Thu, 25 Mar 1999

Police arrest four men accused of bus robbery

JAKARTA (JP): City police apprehended on Wednesday four men believed to belong to a seven-member armed gang specializing in extorting money from passengers on air-conditioned public buses.

Police said the arrest, made in front of Graha Patra building on Jl. H.R. Rasuna Said in South Jakarta, was made possible due to the efforts of a Steady Safe bus crew who alerted patrolling officers.

According to the bus conductor, the criminals were threatening passengers and demanding that they hand over their money and valuables.

The bus conductor jumped from the moving vehicle and notified five police officers, who were patrolling the Kuningan area on motorcycles.

The officers then chased the bus.

Four men were arrested, while three of their accomplices hurriedly disembarked one by one and boarded a passing Bianglala bus, managing to flee the scene.

The accusation was denied by the arrested men, identified as Ujang Dana, Saidi, Achmad Zuhdi and Iwan, all in their 30s.

"I was caught standing at a bus stop near the Graha Patra building," Iwan, who claimed to be a shoe trader from Senen market in Central Jakarta, said.

"I have no sharp weapons and no money. How could I rob a passenger? I'm just a trader trying to make a living in Jakarta," a heavily tattooed Iwan said.

Ujang, who claimed to be a construction worker, said he did not know the other suspects.

"I saw them when we were all standing at the bus stop and only later did we become acquainted in the police truck and here (police headquarters)," 33-year-old Ujang, who also sported tattoos, said.

Saidi and Achmad Zuhdi declined to comment.

Col. Arthur Damanik, chief of the city police on-alert unit, said his men had confiscated Rp 30,000 (US$3.40) in cash from one of the suspects.

The money was in the form of Rp 500 bank notes, which were tidily arranged.

"We believe that the (other) stolen goods and cash were taken away by their fleeing accomplices," Arthur said.

The men, he said, could be charged with robbing the conductor and passengers of the bus, which was plying the Tanah Abang-Depok route.

At police headquarters, it was noticed that the suspects were bleeding at the mouth after being interrogated.

Arthur said that to complete the investigation, the police would summon the bus crew as main witnesses in the midday incident.

"We'll not let them (suspects) repeat the same criminal acts. We'll investigate and process the incident thoroughly to teach them a lesson," he said. (emf)