported. "It's true there were irregularities in the case of the luxury cars, but what can we do, approval for their re-exportation came from the Department of Foreign Affairs," he said.
January 38 Tanjung Priok Customs office repatriates the cars to Singapore aboard the ship Sikar via Batam.
Project Leaders: Mardiyah Chamim, Metta Dharmasaputra
Project Head: Philipus Parera
Editors: M. Taufiqurohman, Yosep Suprayogi
Writers: Philipus Parera, Nunuy Nurhayati, Bagja Hidayat, Yosep Suprayogi
Contributors: Yugha Erlangga, Amandra M. Megarani, Sahala Lumbanraja, Ibnu Rusydi, Jose Sarito Amaral (Timor Leste), Rumbadi Dale (Batam)
Photo Research: Bismo Agung
Design: Gilang Rahadian, Fitra Moerat, Ki Agus, Kendra Paramitha, Hendy Prakasa
Tempo Magazine No. 49/VIII/05-11 August, 2008
The Elusive Ali
+ Assalamualaikum, Pak Ali....
- Walaikumsalam.… Who's this?
+ This is Yugha from Tempo. We sent a request for an interview. How about following it up?
- No way. Aduh...I don't deal in cars anymore. I stopped one and a half years ago. I've learnt my lesson OK."
+ Pak Ali is well then?
- "Yes, I'm well.…"
This short conversation took place on Tuesday afternoon last week. The man on the other end of the line was Ali Muhammad. Tempo had to ask for confirmation from him about the alleged illegal import of cars under the cover of diplomatic facilities, which are estimated to have caused financial losses to the state of more than Rp200 billion. Ali's name was mentioned on several occasions in relation to these imports.
Ali Muhammad is the Director of PT Surya Sejahtera Otomotif, which accommodated the importation of four super-expensive cars that were brought into the country by the Timor Leste embassy. PT Surya is a subsidiary company of PT Mugi Rekso Abadi owned by a number of businesspeople whose hobby is racing. Ali is also the owner of Aloha Trading Pte Ltd, Lincorp Singapore Pte Ltd and Euro Autocraft Trading Pte Ltd. These Singaporean companies are understood to have supplied many super-luxury cars to foreign diplomats in Indonesia over the last five years.
Tempo tried on more than a dozens of occasions to meet with Ali. Pretending to be looking for a sports car, Tempo visited his office in Singapore. First, journalists from this magazine went to the Euro Autocraft offices on the 23rd floor of Chevron House. It turned out to only be a registered office.
The hunt then moved to Aloha Trading in the Orchard Tower. But all that we found was an ordinary shop-house flanked by a massage parlor. The sign read: "Aloha Tours & Travels". There was no impression that super-luxury sports cars such as Ferraris or Lamborghinis were being exported from here. "That's correct, Aloha Trading is located here, but we don't sell sports cars," said a middle-aged woman from behind a pile of faded papers.
However from a small room in a section behind the shop-house, a youth said in a conspiratorial tone: "We have a Lamborghini." The youth then put Tempo in contact with a person named Husein by phone. Before Husein had even spoken, the woman cut off the conversation and shouted: "They're not looking for a Lamborghini, but a sports car."
The woman's voice sounded suspicious and—unluckily—Husein caught the tone. "We provide transport services, not luxury cars," he said in fluent Indonesian. This attempt to catch up with Ali also failed.
In Jakarta, the well-known importer is also not easy to find—either at his home, office or even places where he socializes. At his office in the Tanah Abang II area of Central Jakarta, Tempo was only able to speak with a receptionist. She claimed that her boss comes to the office almost every day. "But today [he hasn't come in] yet, there's only his secretary," she said. Tempo returned on a number of occasions and got the same answer. Finally, we left a letter requesting an interview with Ali with his secretary Lina. But there was never any response to the request.
On one occasion, Lina gave a slightly different answer. "Bapak hasn't come back yet, [he's] still in Singapore," she said. So the hunt was resumed in Singapore. There, Ali lives at the red-painted Palm Spring Apartments, stretching over a length of six blocks on Ewe Boon Road in Bukit Timah. Surrounded by a high fence, security cameras are installed in the corners of all the stairwells and lifts.
A guard at the security post asked Tempo to contact Ali beforehand if we wanted to go up to his apartment on the fourth floor. That was impossible of course, because we had yet to be able to contact him. Finally, acting as if we were tenants, several hours later Tempo reentered the building and headed directly for the basement parking area. Once in the lift, we pressed the button for the fourth floor. Ops…it turned out that the lifts can only be operated using a code number. Once again, the hunt proved fruitless.
