Singapore, Jakarta to sign extradition pact

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 April, 2007, 12:00am

Hailed by many as a potential breakthrough in Jakarta's fight against graft, an Indonesia-Singapore extradition treaty due to be signed today could prove to be a toothless measure in the fight against corruption, experts warned.

'Any celebration is certainly premature, and the agreement needs to be examined in depth,' said Emerson Yuntho, director of the legal section at Indonesia Corruption Watch. 'The devil could lie in the 'lack' of details.

'Who will be given the authority to arrest those wanted? How will the retroactivity work? Will it be extended to those Indonesians who have taken Singaporean citizenships? And will it allow for the seizure of grafters' assets accumulated in the city-state?'

Hikmahanto Juwana, of the law department at Indonesia University, said the window of time between the signing of the treaty and its ratification by the two parliaments could allow grafters to slip away. 'The treaty will be effective if it has been ratified, and the ratification depends on each parliament. So, we should worry whether the corruptors will now run away from Singapore,' he said.

Indonesia and Singapore have agreed to sign the extradition treaty in Bali today. Details of the agreement have been kept under wraps by both countries, which did not involve their civil societies in drafting it.

In recent decades, Singapore's secretive banking laws and lack of an extradition treaty with Jakarta made it a hideout for many fleeing Indonesian anti-graft laws, especially after the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis. Over 200 Indonesians who owe money to the government are allegedly living in Singapore.

One-third of Singapore's high-net-worth investors - those with net financial assets of more than US$1 million - are of Indonesian origin, Merrill Lynch and Capgemini have reported. Those 18,000 Indonesians together owned assets of US$87 billion, the report said.