Dio Suhenda, Jakarta – The month of Ramadan is a time when millions of Indonesian Muslims give back to the community by organizing charity events or giving alms to those in need.
But a man in Jakarta has been accused of preying on the goodwill of the faithful to line his own pockets. Police say he went to dozens of mosques in the capital to funnel donations straight into his own bank account.
The man in question, Mohammad Iman Mahlim Lubis, has been accused of replacing mosques' charitable Quick Response Indonesia Standard (QRIS) codes, which can be scanned with a smartphone to make cashless payments, with ones connected to his own newly created bank account, called "Mosque Restoration".
Speaking to the press on Tuesday, Jakarta Police director for special crimes investigations Auliansyah Lubis said Iman, who was arrested on Tuesday, had been placing the fraudulent QR codes since April 1 and that they had been discovered at some 38 mosques in the Greater Jakarta area, including at the capital's biggest mosque, the Istiqlal.
He has also been accused of placing the codes at a number of musholla (prayer rooms) in malls in Jakarta, including in Pondok Indah Mall in South Jakarta and the Grand Indonesia Mall in Central Jakarta.
Authorities were alerted by the management of Nurul Iman Mosque in South Jakarta's Blok M Square shopping center, which had found dubious QRIS codes on the walls of the mosque.
"[Iman] would either paste the QRIS codes over the mosque's own codes or paste his own beside them. He also pasted them on other walls or places that did not have a QRIS code before," Auliansyah said, adding that police also seized dozens of printed QRIS codes when they arrested Iman.
Auliansyah said the investigation was ongoing and that police were trying to determine if Iman had accomplices.
The investigator said on Wednesday that Iman had funneled at least Rp 13 million (US$873) in donations into his own bank account.
The police are considering charging Iman under the 2008 Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law, the 2011 Cash Transfer Law and Articles 80 and 83 of the Criminal Code (KUHP), which all carry prison sentences of at least two years.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Bank Indonesia (BI) spokesperson Erwin Haryono claimed the central bank's QRIS system was not at fault, as it and other stakeholders in the digital payments ecosystem had strict safety precautions in place.
"This is a case of misuse of QRIS. We want to ensure that QRIS, as a method of payment, still remains safe," Erwin said. "QRIS was created to help ease transfer of funds [...] But beneath that convenience, there are still bad people [misusing the system]."
"So we are urging [users] to be extra vigilant. If they want to donate to a mosque, [the recipient account] should say the name of the mosque," he said. "We also urge mosque administrators to be cautious and check their QRIS code from time to time."
Erwin said BI would intensify programs geared toward educating the public on QRIS safety standards and would encourage banks to strengthen their verification processes for QRIS merchants.
He added that BI had begun talks with the Communications and Information Ministry on the development of a QRIS merchant blacklist that would target fraud or other infringements.
Since its launch in late 2019, the QRIS system has been gaining popularity, particularly among micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
According to BI, the system has seen over 122 million transactions with a total value of Rp 12 trillion ($806 million). The system has been adopted by some 25 million merchants and 29 million users.
The latest Consumer Payment Attitudes Study from global payment giant Visa found that around 67 percent of Indonesia's population was ready to go cashless, as mobile wallets and QR codes had become the most popular payment methods in the country, with a usage rate of 93 percent.