Ex-Garuda Indonesia boss arrested in major graft probe

Emirsyah Satar (centre) has been accused of accepting some €1.2 million and US$180,000 in cash while he headed Garuda from 2005 to 2014. (AFP pic)

JAKARTA: The former CEO of Indonesian carrier Garuda has been arrested on money-laundering charges linked to a major corruption scandal that saw British engine-maker Rolls-Royce pay more than US$800 million in fines, anti-graft investigators said.

Emirsyah Satar’s arrest Wednesday comes over two years after he was named a suspect by Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) for allegedly receiving kickbacks from Rolls-Royce in exchange for buying planes fitted with its engines.

Satar – who has been widely credited with reviving the national carrier – has been accused of accepting some €1.2 million (US$1.4 million) and US$180,000 in cash while he headed the airline from 2005 to 2014, according to the agency.

The KPK said the charges are linked to contracts “worth billions of dollars” that Garuda had signed with Rolls-Royce and three other aviation manufacturers – France’s Airbus, Avions de Transport Regional (ATR) and Canada’s Bombardier – during Satar’s tenure.

Indonesia’s anti-graft agency said it had confiscated a home in Jakarta as part of the multi-country probe, while Singapore authorities had seized a flat that belonged to Satar and frozen several of his bank accounts in the neighbouring city-state.

Through his lawyer, Satar denied the money-laundering allegations.

“After the investigation started, he realised that as a state employee he should not have received anything, so he returned the money,” lawyer Luhut Pangaribuan told Bloomberg News.

In 2017, Rolls-Royce agreed to pay a US$808 million fine to authorities in Britain, the United States and Brazil to settle bribery and corruption claims.

Britain’s Serious Fraud Office found Rolls-Royce paid massive bribes over three decades to win contracts in Indonesia, Thailand, India, Russia, Nigeria, China and Malaysia.