Saturday, November 25, 2017

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Indonesia’s Armed Forces’Role In Counterterrorism:...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Indonesia’s Armed Forces’Role In Counterterrorism:...: Indonesia’s Armed Forces’Role In Counterterrorism: Impact On Military Reform – Analysis Lawmakers in Indonesia are currently revising...

Indonesia’s Armed Forces’Role In Counterterrorism: Impact On Military Reform – Analysis

Indonesia’s Armed Forces’Role In Counterterrorism: Impact On Military Reform – Analysis

Lawmakers in Indonesia are currently revising an existing anti-terrorism law. The proposed legislation will give TNI, the Indonesian armed forces, a more direct role in combatting terrorism. This may pose a hurdle to continued military reform.

Indonesian lawmakers are currently deliberating revisions to an existing anti-terrorism law which appears insufficient in facing the threat of Islamic State (IS). One of the main points debated in the terrorism bill is the role of the Indonesian National Armed Forces (TNI) in counterterrorism.

According to existing law, the TNI is only allowed to assist counterterrorism operations under the command of the Indonesian National Police (POLRI). The new bill allows for certain conditions under which the TNI may assume a more active role, rather than serving only as an Auxiliary Support Force (BOK).

Generals Back More Authority

The process of revising the anti-terrorism law has been underway for more than a year and the final draft is expected to be ready for a vote at year’s end. One of the points that has prolonged the discussion is the role of the TNI in counterterrorism. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo began advocating a more active role for TNI after a twin suicide bombing struck a bus terminal in Kampung Melayu, East Jakarta in May 2017. The attack killed three police officers.

A number of current and former military generals, many of whom serve in important posts in the government, have emphasised the importance of the TNI’s role in counterterrorism. The TNI commander, Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo, has argued forcefully that terrorism must not be treated as a crime but as a threat to state security. He asserted the impending danger of a “proxy war” where subversive foreign agents will infiltrate Indonesia in a variety of ways, including exploiting the threat of terrorism.

Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu, a retired general, has further asserted that combatting terrorism should not be the exclusive purview of just one agency, as they will be insufficient to the task. This statement might suggest a rebuke of POLRI as they are at the forefront of counterterrorism measures in Indonesia.

TNI’s Direct Role in Counterterrorism?

Another retired general, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Wiranto argued that the TNI should be given a direct role and no longer work as BOK, playing a supporting function. He believed regulations pertaining to TNI involvement in counterterrorism operations should be simplified and made less burdensome so that when the need arises, appropriate forces can be deployed quickly and effectively.

As these generals hold important positions in the defence and security sectors, their opinions about the proper role of the TNI in counterterrorism carry significant weight. However, there is also a base of public support for their ideas.

According to a survey done by Kompas, a leading daily, 93% of respondents supported the TNI having some role in counterterrorism, while 38% supported the idea of TNI autonomy in combating terrorism. More than half or 55% percent of respondents believe the TNI should remain under the command of POLRI, although the number who support autonomy is still significant.

TNI’s Expanded Role: Inevitable?

A coalition of civil society groups has been strongly opposed to the TNI’s expanded involvement in counterterrorism for fear of human rights abuses and the potential erosion of civilian control of the military. Yet the legislation continues to march forward, with lawmakers confident that the new bill will soon be finalised.

The House’s committee chairman on the anti-terrorism bill, Muhammad Syafi’I, has ensured the public that despite this expansion of TNI authority, Indonesia is committed to the rule of law and that law enforcement will remain the responsibility of POLRI.

The revised legislation will first establish that the TNI is no longer limited to serving in a BOK or auxiliary capacity. The exact conditions under which and in what manner the TNI should be given a direct role in counterterrorism will be clarified after the bill is ratified using Peraturan Presiden (Presidential Regulation).

Jokowi will consult with the House of Representatives (DPR) on the terms before issuing the Regulation. This should grant him sufficient leeway to bypass their approval in the future should it be necessary to rapidly deploy the TNI in response to a terror attack.

Challenges Ahead

The main concern over the TNI’s expanded involvement is that it will hinder the ongoing process of military reform. Efforts to reform the military in Indonesia have stressed the division of duties and responsibilities between the TNI and POLRI.

Under this arrangement, the TNI’s main task has been to protect the nation from external threats while POLRI’s has been maintaining internal security and order. The TNI’s active role in counterterrorism could blur this dividing line and presage a return to the political culture of the New Order, when the military had an internal security role.

One potential benefit of the proposed new arrangement is that the Army (TNI AD), the most dominant service, could use its advantage in intelligence-gathering and guerrilla warfare to combat terrorism. However, this has the potential to further entrench the Army as the most dominant service and allow its territorial command structure – which many observers consider problematic – to remain untouched by reforms.

Indonesia is striving for a more balanced armed forces, and has laid out plans for key doctrines such as Minimum Essential Force (MEF) and Global Maritime Fulcrum (GMF) which would direct additional resources to both the Navy (TNI AL) and the Air Force (TNI AU). However, if the Army begins to play a more outsized role in monitoring and combatting terrorism, the defence budget allocation for TNI AD will likely increase at the expense of the other services.