But the tireless search finally came to an end. From an acquaintance of Ali's that Tempo ran into in Sirkuit Sentul, Bogor regency, three weeks ago we were able to obtain Ali's cellphone number. Towards sunset on Tuesday two weeks ago, Ali answered Tempo's phone call. Thus took place the conversation above. The next day, Tempo phoned him again to ask for a meeting. Once again he refused.
- "Yugha, Pak, from Tempo magazine."
+ "Why? What's the matter, Yugha?"
- "We would like to meet with you."
+ "No way, Pak Yugha. I don't deal [in cars] anymore, Pak Yugha. I'm living in Saudi Arabia now. This evening I'll be returning to Saudi Arabia, I don't live in the Republic of Dreams any more. I'm living in Saudi Arabia, Yugha…"
After managing to exchange a few more words, he put down the phone. And once again, Ali was gone.
Tempo Magazine No. 49/VIII/05-11 August, 2008
The Invisible Ferrari
The former Timor Leste Ambassador is accused of conspiring with the mafia that imports expensive cars into Indonesia. He, however, feels he has done nothing wrong.
HALF an hour before the interview, Arlindo Fransisco Marçal was really extremely angry with Tempo. "You have totally ignored the principle of presumed innocence," said this Timor Leste Ambassador to Indonesia for the 2003-2006 period at his two-floor home, around 200 meters from United Nations headquarters in Dili, at the end of March this year.
Marçal, 48, pointed at the report in the Koran Tempo newspaper and the headlines of several local Timor Leste newspapers that reported the case of four expensive cars being imported during his term of office as ambassador. These were a Bentley, a Ferrari, a Maserati and a Lotus, with a total estimated value of Rp10.9 billion.
The investigating prosecutor in this case, Aderito Antonio Pinto Tilman, stated that Marçal exploited his position when these imports were made between 2004 and 2005, adding, "He received a bribe of US$30,000 (around Rp270 million) from a Jakarta businessman."
Tilman fully reported this case to the State Justice Ministry back in March. However, up until last week, the case had still not yet been returned to the Timor Leste Attorney General in order to proceed to trial. According to Tilman, this corruption case will be tried together with other corruption cases that took place during the administration of Timor Leste's first Prime Minister, Mari Alkatiri.
Marçal's import vehicle case was opened up because of the alertness of investigators from Provedor Direitos Humanos no Justisa, a human rights and justice ombudsman agency in Dili. They were suspicious because the ambassador was so wealthy that he was able to buy four such amazingly expensive cars.
It certainly made sense for this agency to be suspicious that there was something behind the purchase of these cars. This was quite understandable taking into account that Marçal's salary as ambassador was only US$2,000 or Rp18 million per month. To buy just one Ferrari, which costs in the region of Rp2 billion, his monthly salary was not nearly enough, let alone purchase four.
Investigators from this ombudsman agency flew to Jakarta in December 2007. At that time, they were not impeded by the 1961 Geneva Convention, which provides legal immunity to diplomats. Marçal was a "civilian" once again, living in Balide, Dili.
At the Timor Leste embassy in the Gedung Surya building, Jalan M.H. Thamrin, these investigators seized several import documents, questioned employees and officials, and then confirmed their findings with the Department of Foreign Affairs. The results were astonishing. "These cars were never even seen at the embassy," said Tilman, quoting Amandio de Sa Benevides, the Deputy Provedor.
Marçal acknowledged this. However, he told the investigating prosecutors that the cars were never seen at the embassy because he sold them off quickly. The buyer was a businessman named Kana. From this person, Marçal admitted receiving a fee of Rp270 million—equivalent to 15 months of his salary as an ambassador.
However, Marçal's private secretary Maria Reinata Calda de Jesus, who is another suspect in the case, had a different story to tell. She is known to have also received a bribe of US$10,000 (around Rp90 million) from the import of these four cars.
The US dollars received by Arlindo Marçal, said Tilman quoting Maria's confession, originated from an executive at PT Surya Sejahtera Otomotif. This money was a reward because Marçal was willing to lend his name and position for the import of the cars. "The name of the person who paid the money was called Ali Muhammad," said Tilman.
