The Joker Returns

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Irawan Ronodipuro INDEPENDENT OBSERVER

IO – Djoko Tjandra, also known as the Joker, has made a mockery of Indonesia’s justice and law enforcement systems for two decades. Will it ever stop? 

Djoko, who was involved in the infamous Bank Bali scandal in 1999, become a household name ever since his exploits to evade serving time in jail made national headlines. The Bank Bali fiasco, which involved the embezzlement of hundreds of billions of rupiah from state bailout funds for the 1998 Asian financial crisis, was a huge embarassment for the BJ Habibie presidency. Yet few of the ruling Golkar party politicians implicated in the case were ever found guilty of any wrongdoing. Djoko himself was acquitted in 2000, and it was only in 2009 after a case review that he was sentenced to a two year jail sentence by the Supreme Court.

 That’s a fact worth repeating: after having been found guilty of being involved in a corruption case that resulted in large losses to the state, he was given only a two year sentence. 

Now you can see why Djoko was given his nickname, the Joker. 

The plot thickened further when Joker decided he wasn’t fit for jail, not even for a sentence that would have been more suited for a much smaller infraction of the law. 

So what did he do? Joker chartered a private jet and fled to Papua New Guinea, a country that doesn’t have an extradition treaty with Indonesia. 

Now let’s ask the next obvious question: how does a convicted felon go the airport and pass immigration undetected? 

If you ask anybody in our justice system, they would probably make the excuse that it was nobody’s fault, that it was a problem with the ‘electronic control system’. 

Of course, there is an alternative explanation, which would also explain why the Joker received such a light sentence, as well–very simply, he bribed his way out of the country. 

Let’s keep in mind, as well, that after the Joker took off with his ill-gotten treasure there was never an investigation into how he managed to escape. 

Now, more than a decade later, we learn that Joker returned to Indonesia this past June. And again, no alarm bells went off. 

But it gets worse: after getting settled in, the Joker obtained a new passport and electronic identification card. He even managed to have his Interpol red notice lifted. And, adding insult to injury, the Joker felt emboldened enough to file a case review with the South Jakarta Court.

 Again, there should be no mystery surrounding how the Joker has so brazenly managed to twist the Indonesian justice and law enforcement systems around his little finger. Yet so far, the government has brushed off any calls for an investigation. 

The Joker is finally in detention, but don’t count on this being the final chapter–to wit, the recent fire that engulfed the Attorney General’s office raises some serious questions. Most of us are suspicious, especially given how the Djoko Tjandra case has evolved and the fact the fire erupted when there was nobody in the building on a weekend night. 

Is there a connection between the two? Of course, one can’t be sure unless a thorough and transparent investigation takes place, which should include not just forensics, but an investigation starting with how the fugitive sailed through immigration and received new identity cards. It would also be a good start for the government to stop playing Indonesians for being fools: it is literally impossible for a fugitive to walk into a court’s office to request a case review and then simply walk away unless somebody’s being paid handsomely. Who are these people? Will they be punished? 

Hopefully those in power will come to the realization that the time has come to say enough is enough. It is painfully obvious to everybody that this story is not just about a man called Djoko Tjandra and his shenanigans. It is about those who have helped him in the past and present. It is also about putting an end to this mockery of justice–if not, the real joke is at Indonesia’s expense.