Additionally, the territorial command structure – which mirrors the civilian structure of governance and creates opportunities for political transactions during local elections – has long been the target of military reform efforts. With an expanded role in internal security, the Army will likely be able to fend off these efforts by claiming the structure is necessary to combat terrorism.

Given all this, Indonesia must sustain its efforts toward military reform. TNI AL and TNI AU should continue receiving additional resources to raise their profiles and develop a balanced armed forces that can address threats from air, land and sea – especially considering the intensifying danger of transboundary terrorism. It is important that Indonesia remains wary of involving the TNI too much in the preservation of internal security, even in the interest of national security.

*Chaula Anindya is a Research Analyst with the Indonesia Programme S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Sydney Morning Herald Book Review

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Sydney Morning Herald Book Review: Sydney Morning Herald Book Review “Rockefeller & the Demise of Ibu Pertiwi review: Mystery and politics in W Papua” Cameron Wo...

Sydney Morning Herald Book Review

Sydney Morning Herald Book Review

“Rockefeller & the Demise of Ibu Pertiwi review: Mystery and politics in W Papua”

  • Cameron Woodhead

Rockefeller & the Demise of Ibu Pertiwi

Kerry B. Collison

Sid Harta, $24.95

Kerry B. Collison brings a deep knowledge of Indonesian history and politics to his latest novel. Using as a hook the mysterious disappearance of Michael C. Rockefeller in 1961, the novel soon immerses us in a multi-faceted history of West Papua (Irian Jaya), a former Dutch colony annexed by Indonesia in the 1960s. It's a geopolitical thriller that includes every conceivable perspective and stakeholder, from remote mountain villages to the United Nation, from international mining companies and the Indonesian military to the Papuan independence movement. Rockefeller's vanishing gets an imaginative explanation, as events conspire to ignite the possibility of war between Australia and Indonesia (in a case of East Timor revisited on a larger scale) over the question of self-determination. Perhaps a touch scattered as fiction, but sure to intrigue anyone interested in geopolitical strategy and the history of our region





Chris Forward*



In May 1996, Indonesia submitted the first (and only) proposal for the designation of three Archipelagic Sea Lanes (ASLs) within its archipelago to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). The IMO has claimed the mandate of being the ‘competent international organisation’ referred to in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (LOSC)1 for designating ASLs.2 After significant protests from major maritime countries including Australia and the United States (a prominent non-signatory to the LOSC),3 the IMO declared Indonesia’s submission a ‘partial designation’ of ASLs.4 This has provided maritime countries a significant victory as the declaration has rendered the Indonesian ASLs practically useless because because there is no compulsion for maritime countries to use them. Maritime countries, through their influence over the IMO, have maintained almost complete and unfettered access for shipping within the archipelagic waters of Indonesia. This paper examines the Indonesian submission to determine the validity of the IMO’s declaration at international law. Specifically, it examines the authority of the IMO as a self professed ‘competent international organisation’, the role it has undertaken in the process, and the legality of its determination that Indonesia’s ASL submission was a ‘partial declaration’.

This paper makes three assertions. First, despite claims to the contrary,5 the LOSC is not a universal codification of the law of the sea nor is it a ‘Constitution for the Oceans’.6 It is a fundamental treaty which numerous states are bound to adhere through being signatories. However, numerous important non-signatories, the significant quantity of declarations on the interpretation of its provisions and the failure of the treaty to declare its jurisdiction over non-signatories mean the treaty is not a full embodiment of universally applicable customary law. The LOSC has universal application where it can be shown that it codifies existing customary law. However, the treaty has introduced significant new concepts such as the archipelagic state, archipelagic sea-lane passage (ASLP) and ASLs. To be universally applicable (that is applicable to all states, including non-signatories), it must be demonstrated that the international legal concepts pioneered by LOSC have been accepted as representing customary international law.7 This paper argues that as there has been no complete implementation of the process for designating ASLs through the process designated by the LOSC, the process cannot be accepted as valid international customary law. Therefore the process is only binding on countries who are party to the treaty. Secondly, in the absence of being specifically named in the LOSC treaty, the IMO must show it has been recognised as having the mandate as the ‘competent maritime authority’ to designate ASLs.8 It is argued that the IMO does not have this mandate yet, despite its declaration to the contrary. Finally, the paper analyses the conduct of the IMO in its consideration of Indonesia’s submission for recognition of ASLs within its territory and specifically the legality of its declaration of the submission as being a ‘partial submission’.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Indonesia boosts its air and sea denial capabiliti...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Indonesia boosts its air and sea denial capabiliti...:   Indonesia was reported to be among the countries that expressed interest in the Indo-Russian BrahMos supersonic cruise missile at ...

Indonesia boosts its air and sea denial capabilities


Indonesia was reported to be among the countries that expressed interest in the Indo-Russian BrahMos supersonic cruise missile at the recent Dubai Air Show. Under its Minimum Essential Force program, Jakarta aims to improve air and sea denial capacities, with a primary focus on anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare in coastal waters.

