Monday, February 26, 2007

Singapore and Indonesia. Will Indonesia use unconventional methods to get their men?

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The disagreement between Indonesia and Singapore due to Singapore's refusal to sign an extradition treaty with the other is making the news everyday. The disappointment for Indonesia in Singapore's refusal to enter into a treaty is understandable. It is well known that Indonesian criminals, crooks and embezzlers have transferred millions into Singapore banks and Indonesia understandably wants them back to stand trial in Indonesia and have the money returned to Indonesia. Surely their cause is just. And surely Singapore's refusal to submit to internationally accepted norms of due process of returning criminals from one country to the other is wrong in law and is downright unneighbourly.

Therefore since Indonesia is upset on Singapore's stand not to return their wanted criminals, every lawyer in Singapore, in the best interests of their clients should advice them that Indonesia is the best country to run to, if they are charged with a crime, since we are sure now that Indonesia will not return Singaporean criminals in Indonesian soil. This is called tit for tat. And in the game of tit for tat, no one is the winner.

Will Indonesia resort to kidnapping their wanted men, as has been done by various countries under difficult circumstances, like the situation with Singapore? The best example is that of Adolf Eichmann, the German Nazi criminal. In 1960, the Israeli Secret Service Mossad had discovered that Eichmann, the wanted German Nazi criminal was living with his family in Buenos Aires Argentina. Mossad kept surveillance on him for 6 months studying his exact movements and routine. With an Hercules aircraft transport waiting with engines running on the tarmac of Buenos Aires Airport, in a perfectly well timed operation, duping the Argentine government into believing that the Israeli military aircraft was there to bring Israeli dignitaries for a celebration at the local Israeli embassy, they accosted him at the bus stop where he alighted after work, bundled him into a car, drove to the airport, bundled him into the Israeli aircraft, and at 30,000 feet over the Atlantic, en route to Tel Aviv, informed him that he was under arrest for the murder of Jews at Auschwitz. They did this because, like Singapore, the Argentine government refused to extradite him to Israel and there was no extradition treaty because, like Singapore, the Argentines refused to enter into one.

International laws and customs does not require an extradition treaty for the return of wanted fugitives. If they consent, a country can voluntarily send the wanted man to the other country as a gesture of friendly relations between nations. In this issue Singapore's refusal to return these wanted criminals to Indonesia is clearly not only unjustified, it is also being outright unneighbourly.

Singapore can insist, for instance that these fugitives, if returned will be given a fair trial under due process of law. Indonesia has already clearly articulated with facts certain individuals, former businessmen, who have absconded with ill gotten money, which belongs to Indonesia. They also have clear proof that this money is deposited in Singapore banks with these criminals enjoying luxurious lives in Singapore with impunity beyond the reach of the law. Surely there cannot be a better case than this where the evidence is clearly on the table for the return of these men. And for the need for Singapore to sign that treaty.

One can only assume the obvious. Singapore profits from the ill gotten gains of these Indonesians in Singapore and therefore it is not in their financial interest either to return them, or sign the treaty. It was the same case with South American countries like Argentina and Brazil which sheltered Nazi war criminals because they stood to gain financially with the enormous sums of money these Nazis brought to South America. Sao Paulo, Brazil has the largest Japanese community outside Japan. Perhaps war criminals beyond the reach of the law?

What happens in this scenario, then? Alright, Singapore will not return them. But the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore can be used for surveillance, on the movements of these wanted men. Surely they, with the huge sums of money they have, may wish to travel outside Singapore. Assuming they travel to Malaysia, to Bangkok, to Paris for a holiday. When in Malaysia, Thailand or France, the Indonesians can then immediately file papers though Interpol and request the governments in those countries to return these men. Unlike Singapore, those third countries will have no interest in keeping them there and Indonesia may get their men back.

You will recall General Pincohet. Chile refused to hand him over to Spain to stand trial. When he went to London for medical treatment, the Spanish government immediately applied for extradition of Pinochet from UK to Spain. You will recall that Margret Thatcher, then Prime Minister was obliged to return the favor of Pinochet of Chile who had helped the UK greatly in permitting Chilean airbases to be used by the RAF in the Falklands War. The UK conveniently refused extradition to Spain and returned him to Chile.

We do not know whether the Indonesian government will resort to such unconventional means to get their men, but it is possible and it has been done in the past, even by the United States. And if any rich fugitive Indonesian businessman in Singapore reads this article, let it be a warning that travel abroad might be dangerous.

Gopalan Nair
39737 Paseo Padre Parkway, Suite A1
Fremont, CA 94538,
Tel: 510 657 6107
Fax: 510 657 6914

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