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Indonesia chafes at graft 'safe haven' in Singapore
Wed, Apr 28, 2010
AFP

JAKARTA - Singapore promotes itself as a model of financial integrity. But, officials in Jakarta say, the wealthy city-state is a haven for some of the most corrupt Indonesians and their ill-gotten gains.

Singapore denies that it turns a blind eye to dirty money and says that if sufficient evidence is provided, it is ready to take "swift and necessary action" against corruption suspects.

But Indonesia's Deputy Attorney General Darmono said: "Singapore is the most strategic country for corruptors to run away to.

"It's geographically the closest to Indonesia and the policy of the Singaporean government enables corruptors to live there," he told AFP.

Precise information on the extent of the illegal wealth allegedly smuggled out of Indonesia to Singapore is hard to find due to the small republic's strict bank secrecy laws and the sensitivity of the subject.

But a report by Indonesia's financial intelligence unit in late 2006 said around 200 fugitives from Indonesian state debt were residing there.

Three years ago extradition requests were lodged with Singapore for 15 corruption suspects, but the process has stalled due to complications surrounding a 2007 extradition treaty, Indonesian officials said.

In a recent update to lawmakers, Darmono said most of 18 suspects currently subject to extradition requests over corruption were hiding in the city-state.

Another 10 had fled abroad, mostly to Singapore, but were not subject to extradition requests, he added.

The suspects include bankers who siphoned off hundreds of millions of dollars in state bailout funds during the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis, and tycoons of illegal logging, according to official and independent sources.

"They are living the life there. Their lifestyle in Singapore is above the average," Indonesia Corruption Watch activist Emerson Yuntho said.

Arif Havas Oegroseno, director general for law and international treaties at the foreign ministry, said the proceeds from corruption were more than enough to fund lavish lifestyles in Singapore.

"As they've invested huge sums of stolen money, which are increasing in value over time, they no longer need to work," he said.

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