Supreme Court ruling near the year’s end has hopefully brought good tidings for the nation. On Dec. 18, the Court ruled against one of the country’s richest men, Sukanto Tanoto, ordering his Asian Agri Group to pay a total fine of Rp 2.5 trillion ( US$259.4 million ) for tax evasion. Its former tax manager Suwir Laut was sentenced to two years imprisonment, overruling a lower court decision which had acquitted him.
The Supreme Court ruling is the culmination of a case that has dragged on since 2006 when the company’s financial controller submitted records of suspected manipulation to the Corruption Eradication Commission ( KPK ). The whistle blower, who was then the company’s financial controller, Vincentius A. Sutanto, had earlier been sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment for money laundering.
State prosecutors say they are still pursuing other cases suspected to be related to the Asia Agri Group. Lawyers for Suwir Laut have said the case should have been tried at the tax court instead of a common criminal court. Technical details may be lost on the average citizen, who has been accustomed not to expect too much from our law enforcement; from the traffic police officer all the way up to the Supreme Court.
Therefore, the ruling on Asian Agri is one of a few sources of hope, although we are still in the dark over other tax-related cases. One of these is the unresolved case involving former police detective chief Comr. Gen. Susno Duadji who claimed to hold the key to several large accounts of fellow police officers.
Public trust in the tax office itself has plunged as its employees have been arrested on charges of corruption, following what is believed to be years of systemic graft within the tax office by its bright and cunning young officials.
The Supreme Court’s ruling may therefore restore a little of the judiciary’s credibility in the eyes of citizens — who in a few months will once again face the hassle of their own tax returns.