Wed, 18 Oct 2000

Police arrest BPKP arson attack suspect

JAKARTA (JP): Police have arrested an employee of the Development and Finance Comptroller's (BPKP) office for allegedly setting fire to the office last Thursday but have yet to ascertain the motive behind the arson attack.

City police spokesman Supt. Nur Usman told a media briefing on Tuesday that the suspect, Zainal Arifin, 44, an auditor for the BPKP and a graduate of the State School of Accountancy, was arrested on Saturday at his home in Cilembut, Bogor, south of Jakarta, following the finding of traces of gasoline in his bag.

According to Nur, who was accompanied by senior officers from the Central Jakarta Police, Zainal was initially questioned as a witness along with 15 others one day after the fire gutted the third floor of the four-story Blok D office block in the BPKP complex on Jl. Hayam Wuruk in Central Jakarta.

"After initial questioning, all of the witnesses, including Zainal, were allowed to go home on the same day," the spokesman said.

But, he added, police officers searched his house early on Saturday morning when they found a suspicious bag.

"The bag was then brought to the National Police Forensic Laboratory for detailed examination as a result of which the forensic experts found traces of gasoline," Nur said.

The gasoline traces on the suspect's bag matched the preliminary conclusion reached earlier by police forensic experts that the fire was deliberately ignited using gasoline.

This conclusion was arrived at after the experts had examined a number of trash cans found at the site, officer Nur said.

As reported earlier, several BPKP staffers working on the affected floor had recalled smelling gasoline in the area prior to the incident.

No fatalities resulted from the arson attack but many were concerned that important documents stored on the third floor relating to the alleged misuse of the central bank's Rp 138.44 trillion liquidity support (BLBI) for ailing banks, had been destroyed in the blaze.

The fire started in the office of the BPKP Head of Special Investigations Gatot Suprihartono.

Based on preliminary investigations and the available evidence, the Central Jakarta Police initially concluded that Zainal was acting on his own for motives still unknown.

According to the deputy chief of the Central Jakarta Police, Asst. Supt. Iza Fadri, Zainal persisted in denying his role in the arson saying that the gasoline traces found in his bag were probably from an auto repair shop.

The sole suspect insisted that he was nowhere in the vicinity when the fire broke out but was rather repairing his motorcycle at a repair shop in Kebon Jeruk, West Jakarta, a 30-minute ride by motorcycle from the BPKP complex.

However, officer Zainal said, his alibi did not stand up as many witnesses, including security guards in the building, had vowed that they saw the suspect on the floor concerned around the time when the fire broke out.

Furthermore, the owner of the repair shop in Kebon Jeruk told the police that his staff had not repaired a vehicle belonging to someone called Zainal on the day in question.

Other BPKP staffers said that Zainal, who had worked at the BPKP since 1996, was about to be fired because he had been repeatedly accused of being involved in blackmail during BPKP audits.

Police initially charged the suspect with having violated Article 187 of the Criminal Code on serious crimes which carries a maximum punishment of 12 years in jail.

Police also said on Tuesday that no important documents had been burned in the fire, adding that the BPKP also has back-ups of all its important documents, including those related to the multi-billion rupiah BLBI case. (bsr/07)