The Indonesian military expansion is coming amid escalating tensions with China over a contested area around the Natuna Islands, which belong to the Southeast Asian country.

Bottom of Form

Missiles, frigates and subs

Jakarta’s arsenal of anti-ship missiles is already quite robust. It includes the French MM-38 and MM-40 Exocet, the Russian SSC-3 Styx and SS-N-26 Yakhont, and the Chinese C-802. BrahMos would be a pretty notable addition to Indonesia’s missile forces, as it is one of the world’s fastest anti-ship and land-attack cruise projectiles.

BrahMos can be fired from ships, submarines and ground-based platforms. A variant for the Su-30 MKI fighter is set to be tested for the first time, according to Indian media reports.

Frigates and submarines are the other two pillars of Indonesia’s planned sea denial architecture

Frigates and submarines are the other two pillars of Indonesia’s planned sea denial architecture. On October 30, the second of two Sigma 10514 PKR guided-missile frigates was delivered to Jakarta by local shipbuilder PT Pal and Dutch defense contractor Damen. The Sigma 10514 PKR frigate is a multi-role vessel that can be used for patrol missions in the country’s economic exclusive zone (EEZ), as well as for anti-air, anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare and maritime security.

The Indonesian navy has also delayed the decommissioning of its Ahmad Yani-class frigates. A number of them will be sent to the Natuna Sea before the deployment of Sigma 10514 PKR frigates is completed.

As well, Indonesia received a Type 209 Chang Bogo-class attack submarine in August. The first of three vessels ordered in 2011, it was built by South Korean defense firm DSME. Jakarta plans to construct a fleet of 10 to 12 multipurpose submarines capable of operating in shallow (“green”) and blue waters alike.

As far as air defense is concerned, Indonesia recently finalized the acquisition of a complete NASAMS medium-range air defense system from Norwegian manufacturer Kongsberg. The ground-based platform will have to be equipped with US-made Raytheon AIM-120 missiles.

Indonesia currently relies on short-range surface-to-air missiles like the Swiss-manufactured Oerlikon Skyshield system. NASAMS will be deployed to protect the country’s capital city, but it could also be stationed to defend military installations on the Natuna islands.

Changing posture

Indonesia is an archipelago nation of about 18,000 islands. In July, Jakarta renamed the northern portion of its EEZ in the South China Sea as “North Natuna Sea.” This move drew a harsh response from Beijing, which disputes Indonesian claims to the waters surrounding the Natuna Islands.

The Natunas do not fall within China’s “Nine Dash Line,” which delineates the Asian giant’s claims to the South China Sea. However, Beijing lays claim to waters north of these Indonesian islands. The area is a rich fishing ground and is believed to have abundant oil and natural gas reserves.

To counter Chinese territorial demands, the Indonesian government is building up air and naval facilities on the Natuna Islands. Last year, Indonesian Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said his country would ramp up defenses around the Natunas by deploying warships, F-16 fighters, surface-to-air missiles, drones and a radar. In support of military activities on the Natunas, the Indonesian air force has also proposed developing an air base on Batam island, 20 kilometers off Singapore’s southern coast.

Susi Pudjiastuti, Indonesia’s maritime affairs and fisheries minister, said last month that her country would have to reinforce naval defenses against illegal fishing by foreign-flagged ships. Poaching cases in Natuna waters have multiplied in recent years. Notably, the constant presence of Chinese fishing boats, supported by their country’s coast guard, has strained relations between Indonesia and the Asian powerhouse – Jakarta and Beijing had three naval skirmishes last year.

Indonesia has maintained a low profile in the South China Sea until recently. Now, while Vietnam and the Philippines have softened their opposition to Chinese territorial demands (which have also been rejected by an international tribunal), Jakarta has become more assertive in safeguarding its maritime interests.

The Indonesian military build-up in the region bordering the South China Sea can be viewed mostly as geopolitical posturing. Jakarta wants to send a message to Beijing that it will defend its sovereign rights. But only strategic cooperation with regional and non-regional actors wary of China’s military expansion will give teeth to Jakarta to face Chinese pressure on the (North) Natuna Sea.

By Emanuele Scimia November 20,


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Indonesia's Orang Rimba: Forced to renounce their ...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Indonesia's Orang Rimba: Forced to renounce their ...: Indonesia's Orang Rimba: Forced to renounce their faith The Sumatran rainforests of Indonesia are home to the Orang Rimba - the p...

Indonesia's Orang Rimba: Forced to renounce their faith

Indonesia's Orang Rimba: Forced to renounce their faith

The Sumatran rainforests of Indonesia are home to the Orang Rimba - the people of the jungle. Their faith and nomadic way of life are not recognised by the state and, as their forests are destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations, many are being forced to convert to Islam to survive.

In a wooden hut on stilts, a group of children dressed in white sit on the floor. They sing "I will protect Islam till I die" and shout "There is no god but Allah", in unison.

