In a significant development, Singapore and Indonesia have signed a bilateral extradition agreement aimed at bringing to justice those who have been accused of stashing offshore billions of dollars in state money.
The two countries also signed bilateral agreements covering airspace and defence in a ceremony aired on Indonesia’s State Secretariat YouTube channel.
The agreements comes in the wake of a meeting between Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on the Indonesian island of Bintan as part of their annual leaders’ retreat.
Since long Indonesia has faced issues revolving around extradition following difficulties in bringing fugitives accused of embezzling large sums during the Asian financial crisis to justice.
“The extradition treaty will enhance cooperation and combating crime and send a clear, positive signal to investors,” said Prime Minister Lee at the signing ceremony.
Under the signed extradition treaty, those who have allegedly committed 31 types of crimes will be liable to be extradited and will face court action for the alleged offences committed up to 18 years ago.
The extradition agreement also ensures that accused will not be able to escape justice by changing their citizenship.
“Therefore, the implementation of the criminal extradition agreement will create a deterrence effect for felonies in Indonesia and Singapore,” said the statement.
Indonesia has set up a new so-called “BLBI” task force which is trying to recover $8 billion of bailout funds given to bank owners and borrowers after the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s that was never repaid.
In a statement Indonesia’s ministry’s said the extradition agreement should “effectively reach” those implicated by the BLBI investigation.
Welcoming the development, Lalola Easter Kaban of Indonesia Corruption Watch, a non-governmental organisation, said the agreement would help in bringing corruption suspects who might have fled to Singapore seeking to maintain “impunity” from law enforcement agencies.
The two countries also signed agreements giving Indonesia more control of airspace over the Riau and Natuna islands, areas close to both countries; they also signed a defence agreement.
In a statement Singapore’s foreign ministry said, Indonesia will delegate to Singapore the provision of air navigation services in portions of the airspace for 25 years, which can be extended by mutual consent.
Singapore sees the airspace as important for effective operations and growth of Changi airport, one of the world’s busiest before the COVID-19 pandemic.