After an infamous money laundering trial, Tubagus Wardana has been found guilty. Many see his one-year sentence as a slap in the face for Indonesia’s taxpayers.
On October 18, an Indonesian court declared businessman Tubagus Chaeri Wardana guilty of corruption and money laundering. Between 2011 and 2014, Wardana manipulated prices of medical supplies sold to the Banten Public Health Service. His markups on goods bought and sold did not comply with Indonesia’s regulations, and as a result, Wardana pocketed Rp.9.6 billion (US$736,000) of taxpayers’ money.
Wardana used around 300 companies to siphon off money from state projects from the office of his sister, the former Banten governor Ratu Atut Chosiyah, for years. Ratu has also been convicted for graft. Wardana was also involved in bribing Akil Mochtar, the high-profile former Head of the Indonesia’s Constitutional Court, who sold verdicts at a premium for years. The Rp.1 billion (US$76,804) bribe Wardana was involved in was designed to change the outcome of the Lebak Banten Regency election.
Although Wardana was a private businessman, he was often active in political matters in Indonesia. His wife Airin Rachmi Diany is the mayor of South Tangerang and Chosiyah held office in Banten for several years.
The shocking part about the case is not the fact that Wardana was convicted, but rather that he was only given a one-year prison sentence — just slightly worse that a slap on the wrist for a serious white-collar crime. Wardana stole government money from taxpayers that was meant to go towards the public healthcare sector. Instead, that money ended up lining his pockets.
Criminologist Elisabeth Grobler says corruption is rooted in greed. People like Wardana may lack the self-control to be in charge of state funds. To get a mental picture, the amount of money that Wardana stole from taxpayers was the same amount that could be used to buy a large seafaring tanker ship; one that could facilitate the flow of food and medical supplies throughout the archipelago and internationally.
Wardana didn’t buy a tanker ship, but he did buy a bunch of luxury cars and apartments, which he then gave to Indonesian actresses like Jennifer Dunn and Catherine Wilson. The Corruption Eradication Commission confiscated 42 cars from Wardana, making him the record holder for ‘most automobiles confiscated from a corrupter’ in the history of the archipelago.
With this in mind, the judge’s ruling to give Wardana one year in prison has been met with anger from activists and stakeholders who feel the sentence is far too light.
For a comparison, on October 19, police arrested a man who stole hundreds of millions of rupiah from a private firm in Indonesia. The culprit will serve more than five years in a local penitentiary. In late August, several burglars who broke into a precious metal shop were threatened with life in prison.
Wardana’s crime was best described by Ivan Yustiavandana, a director at the Center for Financial Transaction Report and Analysis. He said, “There’s destruction behind the money laundering. Behind every car that was given freely, there’s an unfinished bridge and patients that couldn’t get their medication.”