In the articles of association of PT Surya, obtained by Tempo through the State Gazette No. 5923 Year 2000, it states that Ali is a director and shareholder in this company with its office in Jalan T.B. Simatupang 19, South Jakarta. Whereas Kana, according to Tilman, is an employee of Ali who signed the sales-purchase agreements so it seemed that the cars had already changed hands.
Marçal certainly rejects this disgraceful charge. "I owned the cars, so it was up to me to sell them on or not," he said aggressively. Even so, he admitted that the money to buy the four cars was not his own money, but belonged to someone else "who could afford to buy them."
However this Rector of Dili University refused to confirm details of the sales-purchase story—such as the identity of those who lent the money, the types of the cars, the prices, and who was involved in the import of the cars. When Tempo put forward the name of Ali Muhammad, he answered: "I don't want to state the name or the company."
Time after time, he pointed out that the imports from Singapore were in line with Indonesian law. Other ambassadors, he said, did the same because they had received permission from the Protocol and Consular Directorate General at the Department of Foreign Affairs. This is the directorate that has the authority to approve or reject import requests from foreign ambassadors in Indonesia.
If then these cars are sold on, according to Marçal, this is in line with regulations. Finance Minister Decision No. 90/KMK.04/2002 permits cars to be sold if they are more than two years old, damaged, or if the diplomat involved is posted back to his or her home country. "No one loses out because of these imports," he said.
For Timor Leste, Marçal's behavior certainly did not cause any financial losses for the state. Because of this, prosecutor Tilman is not aiming this case towards a corruption charge. "The charge against Marçal is making use of his position to make profits for Indonesian businessmen," he said. "If proven, the punishment is nine years in jail," continued Tilman.
It's another story as far as Indonesia is concerned. As a result of these imports, the government has lost revenues from customs import duties and various taxes. Because they were imported through diplomatic channels, these four cars only cost Rp10.9 billion. However, if they had been imported through the usual channels, the money that would have had to be spent would have been cost Rp21.8 billion. This is because buyers of these really expensive cars have to pay customs import duties and various taxes 150 percent of the purchase price. "Indonesian officials and businessmen should also be investigated," appealed Tilman.
At the time these imports were carried out, the position of Protocol and Consular Director General at the Department of Foreign Affairs was held by Joko Hardono, who is now the Indonesian Ambassador to Canada. The import permits for these four cars came from his office. However, Joko refused to provide details. "It would be best if you directed your questions regarding diplomatic facilities to the Department of Foreign Affairs," he stated in a fax.
Ali Muhammad also refused to meet and he could only be contacted by cellphone. "I am now no longer playing. I am very sorry," he said on Tuesday, two weeks ago. In addition to names mentioned by Tilman, research carried out in Singapore by Tempo indicates that that these four cars were sent by a Singaporean company, Aloha Trading Pte Ltd.
Tempo Magazine No. 49/VIII/05-11 August, 2008
Ready to Play
TWO facsimile pages from the Bangladesh embassy. The contents: A statement that their diplomatic staff in Jakarta—there are only two—never imported a Porsche in 2007 as recorded in a document seen by Tempo.
Unfortunately, Tempo's efforts to cross-check the data received no response from the Department of Foreign Affairs. It is quite possible that the Bangladeshi diplomats and the embassies listed in the table below are simply victims of fabricated documents. The indications of this can be seen, for example, from the non-sequential numbering of the importation request documents, whereas the letters are from the same embassy.
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Tempo Magazine No. 49/VIII/05-11 August, 2008
Aderito Tilman, Timor Leste Public Prosecutor: Other Embassies in Jakarta Involved
THE smuggling of luxury cars from Singapore which has dragged into the fray Timor Leste Ambassador to Indonesia, Arlindo Fransisco Marçal, and his secretary, Maria Reinata Calda de Jesus, has become a challenge to public prosecutor Aderito Tilman. After all, it's not just his own country's diplomats who are involved, but also quite a few businessmen and officials from Indonesia.
The Timorese prosecutor, who was born in the district of Bone 35 years ago, is optimistic the case will end up in court. Documents and testimonies of witnesses further convinced him that there were irregularities in the purchases of Ferrari, Maserati, Bentley and Lotus automobiles by Arlindo Marçal and Maria Reinata.
Marçal is a graduate of the Law Faculty of Diponegoro University in Semarang. He began his career as a judge at the Dili District Court, where he was promoted to chief justice and ended as prosecutor at the Attorney General's Office. Last March, Tilman gave Tempo an interview at his home in Dili.
How far has this investigation been processed?
