Sat, 05 Jul 2003

Nat'l Police hesitant about prosecuting errant chief

Damar Harsanto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The National Police has admitted that it has found strong indications that West Jakarta Police chief Sr. Comr. Bambang Wasgito, who was accused of blackmailing traders of traditional Chinese medicine, had abused his power.

However, the police appeared reluctant to proceed with the investigation and charge Bambang with blackmailing traders in Glodok, West Jakarta.

National Police chief of internal affairs Insp. Gen. Timbul Silaen claimed he was preparing to submit the Bambang case to the National Police's detectives office.

Speaking to journalists on Thursday, Timbus said Bambang had been questioned by internal affairs over his alleged abuse of power.

However, National Police detectives chief Comr. Gen. Erwin Mapasseng said on Friday that there was no evidence as of yet to name Bambang as a suspect in the extortion case.

"We have yet received the dossier (on Bambang). But, of course we will follow it up if there is already sufficient evidence in the case," he said.

"Please, just wait, as the National Police Internal Affairs is still investigating the case."

Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Makbul Padmanagara pledged to take firm action against Bambang, once everything had been cleared by National Police Headquarters.

"We will take action, including dismissal," he said.

Bambang made headlines in newspapers recently for his involvement in the extortion of dozens of traders of traditional Chinese medicine in Glodok.

Timbul said that during the investigation, Bambang denied the allegations, although witnesses confirmed the officer's involvement.

Johnson, one of the witnesses, told police investigators that he served as a middleman to bring a plastic bag full of money to Bambang's deputy, Adj. Sr. Comr. Tejo Subagyo.

Tejo denied that he had received any money from Johnson.

Bambang was further pushed into corner when House of Representatives legislator Haryanto Taslam submitted to National Police chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar a bundle of receipt copies, which showed that millions of rupiah had been transferred to the bank accounts of Bambang and his subordinates from the heads of gambling and other entertainment dens.

The copies, handed over to Da'i on June 11, 2003, included Bank Central Asia ATM receipts.

The receipts, dated between October and December 2002, showed that between Rp 500,000 and Rp 69 million were siphoned off for several purposes, including buying cellular phones, car phones, a TV set and car windows.

"We take the report made by the House member very seriously, and we are continuing the investigation. But we find it difficult to gather evidence, as many witnesses have refused to speak," Timbul said.

Earlier, Police Watch (Polwatch) blasted the police's slow process in handling the Bambang case and that this simply showed that the police were reluctant to take action against their unscrupulous members.

"According to existing laws and regulations, Bambang must quit his post as the West Jakarta police chief to be investigated," said Polwatch chairman Rashid H. Lubis.

He was referring to Law No. 2/2002 on police and Government Regulation No. 3/2003 on the implementation of technical guidelines for prosecution of police personnel.

Polwatch reported that out of 176 police officers charged with breaching discipline and other offenses, only 15 had been discharged from the force.