Fri, 06 Jun 2003

W. Jakarta Police chief grilled for alleged extortion

Damar Harsanto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

West Jakarta Police Chief Sr. Comr. Bambang Wasgito has been questioned by internal affairs at the National Police Headquarters for the alleged blackmailing of several owners of traditional Chinese medicine stores in the Glodok area of West Jakarta.

"Yes, I have been questioned by the National Police Headquarters for my dealings with traders of Chinese traditional medicine," he told a news conference at his office.

However, Bambang denied allegations that he had accepted money from the vendors or blackmailed them. He declined to comment further on the case.

City Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Prasetyo said the investigation followed a tipoff from residents that a senior official at the West Jakarta Police station was reportedly involved in extorting dealers of Chinese medicine.

Earlier in April, the West Jakarta Police arrested two dealers of illegal traditional Chinese medicine, identified as Michael Husada Yunawan, alias Aming, and Bong Fo On, alias Aon, who opened stores in Tambora and Cengkareng.

Police confiscated more than 27 types of Chinese medicine from the two suspects.

Michael and Bong were charged with breaching Law No. 23/1992 for the unauthorized selling of traditional medicine without prior consent from the Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM).

Their case files have been submitted to the West Jakarta Prosecutor's Office.

Prasetyo said his office had received a report that a Jakarta Police chief was allegedly blackmailing the two suspects so that they would not be detained.

"Internal Affairs of the National Police is following up the report to check whether it was true or not," Prasetyo said.

In addition to the charge, Bambang has also been accused of extorting dozens of other Chinese medicine dealers in Glodok.

"I've just obtained information from the media that he (Bambang) also asked for Rp 1.3 billion (US$138,536) from those dealers," Prasetyo said.

Media reports said on Wednesday that Bambang had sponsored the establishment of an association of Chinese medicine dealers in West Jakarta.

Through the association, the West Jakarta Police chief was alleged to have ordered the collection of security money, totaling between Rp 1 million and Rp 10 million a month from each vendor.

Prasetyo, however, said that the case was more about police discipline, adding that it was not yet part of legal proceedings.

Blackmailing and extortion involving security forces are common problems in Indonesia against a backdrop of poor law enforcement.

This recent case is merely the tip of the iceberg as members of the Indonesian police and military are less professional and poorly paid.

Bambang's leadership at the West Jakarta Police station has come under sharp criticism after stray bullets from the gun of one of his officer's killed two girls and injured a mother in the Taman Sari area of West Jakarta last week.