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Get the rats out of the bag

Jakarta Post Editorial - April 11, 2023

Jakarta – The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) deserves praise for taking action against yet another former tax official, but we remain cautious about whether the antigraft body will go deeper and harder until all involved parties get their dues, and the whole system is actually improved.

On April 1, KPK detained former mid-ranking tax collector Rafael Alun Trisambodo, who has been in the spotlight for showing off his lavish lifestyle, on charges of taking bribes from taxpayers for the past 12 years.

The disgraced taxman, whom the media had identified by his initials RAT early in the investigation, will remain in detention for 20 days as the antigraft body builds a case around his work as a tax controller at the Finance Ministry's Directorate General for Taxation.

He was named a suspect on March 30, nearly a month after the KPK first summoned him for questioning to clarify his assets.

KPK alleges Rafael had started committing such financial crimes after becoming head of audits, investigations and tax collection at the East Java Tax Office in 2011.

Rafael, who was dishonorably discharged from the ministry, allegedly recommended his own tax consulting firm, PT Artha Mega Ekadhana, to auditees looking to solve their tax problems. In return, he would accept payments investigators estimated could be up to US$90,000.

In the case, the KPK confiscated a safe containing Rp 32.2 billion (US$2.16 million) and 70 luxury bags from his house in the upmarket area of Simprug in South Jakarta, in a search.

KPK chief Firli Bahuri promised to investigate people from Rafael's network. By last week, at least two Finance Ministry officials had been summoned to face the music. Should we hold our breath while waiting?

Suspicions about Rafael's wealth, seemingly incommensurate to his position, grew after his son, Mario Dandy Satrio, was arrested on charges of assaulting the teenage son of a member of GP Ansor, the youth wing of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the nation's largest grassroots Muslim organization.

On his social media account, Mario flaunted his family's lavish lifestyle, including his possession of a Jeep Rubicon and Harley Davidson motorcycle. The police seized the Jeep as evidence, as Mario is accused of changing out his license plate before allegedly abducting the boy he would eventually assault.

If not for his son's alleged crime, which was caught on smartphone camera as so many things are these days, the public would not know of Rafael's alleged corruption. Well, this kind of corruption has been a public secret.

Now that one cat, or rather one rat, is out of the bag, the public is watching closely for more. On many occasions, we have seen the KPK reluctant to follow the money and catch the big fish in graft cases, especially when they involve politicians or high-ranking officials.

We are crossing our fingers very hard that this time the corruption-busting agency does not stop at the fall guy.

Rafael's case has provided a little opening into the Pandora box of irregularities implicating other officials from the tax office.

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD, who leads the Money Laundering Prevention and Eradication Committee, disclosed on March 20 reports of some Rp 349 trillion in suspicious payments at the Finance Ministry.

Mahfud's statement added fuel to the public outcry over the alleged corruption and extravagant lifestyles of state officials.

Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati has since promised to work with Mahfud to address the reports of suspicious payments within the ministry.

Hopefully, the trial of Rafael will lead to the full opening of the sealed container and the public can see jacks in the box popping up. In this analogy, the public can broadly guess what is inside the surprise box, but it is the revelation that brings satisfaction.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/opinion/2023/04/10/get-the-rats-out-of-the-bag.htm