Three months ago, the 58 families that make up the Celitai tribe of Orang Rimba converted to Islam. They were picked up and bussed into Jambi, the nearest city, and given clothes and prayer mats.ago

The Islamic Defenders Front - a vigilante group whose leader is facing charges of inciting religious violence - helped facilitate the conversion.

Ustad Reyhan, from the Islamic missionary group Hidayatullah, has stayed to make sure the new faith is practised.

"For now we are focusing on the children. It's easier to convert them - their mind isn't filled with other things. With the older ones it's harder," he says.

"Before Islam they just believed in spirits, gods and goddesses, not the supreme god Allah.

"When someone died, they didn't even bury the dead, they just would leave the body in the forest. Now their life has meaning and direction.

"[Before] they lived in the forest. They just lived for each day, each moment. When they died, they died. But now they have a religion, they know there is an afterlife."

'No choice'

But village leader Muhammad Yusuf - Yuguk, to use his Orang Rimba name - was thinking about surviving in this life when he converted.
"It was a very heavy and difficult decision, but we feel like we have no choice, if we want to move forward," he says quietly.
"So that our children can have the same opportunities as the outsiders, the people of the light, we had no other choice. We had to all convert to Islam." decision to convert to Islam was difficult

Outsiders are the "people of the light", because they live in open areas and are often in the sun, unlike the people of the jungle.

The surrounding majority Muslim population calls the Orang Rimba "Kubu".

"It means that they are very dirty, they are garbage, you can't even look because it is so disgusting," explains anthropologist Butet Manurung, who has lived with the Orang Rimba for many years.

"It also means primitive, stupid, bad smelling - basically pre-human. People say their evolution is not complete."

It's thought there are about 3,000 Orang Rimba living in central Sumatra.

"If you came before, you would have seen our forest. It was pristine, with huge trees," says Yusuf

Now there are seemly endless ghostly white burnt-out sticks in one direction, and palm oil trees in neat rows in the other.

The absence of any natural sounds is eerie.

"It's all gone. It happened just in the last few years. The palm plantations came in, and then the forest started to burn," adds Yusuf, referring to 2015's devastating fires, which burnt more than 21,000 sq km of forest and peat land.

Half a million people were affected by the toxic haze from the fires and dozens died from breathing problems.
"I was terrified. We were so scared of the flames and smoke all around us," Yusuf tells me.
His tribe ran to the nearest village to escape and this was where the conversion process started.

Endangered population

"After a while, we wanted to send our children to school, but the teacher wanted to see their birth certificates, and for that you have to have a state religion that the government recognises.
"So we had a tribal meeting, and discussed what religion we would choose, and decided to choose Islam," says Yusuf.
Indonesia - the world's largest Muslim country - officially recognises six religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.
Indigenous rights bodies are fighting to get recognition for the hundreds of other faiths practised across Indonesia.
The country's constitutional court recently ruled in their favour, finding that it was against the constitution to force people to state a religion.
Rukka Sombolinggi, head of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago, has been a key figure in this fight.
"We have been around before the new religions arrived, but now it's like they rule us, and want to clean us from
this country. We have to fight back," she says.
She says the Orang Rimba are one of the most endangered indigenous tribes in Indonesia.
"They reached the point of complete hopelessness and saw that embracing one of the official religions would probably help them come out of this very bad situation. It is a matter of survival."

'No space to live'

I experienced a sense of the discrimination towards Orang Rimba, when I met a remote tribe still practising this nomadic, polytheistic way of life.
We were eating with them in the jungle when a police officer and local government officials arrived and asked what we were doing and if we had permits.
Our Orang Rimba guide Miyak was visibly upset, and asked why such documents would be necessary on his own land.
"We have no space to live. We are always told we are nomadic people with no religion, no culture," he told me.
"Our religion is not respected. The government is always insisting that we convert and live in houses in one place. We can't do that. Our way of life is not like that.culture and religion are not respected by the wider population
"Why you are making our lives so difficult?" he asked the officials.
The officer, Budi Jayapura, took me aside to check my documents and said: "We need to watch over them.
"They don't understand the concept of stealing. They say the fruit grew by itself on the tree so it can be taken, but it was planted by someone. Maybe in their belief system it is OK, but not in our society."

The pig problem

The fact that they hunt and eat wild pigs also creates social tensions, he added.
"This is a Muslim community. If they see the pig's blood and the leftover bits, they are disturbed," the officer explained.
What is taboo, or haram, for the Orang Rimba directly contrasts with what Muslims eat, explains Mr Manurung.
"Orang Rimba will not eat domesticated animals such as chickens, cows or sheep. They think it's a form of betrayal. You feed the animal, and when it gets fat you eat it. The fair thing to do is to fight. Whoever wins can eat the loser."
This clash of cultures began in the 1980s, when then-President Suharto gave land and incentives to migrants from overcrowded Java to move and open up the jungles of Sumatra.
Since then, vast areas of forests, traditionally home to the Orang Rimba, have been handed out to palm oil, rubber and pulp and paper companies without compensation to the indigenous tribes.
Zulkarnai, a Ministry of Forestry official, who helped facilitate the mass conversion of the Celitai tribe, admits that as a child, he thought the Orang Rimba weren't human.
"One day a 'Kubu' child stole fruit from one of my neighbours, and he shot him. We went over to the body, and I realised it wasn't a kind of animal, it was a human, just like us.
"I realised that we have to help them. I feel sorry for them. They will starve if they don't change."
In the last decades, millions of hectares of rainforest have been cleared in Indonesia, in what some studies call the world's fastest rate of deforestation.

