Fikri Harish, Jakarta – Coordinating Legal, Political and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD announced on Monday the creation of a joint task force to dig into the Rp 349 trillion (US$23.4 million) in suspicious transactions under the Finance Ministry, prioritizing the alleged money laundering case worth Rp 189 trillion involving imported gold bars.
"The joint task force will focus on the highest value audit report [LHP] worth Rp 189 trillion as it has fallen under public scrutiny," Mahfud told a Monday press briefing.
The alleged money laundering case first came up in a meeting with the House of Representatives on March 29, with Mahfud saying the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (PPATK) had already notified the Finance Ministry of the case in 2017.
Deputy Finance Minister Suahasil Nazara revealed in a press briefing on March 31 the Customs and Excise Directorate General had brought the case involving the imported gold bars to court in 2019, but eventually lost the case.
Given this fact, the Committee for the Prevention and Eradication of Money Laundering (TPPU) that Mahfud leads decided to reboot the investigation to account for the issues left out by the Finance Ministry's previous case-building process, handing the reins to the joint task force.
Consisting of the PPATK, the Finance Ministry, the National Police, the Attorney General's Office (AGO), the Financial Services Authority (OJK), the State Intelligence Agency and his own ministry, Mahfud assured the public the "joint task force will perform their duty with professionalism, transparency and accountability".
During the press briefing, Mahfud also reassured the public his ministry and the Finance Ministry were both using the PPATK's Information Analysis Report (LHA) aggregate data from 2009 to 2023. The perceived differences were previously a point of contention during Mahfud's fiery debate with House Commission III, overseeing legal affairs.
"The explanation given by Mahfud and Finance Minister Sri Mulyani [Indrawati] on the case building, source of funds, the process and everything else is contradictory," accused Commission III member Santoso during the meeting with Mahfud on March 29. Sri Mulyani had previously met with House Commission XI, overseeing financial affairs, on March 27.
Commission III further blasted Mahfud for disclosing the Rp 349 trillion of suspicious transactions to the public instead of directly to the House or the President. At one point, Commission III member Johan Budi warned Mahfud that President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo disliked ministers who participate in public debates, mentioning a possible reshuffle for Mahfud.
But while the House tried several times to discredit Mahfud, public opinion has been firmly on the side of the minister during the debacle. In a survey released on Sunday, pollster Lembaga Survei Indonesia showed 63.3 percent of the public trusted Mahfud more than the House while only 3.6 percent respondents deemed the House more trustworthy.
To further discuss the issue and avoid any further discrepancy between Mahfud and Sri Mulyani, House Commission III is set to meet with the two ministers and PPATK head Ivan Yustiavandana on Tuesday.