Indonesian ‘Fugitive’ Controversially Given PNG Citizenship

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Indonesian ‘Fugitive’ Controversially Given PNG Citizenship Tjandra wanted for tax fraud by Interpol, Indonesian police

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, June 19, 2012) – Controversial Indonesian fugitive Joko Soegiarto Tjandra is now a Papua New Guinean citizen.

The Papua New Guinea Government through the Citizenship Advisory Committee approved and awarded Tjandra’s certificate of citizenship last week.

Last Wednesday, Tjandra was among 11 foreigners awarded Papua New Guinean citizen certificates by the State, through Citizenship Advisory Board Chairman Mathew Poia. But his name was not publicly listed on the list provided by the Chief Migration Officer Mataio Rabura. And he was not present for the occasion at the Parliament State Function Room.

The others include Nguyen Joseph Thanh Tan, Din Van Rau Joseph and Tong Phuong Hung Joseph all from Vietnam, Virgie Kasek, Marlon John Rodriguez from Philippines, Bruce Alexander and Patricia Alexander from Australia, Gerard Cosgrave from New Zealand, Dr. Sergy Mosin from Russia and Zuogie and Benny Lin from China.

Foreign Minister Ano Pala was not present at the Parliament State function room to officially present the certificates-as is the procedure. The Post-Courier understands Prime Minister Peter O’Neill had ordered a stop to the presentation because of issues surrounding it – but could not be entertained because these elites and their families had already been notified and the certificates printed and ready for presentation.

Eleven of the foreigners publicly received their certificates; however, the fugitive was given his papers prior to the event.

Foreign Affairs officials are split on this issue because there are several cases surrounding the awarding of Tjandra his citizenship certificate.

Concerns have now been raised that procedures have not been followed to grant the awarding of the citizenship certificate – there are a certain number of years a foreigner has to adhere to and live in PNG and the foreigner has to own substantial investment in the country. The awarding goes through a process including the Justice and Attorney General – the procedure had not been followed.

Mr. Pala refused to comment on the Tjandra issue but his office advised that the matter be taken up with Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and Deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah.

The Immigration office could not comment as they claimed the issue was sensitive and needed the Head of State, who also has a say in the awarding, and the Government, who makes a decision through the National Executive Council.

Tjandra is from Indonesia and is wanted by Indonesia and Interpol (The International Police) for tax fraud which cost the State Rp500 million in financial losses (US$250million) in 2009.

Joko Tjandra left Indonesia immediately in 2009, using a chartered flight from Halim Perdanakusumah Airport in Jakarta to Port Moresby on June 10, just one day before the Supreme Court issued a verdict, upon the Attorney General Office’s (AGO) request of review, sentencing Tjandra and former Bank Indonesia Governor Syahril Sabirin to two years’ imprisonment and ordering Tjandra to pay Rp 546 billion (about US$54 million) as restitution to the State. Unlike Tjandra, Syahril Sabirin has surrendered himself to the Attorney-General’s Office.

The AGO has been co-ordinating with the Foreign Ministry, Interpol and other intelligence organisations to trace Djoko’s whereabouts since then.

Early this year, the Indonesian AGO sent out a third and final warrant for Tjandra to surrender himself. This is after Papua New Guinea tangled itself in the Falcon Jet incident which caused a diplomatic tussle between PNG and Indonesia, when the PNG Government flew Djoko to PNG from Malaysia on board the PNG Government Falcon Jet.

Last night, upon learning this, Interpol PNG said that Papua New Guinea’s standing, especially in the eyes of other countries who were members of InterPol, numbering 126, had been tarnished because of PNG’s recognition of this Interpol fugitive as a citizen of PNG.

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