By: John Berthelsen

Singaporean authorities are investigating a bizarre breach of national sovereignty by Indonesian provincial police who flew in from Bali in late November without prior clearance from the Singapore government in an unauthorized attempt to arrest an individual involved in a private commercial dispute.

“This is a grave infringement of Singapore’s sovereignty in an unlawful exercise of extraterritorial police powers by a foreign state. This is a very serious breach,” said Andy Yeo, the Singapore attorney for Hartono Karjadi, an Indonesian businessman who was the subject of the arrest attempt. Hartono is said to be involved in a dispute with Tomy Winata, a powerful influential Indonesian tycoon, over the sale of shares of stock in Kuta Paradiso, a five-star hotel in Bali.

The 61-year-old Winata is the chairman of Artha Graha Group, a business empire that spans banking, property, agriculture, and fisheries. He is said to have a 30-year history of connections to the Indonesian Military (TNI) as well as politicians and prominent figures in the local business community and police and to hold major stakes in Jakarta’s Sudirman Central Business District (SCBD), and the Borobudur Hotel in Jakarta.

In 1988, Winata worked with the Indonesian Army Foundation to rescue troubled local lender Bank Propelat, which later was renamed Bank Artha Graha and which heads up his business empire.

Legal Battle over Kuta Paradiso

Tempo magazine in its August 20 edition reported that Hartono’s legal battle with Winata began when he sold his stake in Geria Wijaya Prestige, a company that runs Kuta Paradiso, a five-star hotel in Bali’s Kuta beach.  The matter remains unresolved in the Indonesian courts.  

Winata is assumed to have had enough clout to send Indonesian regional police based in Bali to pursue Hartono to Singapore. Requests to the Singapore police and the Indonesian High Commission in Singapore, the country’s embassy, have gone unanswered.

“We have conducted informal inquiries. We have found out that neither the Singapore Police Force nor the Indonesian police central command had any idea about this particular investigation or the fact that the Balinese police were in Singapore conducting operations” said Yeo, an attorney with Eldan Law LLp in Singapore.  Hartono himself lodged a formal complaint with the Singapore Police Force.”

The matter is currently being investigated and the Singaporean police have interviewed Hartono.

The controversy blew up in late November 2018 when Hartono flew to Singapore to undergo a colonoscopy.  Indonesian businessmen have a long history of flying to Singapore for medical treatment when their affairs grow entangled or come under investigaion by police. Hartono was under sedation in Singapore’s Mount Elizabeth Hospital when the two Indonesian regional policemen approached him, according to a press statement made available by Yeo’s office.

“He was supposed to be in a private, restricted area of the hospital but these two men had apparently lied to the nurses on duty in order to get access to him,” according to the statement, which wase made available to Asia Sentinel.

After they were unsuccessful, the two Balinese policemen, in plain clothes, returned to a still-groggy Hartono on the same afternoon and escorted him to a nearby shopping center where they again attempted to get him to return to Bali with them.  They later made a third attempt, going to Hartono’s Singapore apartment, where they sought to get him to sign a “police statement,” which he refused to do. The whole episode was caught on various CCTV cameras.

Yeo declined to speculate on who had sent the police to Singapore. But, he said, “it begs the question as to why were they in Singapore and on whose instructions were they acting upon. The apparent truth is that their expenses were apparently getting paid by someone else when they were not sent by the Bali police. From our own investigations, they were not in Singapore for just one day. They were there for four or five days prior to meeting my client.  Who was paying for them? Who flew them here? Who was putting them up in hotels and paid for their food and lodgings?”

In a formal complaint demanding a “full and thorough investigation” sent by letter to the Indonesian ambassador to Singapore on Dec. 2, Eldan Law LLP termed the incident as “highly irregular and unusual” and said their client “suspects they might have had their expenses paid by an interested external third party in the proceedings.”

The letter called the situation “also highly suspicious since as government officials, (the police) would not have flown into Singapore on their own expense then it begs the question, under whose orders were they acting on and who is that third party funding their unlawful actions in Singapore.”

In the letter to the ambassador, Yeo said it was “clearly a situation whereby Indonesian policemen from a foreign police force (Bali) had been wrongfully exercising their police powers in another sovereign country and acting in excess of their jurisdiction. At the same time, there are (also) substantive allegations of criminal trespass and intimidation.”