By: John Berthelsen

Singaporean police investigating a national sovereignty breach by Indonesian provincial police in October 2018 have publicly denied an Indonesian government claim that they notified Singapore of their attempt to arrest an individual involved in a private commercial dispute.

Asia Sentinel reported on Jan. 2 that regional police from Bali flew into Singapore to attempt to persuade Hartono Karjadi, an Indonesian businessman involved in a dispute with Tomy Winata, an influential Indonesian tycoon, over the sale of shares of stock in a Balinese hotel, to return with them to Indonesia.

The story was picked up by Indonesian newspapers, which quoted Bali police chief commissioner Hengky Widjaja as confirming that that two officers had flown to Singapore on Oct. 19 while Hartono was recovering at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Orchard Road following a colonoscopy. However, Hengky told the media the visit was coordinated between Balinese investigators and the Indonesian police attache in Singapore and that Singapore police accompanied the Balinese officers in their attempt to persuade Hartono to return with them. Hengky said the police were only inquiring into Hartono’s health, a statement met with skepticism.

Calls to the Singapore police public affairs department generated no response, nor did emails sent before the Jan. 2 story.   However, a spokesperson for the Singapore Police Force told the Straits Times the department had never received nor acted on a request by the Indonesian National Police or the Bali Police in relation to the officers’ visit to Singapore.

“The SPF was not informed by the Bali Police that their officers would be making a visit to Mr Hartono Karjadi in Singapore,” a police spokesman told the Straits Times.

That leaves the Singaporeans waiting for a response as to why Indonesia violated the island republic’s sovereignty.

Andy Yeo, a lawyer for Hartono, told Asia Sentinel the Singapore police have visited his client and are continuing their investigation into the affair.

“If I’m not wrong, the Indonesians have exposure here,’ he said in a telephone interview. “The Singapore police have responded, but they haven’t concluded their investigation.  We are waiting to see how this is going to blow up. The police told the Straits Times they had nothing to do with this. It is going to get interesting.”  

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.

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.

 In a letter quoted earlier by Asia Sentinel to the Indonesian 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.”