Polluted land

New palm oil plantations have been increasing at a rate of between 300,000 and 500,000 hectares per year for the past 10 years.
In the last 30-odd years, more than half of Sumatra's forests have disappeared, replaced by monoculture palm oil plantations.
Sigungang's family lives on a palm oil plantation. He tries to hunt wild pigs when they come.
"But if we can't find anything, we are forced to eat palm oil fruit. It makes your head spin," he find anything to hunt after his tribe's forest was cleared

The streams in the plantation are polluted with pesticide and his family is getting stomach problems drinking from it.

"There is no forest for them to hunt in, the water they fished in and drank from is polluted, and so is the air," says social affairs minister Khofifah Parawansa, matter-of-factly. "So we are giving them houses, villages to live in."

The government - working with plantation companies - has built a number of housing estates for the Orang Rimba.

Last year, President Joko Widodo announced more new housing and some land for them, following a meeting with tribal leaders - the first organised by an Indonesian head of state.

Minister Khofifah says faith is part of this process.

"On the identity card, they have to state what religion they have. There are those that have become Muslims, some who have become Christians. So now they are getting to know God."

But many of the housing estates have failed and are effectively ghost towns.

Without work or a way to feed their family, many Orang Rimba who lived in them briefly went back to the traces of jungle that are left.

"What we want is for them to stop taking away our forest. We don't want houses like the outsiders," says Ngantap, one of the elders of an Orang Rimba tribe.

"I am at peace and happy in the forest, I am a person of the jungle."

Ngantap wears the traditional loincloth of the Rimba people, with a bag of cigarettes hanging from the side.

Unmarried women traditionally wear simple sarongs covering the breasts. Once married, the sarong is tied around the waist leaving breasts open for feeding babies. Many now wear clothes from the outside.

But Ngantap insists they are holding on to their faith.

"If our belief system is lost, and the gods and goddess have no forest home, disaster will reign."
Ngantap's wife Ngerung tell me they are connected to the trees from birth.
"After a baby is born, three trees must be planted, one for the placenta, one for the baby, one for the name. They can never be cut down or hurt. When we walk through our forest we remind people of this."
to the forest begins at birth
Mr Manurung explains: "Orang Rimba worship many gods, the tiger [being] one of the most powerful.
"They have a god of bees, a god of hornbill birds, gods and goddesses of many trees. They also worship a god of water springs. They will never go to the toilet or put soap in the river, so you can drink it directly."


Miyak, my guide, converted to Islam so he can travel and fight to try and protect his family's forest.
They are trying to register the forest as their ancestral land, following a landmark 2013 court ruling which said indigenous people have rights over forests they have lived in for centuries.
is fighting for legal recognition for its ancestral forest
He can take part in meetings but not in religious ceremonies or rituals. As he now uses soap to wash himself and eats chicken and cows, he can't enter his family home.
"When I got educated in the outsiders' ways, there were many things that I had to sacrifice.
"But I accept that, because I am a messenger and bridge for many people here with the outside world and the government, about our forest and rights."
He still fears the gods and goddesses of the old religion.
"It's the sacred people - our women shamans - [that] I fear. They can communicate and see the gods and goddesses.
"The shaman can become a tiger, can become an elephant if the gods are very angry, and attack people. I am scared of that. I worry about breaking the rules."
But Miyak's greatest fear is that is his people's way of life will disappear forever.
By Rebecca Henschke BBC Indonesian Editor

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Mauritius Lawsuit Accuses Top Indonesian Officials...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Mauritius Lawsuit Accuses Top Indonesian Officials...: Mauritius Lawsuit Accuses Top Indonesian Officials of Laundering Billions Billions of US dollars belonging to Indonesian taxpayers ha...

Mauritius Lawsuit Accuses Top Indonesian Officials of Laundering Billions

Mauritius Lawsuit Accuses Top Indonesian Officials of Laundering Billions

Billions of US dollars belonging to Indonesian taxpayers have allegedly been spirited out of Indonesia and into bank accounts in Singapore, Lebanon, Russia, Cyprus, the UK and Bermuda by some of the most powerful financial figures in Jakarta with the help of an international cabal of money launderers, according to a lawsuit filed in the Supreme Court of Mauritius on Sept. 29.

Six plaintiffs led by the Mauritius-based closed-end investment company, Weston International Capital Ltd are seeking US$410 million from the Indonesian Deposit Insurance Corporation (LPS) and 12 other J Trust and LPS associated defendants that Weston claims it was defrauded out of three years ago through the sham sale of Indonesia’s Bank Mutiara to a then-unknown Japanese financial concern, J Trust, along with various money laundering, bribery and theft charges.