We are still studying the documents submitted by the Dili Human Rights and Justice ombudsman. We will also summon two more witnesses, diplomat Robert Sarmento de Oliveira, who is posted in Jakarta, and diplomat Jorge Trindade in the United States.
This case happened sometime between 2004 and 2005. Why is it being investigated now?
This is because when they held their postings, they had immunity so they could not be investigated.
What were the results of the investigation?
Based on existing documents, Marçal and Calda de Jesus are accused of being involved in negotiating for the purchase of luxury cars from Singapore. The two diplomats are suspected of collaborating with two businessmen in Indonesia, Ali Muhammad and Kana. This case was facilitated by Joko Hardono, an official of the Indonesian Foreign Affairs Department.
How were the Indonesian businessmen involved?
Ali Muhammad and Kana, via their company, PT Surya Sejahtera Otomotif, purchased luxury cars on behalf of the Timor Leste embassy in Indonesia. They collaborated with Joko Hardono from the Foreign Affairs Department, enabling the transaction to bypass the Customs & Excise Office.
What kind of collaboration?
The two businessmen negotiated the price, which was approved by Marçal and Calda de Jesus. They would then propose to buy it directly from these two. But since they had no cash, the other option was to have Ali Muhammad's company buy the cars. The cars would be used for a time by the two diplomats, then they would be sold. The two diplomats chose the second option.
So, those cars are not for the embassy's operations?
Apparently, the two diplomats never used those cars, which were just parked inside the garage of that company. The two diplomats then received compensation from the company, Calda de Jesus got US$10,000 and Marçal received US$30,000. That's a legal violation.
What legal basis will be used to try this case?
The case involves abuse of privileges, not corruption, as regulated by Criminal Code Article 418, 419 and 421 of Timor Leste. They could face nine years in prison.
Why were they charged with abuse of privilege?
They brought in cars by using diplomatic privilege, but used it for interests of a company in Indonesia. According to Indonesian law, a diplomat is allowed to import cars without paying taxes. The problem is they bought the cars not for their own purposes but transferred ownership to a private local company.
What evidence do you have to bring these two to court?
We have very strong proof. We are optimistic this case will go to court. If they are proven to have violated the law, this case will go to court. And to prevent such a recurrence, I recommend that the law enforcement authorities in Indonesia carry out their own investigation, particularly since our investigations indicate there are 33 other embassies that are doing the same.
Tempo Magazine No. 49/VIII/05-11 August, 2008
Foreign Affairs Spokesman, Kristiarto Soeryo Legowo: The Case is Resolved
IT is not easy to get information from officials of the Foreign Affairs Department, regarding the importation of cars using diplomatic facilities. Requests to interview Foreign Minister Nur Hassan Wirajuda and Acting Director for Diplomatic Facilities Nurul Qomar went unanswered.
Director-General for Protocol & Consular Affairs, Lutfi Rauf, also refused to comment, as did Foreign Affairs Inspector-General, Dienne H. Moerio. "We have divided our tasks, please contact the relevant directors and spokesman," said Dienne, through her secretary.
After weeks of silence, Foreign Affairs spokesman Kristiarto Soeryo Legowo agreed to open up to Tempo, although very limited, at his office in Jakarta in May. He repeatedly stressed that his office has resolved the problem internally through restructuring.
The Timor Leste prosecutor said a Foreign Affairs official was involved in the smuggling case of luxury cars by the Timor Leste ambassador.
That case has been resolved.
The prosecutor even named the official?
I repeat, that has been resolved.
We found new evidence involving that Foreign Affairs official in the case. What will the Department do?
We have carried out internal restructuring, including introduction of new regulations which we hope will reduce any recurrence of the case.
What are those new regulations?
I don't have that information with me. But you can quote me—internal restructuring has been carried out and they guarantee against future recurrence.
Was the replacement of the Director for Diplomatic and Consular Affairs and the Protocol Director-General linked to this case?
That is part of the internal restructuring.
Can you clarify the details of this case?
That is the most I can tell you. Clearly, this case has been resolved. Our internal mechanism has been implemented. We have carried out all kinds of restructuring, both administratively and in the personnel. We give assurances this will not happen again.
When were they carried out?
Before the case involving those three cars in Tanjung Priok, before it appeared in the news. Since 2007, restructuring was done.
Will that be enough?
That is all I will say.
What about the involvement of Joko Hardono and Ali Muhammad?
That is all I will say. Sorry…thank you.