By: Our Correspondent

Police aren't
saying, and an inquiry by Asia Sentinel to the Brunei embassy in
Jakarta was met by silence and a secretary who first put us on hold
and then hung up. Police officials have only said the con artists
bilked a "senior Brunei government official" into giving
them nearly US$2 million to contribute to a "prominent
Indonesian political party." It is illegal for foreigners to
donate to political campaign in Indonesia.

According to the
Jakarta Globe newspaper, national police Monday announced the arrest
of a ring of 13 alleged swindlers who were said to have been
impersonating government officials since 2006, making phone calls to
their victims and asking them to deposit money into various bank
accounts.

It seems difficult to believe a gang of crooks could
actually get one of the world's richest men on the phone to
cough up the money, making it more likely, perhaps, that someone from
the palace in Bandar Sri Begawan, Brunei's capital, directed
the money to the campaign, believed to be Yudhoyono's.

Especially because
it wouldn't be the first time the Sultan channeled money into
an illegal political pipeline. In 1987, US congressional
investigators discovered that the Brunei monarch, at the request of
the administration of President Ronald Reagan, had attempted to
deliver US$10 million in illicit and secret aid to Nicaraguan rebels
in the infamous Iran-Contra scandal. In a political scandal that
could only be described as bizarre, senior Reagan administration
officials on the National Security Council sought to sell weapons
illegally to Iran, which was then under an arms embargo, in exchange
for Iran's help in gaining the release of six US hostages held
by Lebanese Hizbolah rebels. They also sought to use money gained
from the sale of the weapons to the Nicaraguan rebels.

According to
Congressional investigators, the Sultan agreed to put US$10 million
into the scheme, only to have a bumbling Marine lieutenant colonel
named Oliver L. North and his assistant, an attractive blonde named
Fawn Hall, give the Bruneians the wrong bank account numbers by
mistake. The Sultan's money ended up in the bank account of a
Swiss businessman who ultimately gave it back to the Sultan with
interest.

Brunei's
Foreign Minister, Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, told the New York Times in
1987 that the Sultan donated the money ''at the suggestion of the
United States for humanitarian assistance.'' However, testimony in
Washington indicated officials asked the sultan for the money because
Congress had denied US government aid to the rebels fighting
Nicaragua's leftist Sandinista government, the Times reported.

In the current
case, "Thank God we were able to apprehend them now,"
Insp. Gen. Hadiatmoko, deputy chief of the National Police's
criminal investigation department, told a news conference. "We
have arrested 13 suspects in different places since last week."
Two others, the paper said, including the alleged mastermind, were
still at large.
Hadiatmoko said the group compiled information
about high-profile figures from Indonesia and elsewhere via the
Internet, newspapers and the White and Yellow Pages.

"In
their latest effort, for reasons related to the election, this group
started to seek out other countries," he said. "They
called at least 32 foreign officials, including an official from
Brunei Darussalam who transferred Rp 20 billion to their account at
Bank Mandiri last month."
Hadiatmoko said the group would
open bank accounts under the names of public figures to convince
victims they were legitimate. In one case, he said, they opened an
account as Director General of Customs Anwar Supriyadi. "They
made a fake [ID card] with Anwar's name to open the account,"
Hadiatmoko said. "With this account, the victim would believe
that it was Anwar who called asking them to transfer money."