Indonesian businessman fined over $370 million for stock manipulation
By Stefanno Sulaiman
JAKARTA (Reuters) – An Indonesian corruption court on Thursday found businessman Benny Tjokrosaputro guilty in a stock manipulation case involving state insurance firm Asabri and fined him 5.7 trillion rupiah ($371.67 million).
Tjokrosaputro was spared a jail term because he is already serving a life sentence over a separate case in 2020 linked to hundreds of millions of dollars of investment losses at another insurer Asuransi Jiwasraya, Ignatius Eko Purwanto, who led a panel of judges, said.
The businessman denied any wrongdoing during the trial and his lawyer Aditya W. Santoso said there had been no decision yet on whether to appeal.
A statement issued by the Attorney General’s Office late on Thursday said prosecutors planned to appeal for a stronger sentence in line with an initial demand for a death penalty.
Tjokrosaputro made international headlines in 2018 when he sued Goldman Sachs for $1 billion over the ownership of shares in an Indonesian company, a case he won at a lower court but lost at the Supreme Court a year later.
The panel of judges on Thursday ruled Tjokrosaputro was guilty of arranging for Asabri to buy overpriced stocks, which later lost their value, for the personal gain of himself and some of his business partners.
His fine was one of the largest in an Indonesian graft case and the judges said the state could seize Tjokrosaputro’s assets if he did not pay.
Prosecutors accused Tjokrosaputro of controlling Asabri’s investment decisions between 2012 and 2019, leading to 22.78 trillion rupiah of losses for the state.
Asabri, an insurance company that provides services for members of the military, police force and civil servants at the defence ministry, ran into financial trouble in recent years. It has reported negative equity since 2020.
Indonesian media dubbed the cases Tjokrosaputro was implicated in some of the worst corruption scandals in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.
The cases have also raised concerns about the management and regulatory oversight of the insurance industry.
Last year, Indonesia passed a financial law calling for the Indonesia Deposit Insurance Corporation to protect policyholders if an insurance firm becomes insolvent, a measure intended to shore up public trust in the sector.
($1 = 15,336.0000 rupiah)
(Reporting by Stefanno Sulaiman; Additional reporting by Ananda Teresia; Writing by Gayatri Suroyo; Editing by Ed Davies)