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Analysis: Assault case leads to tax officials' wealth probe

Jakarta Post - March 6, 2023

Tenggara Strategics, Jakarta – Mario Dandy Satrio, the son of a South Jakarta Tax Office official, has made a name for himself, albeit for the wrong reasons, after the South Jakarta Police arrested him and declared him a suspect in an assault case against the son of an executive of Nahdlatul Ulama's (NU) youth wing, GP Ansor.

The crime was quick to go viral and sparked public outrage, not necessarily because of the severe injuries Mario had inflicted on teenager David Ozora but because of the findings of his father's wealth, which Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati later said "doesn't make sense".

Mario's father, Rafael Alun Trisambodo, a third-echelon official, declared assets worth Rp 56 billion in 2021, but failed to report his possession of a Rubicon jeep and a Harley Davidson bike, which Mario showed off on his social media accounts. This was not to mention a number of luxury houses in Jakarta's upmarket areas of Kebayoran Baru and Simpruk in South Jakarta, as well as property in Yogyakarta and Manado, North Sulawesi.

As the public is questioning how Rafael accumulated his wealth beyond his financial profile as a civil servant, the assault case has now evoked public calls to boycott this year's income taxes. In fact, a number of tax officials have faced justice for graft over the last decade, despite reforms that made them the highest paid civil servants in the country.

Sri Mulyani has condemned the lavish lifestyle of her subordinates. She pledged to take tough disciplinary actions against any officials engaged in corruption. As if to show she means business, Sri Mulyani announced Rafael's dismissal from his current post in an online press briefing. She said the decision was in line with the ministry's code of conduct. Furthermore, a thorough investigation into Rafael's wealth would continue.

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD said Rafael had reported his wealth since 2012. Mahfud added, however, that the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (PPATK) had notified the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) regarding allegations of money laundering and the illegal process of obtaining assets involving Rafael. The red flag was not followed up because KPK did not consider it a priority back then.

The KPK has now concurred that Rafael's wealth did not add up to his status as a third echelon official. The commission questioned Rafael to clarify his wealth on Wednesday, but no irregularities were reported.

What's more

KPK graft prevention deputy Pahala Nainggolan said that the KPK was digging deeper into Rafael's assets, which includes several properties in Jakarta and Manado. Pahala added that there was no prohibition for government officials to have jumbo assets. However, they must prove the source of these assets. Upon the initial questioning, Pahala revealed that Rafael had shares in six companies and that the antigraft body would further clarify with Rafael of his positions in those companies.

Mario's assault case and Rafael's wealth probe have prompted Sri Mulyani to blast the lavish lifestyle displayed by some officials in the Finance Ministry. She ordered the dissolution of a big bike club within the ministry, which tax director Suryo Utomo belongs to, as well as calling tax officials to lead a modest lifestyle such as opting for jogging instead of riding big bikes.

She stated that the ostentatious display of wealth from officials, including their family members, could not be justified and tarnished the image of the reform-minded ministry. Therefore, Sri Mulyani said she would take corrective steps to uphold the integrity of the institution by strengthening internal compliance and leadership. A disciplinary procedure would also be enforced against officials who abused their authority for personal gain. Additionally, the ministry would improve its whistle blowing or complaint system.

While visiting David on Feb. 27, former NU chairman Said Aqil Siradj warned the government he would call for tax disobedience within the Islamic group if violations committed by tax officials recurred. He said back in 2010, NU clerics agreed to persuaded the group's followers not to pay taxes after junior tax official Gayus Tambunan was found to amass Rp 100 billion in wealth through illicit means.

What we've heard

One person familiar with the Rafael case said that Sri Mulyani had invited several experts to discuss this issue. According to the source, Sri Mulyani asked for advice on how to strengthen the integrity of the Finance Ministry employees. The source stated that Sri Mulyani directly led the discussion. "She wanted to answer the public's doubts and introduce policies based on inputs from these experts," said the source.

Meanwhile, Directorate General of Taxation officials said Sri Mulyani also ordered a probe into assets of all tax officials after Rafael's case blew up. The inspection is under the coordination of the Inspectorate General and assisted by the Directorate of Internal Compliance and Transformation of Apparatus Resources within the DGT. "The officials have been immediately asked to clarify other employees' assets to see the fairness of their value," said the official.

The same source added that Sri Mulyani asked each internal compliance unit in every directorate general to identify employee irregularities and integrity. One of the efforts is checking employees' assets. According to this source, the minister is trying to mitigate the loss of public trust in the ministry and the DGT, which are responsible for tax collection.

[This content is provided by Tenggara Strategics in collaboration with The Jakarta Post to serve the latest comprehensive and reliable analysis on Indonesia's political and business landscape.]

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/opinion/2023/03/06/analysis-assault-case-leads-to-tax-officials-wealth-probe.htm