July 10, 2020, 01.11 AM

JAKARTA, KOMPAS.com – It took Indonesian authorities a year to conclude an extradition process that finally returned fugitive Maria Pauline Lumowa to Jakarta from Serbia on July 9.

Indonesia's Minister of Law and Human Rights Yasonna Laoly said the process involved several teams from Jakarta to bring home Maria who fled Indonesia 17 years ago while under suspicion of embezzling 1.7 trillion rupiahs ($118 million) from state-owned Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI).

The collaborative work reached its conclusion with the arrival of Maria at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport on Thursday.

Kompas TV reported that Maria, 62, got off the national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia at around 10:47am. Clad in an orange detention vest, she wore a mask and her hands were cuffed.

She was accompanied by officials from the Criminal Investigation Department (Bareskrim) and the Immigration Department. Minister of Law and Human Rights Yasonna Laoly flew together with Maria from Serbia.

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Upon Maria's arrival, the minister held a press conference in the airport’s VVIP Room.

"I am pleased to announce that we have officially completed the process of fugitive handing over on behalf of Maria Pauline Lumowa from the Serbian Government," Yasonna said, adding that Maria will be immediately handed over to the police.

Maria already briefly underwent the Covid-19 rapid test and she had been declared healthy by the Serbian Government before flying to Indonesia.

“She has received a health certificate from the Government of Serbia,” the minister said.

Government commitment

The minister said he directly led the mission to bring Maria back to Indonesia. This demonstrated the commitment of the Indonesian government in law enforcement, he said.
He had asked permission from President Joko Widodo through the State Secretary to go to Serbia. 

"The president gave his permission and told me to hold a joint press conference with coordinating political, legal and security affairs minister [Mahfud MD] to show that we are committed to [do our part] for law enforcement purposes,” Yasonna said.

He said Maria’s extradition process from Serbia had been going on for a long time following her arrest by the Serbian Interpol on July 16, 2019.

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Several teams from the law and human rights ministry and the national police were deployed to Serbia to discuss the matter with their relevant counterparts to extradite Maria, he said.

He said it took a long process before the extradition was taken place as Maria’s lawyer and a European country also talked to the Serbian government to prevent her from being extradited.

“Knowing that Maria’s detention period was going to end on July 17, we intensified our lobbying and meetings, and yesterday at its peak we got a green light,” the minister said.

The extradition process involved diplomacy in the legal sector, good relations between the two countries, and the government’s commitment to law enforcement.

But, he said, the process of bringing Maria back to Indonesia also faced a “disturbance” with the fugitive's effort to escape the extradition. However, the Serbian government was firm in its commitment to extradite Maria to Indonesia.

“Indonesia and Serbia are not yet bound by extradition agreements, but through a high-level approach with the officials of the Serbian government and given the excellent relations between the two countries, Maria Pauline Lumowa's extradition request was granted," Yasonna said.

It was a reciprocal move after the 2015 extradition of fugitive Nikolo Iliev to Serbia.

Previously, Indonesia also had twice proposed the extradition process to Netherland’s government in 2010 and 2014 because Maria turned out to have been a Dutch citizen since 1979.

However, both requests were rejected. The government of the Netherlands instead gave an option for Maria to be tried in the Netherlands.

Chronology of the extradition process

The extradition process began when Maria was arrested by the Interpol at the Nikola Tesla International Airport, Belgrade on July 16, 2019, following a red notice issued by Indonesia.

“After the arrest, we responded to the notification from the government of Serbia, Interpol Serbia,” the minister said in a report by Kompas TV.

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The ministry soon acted on the information of the arrest by sending a letter of request to accelerate the extradition on July 31, 2019, and September 3, 2019.

Maria is one of the suspects of BNI fraud worth 1.7 trillion rupiahs through a fictitious letter of credit (L/C). The case began in the period from October 2002 to July 2003. At that time BNI disbursed loans worth $136 million and 56 million euros or the equivalent of 1.7 trillion rupiahs at the then exchange rate to PT Gramarindo Group, which is owned by Maria and Adrian Waworuntu.

The action was taken by PT Gramarindo Group which allegedly received help from "insiders" because BNI continued to approve L/C guarantees from Dubai Bank Kenya Ltd., Rosbank Switzerland, Middle East Bank Kenya Ltd., and The Wall Street Banking Corp which are not BNI's correspondent banks.

In June 2003, BNI began an investigation following its suspicion of PT Gramarindo Group's financial transactions and found that the company had never exported.

The alleged fictitious L/C was then reported to the National Police Headquarters, but Maria had already flown to Singapore in September 2003, a month before being named a suspect by a special team formed by the National Police Headquarters.

Later it was found that Maria, a North Sulawesi native, was in the Netherlands in 2009 and often went back and forth to Singapore.

Source: Kompas.com

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