Prison time a minor inconvenience, reports Asia Sentinel

The inability of Indonesia’s prison authorities to keep the politically connected in jail is in the spotlight again after reporters found a presumably incarcerated Prosperous Justice Party lawmaker Muhammad Misbakhun in a South Jakarta mall, getting his laptop fixed Wednesday instead of being in his prison cell.

Indonesian lawmakers, who have been appearing in droves before the country’s anti-corruption court to confess to long strings of wrongdoing, appear to regard jail as a relatively minor annoying prospect. They seem to spend little time behind bars.

Gayus Tambunan during his short stint in jail. Pic: AP.

Gayus Tambunan bribed his way out of jail 58 times. Pic: AP.

Misbakhun is the latest. He allegedly amassed a US$22.5 million fortune during his career at the Tax Directorate-General before he joined the Islamic fundamentalist Prosperous Justice Party. He was jailed for forging documents to obtain huge loans from Bank Century, a financial institution at the center of one of Indonesia’s biggest financial scandals.

Although prosecutors had asked for an eight-year prison term for Misbakhun, he was given only a year behind bars, leading President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to demand an explanation for the sentence. None has been forthcoming.

It isn’t the first such embarrassment for the Indonesian prison system. In January, Gayus Tambunan, who was dubbed Indonesia’s traveling tax man, was found to have bribed his way out of jail 58 times, flying to China, Malaysia and Singapore on what was termed “holiday.” Tambunan turned up once in Bali, where he was photographed wearing a wig and glasses. He was eventually returned to prison.

Tambunan had been found guilty of bribing a judge and lawmakers in a case that resulted in an acquittal in his first trial, in which prosecutors dropped major charges against him and stuck him only with a minor embezzlement charge.

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