Weston has chased the money in court cases from Mauritius to Singapore to Switzerland and now to Cyprus and Thailand and claims through a spokesman that it is either nearing collection on monies owed or in the alternative moving for the bankruptcy, liquidation and collapse of J Trust Co. Ltd, J Trust Asia Pte, PT J Trust Investments Indonesia, Group Lease PCL and the Indonesian Deposit Insurance Corporation (LPS) and their shareholders.

Indonesia’s notoriously corrupt courts have traditionally ignored a long list of international creditors attempting to collect in any manner on international legal judgments against Indonesian corporate deadbeats.  However a Weston spokesman contends that “it is time for either the LPS to settle these debts and self-report these charges to global regulators or for the Indonesian banking system to face further intense global anti-money laundering scrutiny and embargos.”

Saga of Bank Century

The Weston lawsuit revolves around the long-running takeover of the remains of a failing Indonesian financial institution previously named Bank Century, which nearly capsized in 2008 during the global financial crisis.

According to a series of Asia Sentinel stories, Indonesian Deposit Insurance Corporation (LPS) officials reportedly were ordered to pour US$830 million at then-prevailing exchange rates into the bank from 2008 to 2013. These capital injections were intended to conceal the fact that the bank’s former owner, Robert Tantular, was allowed by the Indonesian government to steal more than US$500 million of the bailout funds and launder them back out of Indonesia to Singapore, Cyprus, Switzerland, Russia, the USA and Lebanon through the likes of Standard Chartered Bank Singapore, Wells Fargo Bank N.A., Federal Bank of Lebanon and FBME Bank.

The attempt to prop up the bank in 2008 and 2009 nearly brought down the entire Indonesian financial system and led to the ouster on what are widely regarded as trumped-up charges of Sri Mulyani Indrawati, the internationally-respected finance minister in 2016, who quit and joined the World Bank as its managing director. Sri Mulyani’s return as finance minister has led to little progress in correcting the Indonesian banking system’s anti-money laundering concealment program


In 2008, the sinking Bank Century was expropriated by the Indonesian Deposit Insurance Corporation, a quasi-government agency. The bank was renamed Bank Mutiara and sold to J Trust, a Tokyo-based consumer finance company partly owned by and advised by the US activist hedge fund Taiyo Pacific LLP, the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS), Invesco Capital and WL Ross & Co, headed by Wilbur Ross, the current Secretary of Commerce. As Asia Sentinel has reported, J Trust appears to have illicitly paid just US$28.5 million instead of the publicly claimed US$368 million to acquire 99.996 percent of Bank Mutiara, which was later renamed Bank JTrust.

There is little about the Japanese parent, J Trust Co. Ltd, that inspires confidence. Its CEO, Nobuyoshi Fujisawa, was president of several units of Livedoor, a Japanese internet service provider that went belly-up in a 2006 Ponzi scheme amid charges of market manipulation and securities fraud. J Trust is also connected closely to Takefuji Co. Ltd., another notorious Japanese US$5.2 billion pyramid fraud and bankruptcy that ended in its demise in 2010.

It is now affiliated with and announced it intends to take over Group Lease PLC, a Bangkok-based hire purchase lender whose share price has collapsed and whose shares were recently suspended from trading by the Thailand Securities and Exchange Commission and the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) because of fraud, corruption and money laundering charges.

Group Lease’s now-departed Chairman and CEO, Mitsuji Konoshita, has been charged by Thai authorities with fraud, theft, statutory audit fraud and money laundering. He has left Thailand ahead of the charges.

J Trust Co.’s stock ownership appears to be intertwined in a maze of cross shareholdings with APF Financial, Showa Holdings Ltd, Wedge Holdings Co., Ltd, Group Lease PCL, PT Bank JTrust Indonesia TBK in addition to Group Lease Holdings Pte Ltd (Singapore), Taiyo Pacific LLP, CalPERS and Invesco. 

Prominent Banker Accused

A leading defendant in the Weston lawsuit is Kartika Wirjoatmodjo, currently president director of PT Bank Mandiri TBK, Indonesia’s biggest bank, which is owned by the Indonesian government. Wirjoatmodjo is one of the country’s most prominent banking officials and is also the sitting chairman of the Indonesian Association of Banks.  In the lawsuit, he is referred to as “the primary architect, orchestrator and director of all of the fraudulent acts of concealment, money laundering and theft committed at Bank JTrust from 2014 until late 2015.”

Other Indonesian government officials named in the lawsuit include Sukoriyanto Saputro, Bank Mandiri’s former corporate secretary, Fauzi Ichsan, the current CEO and Commissioner of the Indonesian Deposit Insurance Corporation, Ahmad Fajar, an LPS appointed, international director and President Director of Bank JTrust Indonesia, now a Bank JTrust Commissioner, and Felix Istyono Hartadi Tiono, Bank JTrust’s chief Money Laundering Compliance Officer (MLCO) since 2014. 

Wirjoatmodjo headed the Indonesian Deposit Insurance Corporation, known under its Indonesian name Lembaga Penjamin Simpanan (LPS), from 2014 to 2015 before taking over as chief executive of Bank Mandiri. He was in charge of the LPS sale of Bank Mutiara to J Trust in 2014 under the explicit directions of the presidential office of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono according to the suit. He is alleged to have ordered the Indonesian Financial Services Authority’s approval of J Trust Co. and Fujisawa as qualified buyers under “fit and proper test” requirements even though J Trust’s credentials to acquire a bank were considered dubious at best, much less Fujisawa’s.

Finally, several board members of PT Bank JTrust Indonesia TBK and four J Trust Co. and J Trust Asia executives are named in the Weston lawsuit as enjoined individuals, namely Nobuyoshi Fujisawa, Shigeyoshi Asano, Nobiru Adachi and Felix Istyono Hartadi Tiono, a globally registered MLCO.

Enter the Saabs

Among the most tarnished defendants named in the lawsuit are Fadi Michel Saab, Ayoub Farid Michel Saab and Michel Norbert Saab, all officers and owners of the notorious Tanzania-based FBME Bank, FBME Bank’s Cyprus branch, FBME Card Services Ltd. and the Federal Bank of Lebanon, purportedly long a bank of interest to global regulators. FBME Bank was in effect closed down by the US Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) earlier this year.

All of the Saabs are alleged to be the transferors and past recipients of hundreds of millions of dollars of laundered money including over US$400 million missing from the Saab Financial (Jersey/Bermuda) Ltd. offshore vehicles which have acted as the Saabs’ personal piggy bank.

It is alleged that over US$40 million has been paid by the Saabs to their legal advisers since 2014 to conceal their money laundering activities and primarily to US law firms that may face money laundering charges themselves.

The Saabs and Bank JTrust under the ownership of both Tantular and the LPS continued to launder money from 2006 to 2015, according to an explosive report authored by Peter Barrie-Brown, a UK money laundering and compliance expert. It was written for and secretly distributed only to the LPS, J Trust and Bank JTrust in mid-2014 and was concealed until 2016.

Authorities of the US Treasury Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) in effect shut down FBME Bank in April of this year after a three-year battle, citing massive acts of money laundering and aiding and abetting terrorist financing to the likes of Hezbollah and Syrian manufacturers of sarin gas. The Saabs recently lost their final fight before the US Appeals Court in Washington, DC to prevent FBME Banks final closure and liquidation after the government of Tanzania unexpectedly withdrew its support for the appeal on Oct. 3

LPS Sale Process of Bank Mutiara

The sale of Bank Mutiara was allegedly executed under a confidential and conditional share purchase agreement that required a down payment of just US$28.1 million and exclusively provided leveraged buyout debt to J Trust Co. through a Rp3 trillion sharia promissory note issued secretly through the LPS to J Trust which was later written down to zero by the LPS and never paid. Neither J Trust Co. nor the Indonesian Deposit Insurance Corporation have responded adequately to questions from the Asia Sentinel regarding the affair.  

J Trust Co. was thus basically given Bank Mutiara for virtually free using the flailing bank’s cash on hand in exchange for covering its losses, which have run into the tens of millions of dollars. The bank was widely believed in Jakarta to be the repository of vast amounts of slush funds for the Indonesian Democratic Party in 2008 headed by then-President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.  

During the discovery process for the LPS sale of the bank, the lawsuit alleges, the 21 collective Weston defendants acted in a conspiracy to “collectively and collusively conceal the existence” of the Barrie-Brown report, which was concealed to over 20 potential bidders throughout 2014 in order to mask the money laundering operations of Bank JTrust that would have rendered the bank unsellable.

Indonesian LPS a Key Player

The lawsuit alleges that the Indonesian Deposit Insurance Corporation “operated as a key functioning member of an Indonesian government kleptocracy and was sanctioned and empowered to conceal and cover up over US$1 billion of fraud, theft, embezzlement and money laundering committed between Bank JTrust, Tantular, Saab family members, Saab Financial Jersey/(Bermuda) Ltd, J Trust and FBME Bank.”

The complaint alleges that officials of the Indonesian government and the LPS government officials in control of Bank JTrust from 2008 to 2015 along with Nobuyoshi Fujisawa, Nobiru Adachi, Bank JTrust’s current president commissioner,  And Felix Istyono Hartadi Tiono, Bank JTrust’s money laundering compliance officer, who are accused of collectively conspiring  to violate global banking and money laundering laws and regulations to the tune of US$410.5 million, with Wirjoatmodjo as the principal architect.

The lawsuit further charges the Saab family members, FBME Ltd, the Federal Bank of Lebanon and FBL executives with a separate US$287.8 million of claims arising from acts of fraud, theft, embezzlement and money laundering.

Weston alleges that the LPS auction was illegal because Bank JTrust, under the orders of Wirjoatmodjo, failed to disclose to its regulators and auditors that FBME Bank and another Saab unit had sued Bank JTrust in the London Court of International Arbitration, alleging fraud and theft and seeking a US$38.5 million return from Bank JTrust of US$40 million in cash already laundered back to Saab Financial Limited (Jersey) by Tantular and Fadi Saab.

The London court claim was never disclosed to the prospective bidders although it should have nullified the possibility of the sale of the bank to various suitors, which also included Bank Rakyat Indonesia and the Bank of China (HK).  The lawsuit alleges Wirjoatmodjo authorized a US$8 million bribe paid to the Saabs to continue the concealment of the money laundering, theft and fraud. The US$8 million was purportedly disbursed to Bank of America London disguised as £5 million of legal expenses credited to Saab Financial Bermuda’s lawyers in London by Bank JTrust.

Mutiara Sale Goes Forward Anyway

Nonetheless, the sale of Bank Mutiara went forward in November 2014. WICL, Weston’s holding company, withdrew from the auction process in June 2014 after reaching the final round of six qualified bidders. Weston claims that Wirjoatmodjo and the LPS were concealing at least US$400 million of financial irregularities at the bank including hidden internal cash deposit disbursements illicit securities illicit transferrals, FBME money laundering, embezzlement, theft, fraud and statutory audit fraud while the Indonesian financial regulators turned a blind eye.

The Weston plaintiffs allege that J Trust Co. and the other LPS defendants led by Wirjoatmodjo also failed to disclose that Tantular and Budi Mulya, then Deputy Governor of Bank Indonesia had been convicted of by the Central Jakarta District Court in 2010 and 2014 and sent to jail for 20 and 14 years respectively for criminal fraud and money laundering. Simultaneously, Wirjoatmodjo was leading the illegal LPS sale of the bank.

The lawsuit alleges that at a secret J Trust Co.  board meeting held on August 14, 2008 – well before the LPS had formally ended the Bank Mutiara sale process, and long before the LPS had disclosed the winner of the auction, the entire J Trust board of directors in Tokyo had already internally approved the purchase of Bank Mutiara with terms never offered to any of the other bidders including over US$340 million of upfront leveraged debt forgiveness.

J Trust Co. “knew with absolute certainty that it was conspiratorially pre-chosen…as the ‘exclusive buyer’ in the non-transparent fixed sale of the shares,” the lawsuit alleges, with a mandate “to hide all of Bank JTrust’s previous and future criminal acts from the public at large to global regulators and criminal authorities.”

Theft Continues

In the wake of the sale, according to the suit, the carnage has continued, with more than US$1.5 billion laundered out of Bank Mutiara, now renamed Bank JTrust, and various J Trust in violation of a US$120 million Supreme Court of Mauritius global Mareva injunction – a court order freezing assets so that J Trust and Bank JTrust defendants couldn’t dissipate them beyond the court’s jurisdiction.   

The money-laundering has continued, according to the suit, partly through a long list of alter ego subsidiary units including J Trust Asia, a Singaporean subsidiary wholly owned by the J Trust parent, that “acts as the base implementation agent” for all of J Trust’s investment and other strategic directives, as well as PT JTrust Investment Indonesia and Group Lease PCL.

As much as US$211 million in cash and other funds is said to have been diverted from J Trust, Bank J Trust and J Trust Asia since May 2016 to Group Lease PCL and Group Lease Holdings Pte (Singapore) in questionable acts of Weston alleged J Trust money transfers ordered by Nobuyoshi Fujisawa, Shigeyoshi Asano and former Group Lease Chairman, Mitsuji Konoshita to related party entities of Group Lease Holdings Pte in Singapore and Cyprus in what appears to be a vanishing act of hundreds of millions of laundered funds to J Trust related parties.

The Thailand Securities and Exchange, with the help of the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission, recently accused former Group Lease Chairman and CEO Mitsuji Konoshita  diverting US$54 million purported to be loans to four related party “independent” groups of borrowers in Cyprus and one in Singapore under Konoshita’s ultimate control, according to a Group Lease Independent Auditors Report dated Sept. 30 and released on Nov.14.

The lawsuit claims these funds are in fact owed to Weston and depict a plan between Group Lease, Wedge Holdings, Showa Holdings and various Group Lease and J Trust board members, officers and shareholders led by Fujisawa to defraud J Trust Co. and Bank JTrust creditors, all in violation of the Mauritian Mareva injunctions.

Final Act Near?

“Either the Indonesian LPS respectfully defends Wirjoatmodjo and the other Indonesian LPS and Bank JTrust defendants as well as J Trust associated executives in the Mauritius courts or it chooses to voluntarily self-report billions of US dollars of global money laundering concealment and fraud to international regulators led by the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the US Department of Justice while simultaneously settling  their debts to us in the amount of US$410.5 million and the regulatory fines to global regulators” said the Weston spokesman.

“The last thing the Indonesian government needs right now is to have one of the most senior ranking bank officials in Indonesia admitting under oath to concealing global money laundering, and massive fraud at the LPS and Bank JTrust while Indonesian banks led by Bank Mandiri are looking to dangerously expand their retail depositor global footprint into Singapore and other parts of Asia.”

John Berthelsen