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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Antimoney laundering watchdog may get more power

The government plans to crank up the powers of the country's antimoney laundering watchdog amid the global fight against the crime.

According to a draft on the revision of Law No. 25/2005 on Money Laundering, the watchdog's powers will include taking over the investigation of cases from the police as well as freezing assets and halting financial transactions linked to the alleged crime, Kontan economic weekly said in its latest edition.

Yunus Husein, who is the chairman of the watchdog Financial Transaction Reports Analysis Center (PPATK), confirmed the report Sunday, but said the draft had yet to be submitted to House legislators because it was still under discussion by related government institutions.

He disclosed that nonbank institutions such as public accountants, property agents and developers, jewelry and antique shops, car dealers, lawyers and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) would also be affected by the proposed changes.

"They will have to report suspicious transactions to us," Yunus told The Jakarta Post.

"We will also get the authority to postpone such transactions and give administrative sanctions to those who fail to report them."

He explained the proposed changes were based on the recommendations made by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global antimoney laundering watchdog, in 2003.

Article 59 of the draft, Kontan said, stipulates that the agency has the authority to investigate any suspicious money-laundering cases.

PPATK's current task is to analyze incoming reports and present them to the police for further investigation. There has been criticism of the police for slow investigations of the crimes. About 15 police officers have been accused of involvement in money-laundering activities.

Yunus was cautious in evaluating the new responsibilities proposed for the watchdog.

"Personally, I think it will be difficult to investigate, as we lack the human resources and abilities."

He noted that several experts insisted that PPATK become a "super body", which may trigger unrealistically high expectations.

"The draft features limited investigation authority -- we cannot detain people but we can freeze assets," Yunus said.

PPATK's name will be converted into using "agency" or "commission" in line with prevailing regulations regarding institutions reporting straight to the President.

Yunus said the draft would be presented to legislators for deliberation by mid-year. "I hope it will be prioritized by the House."

The FATF, set up by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, removed Indonesia from the list of Non-Cooperative Countries and Territories (NCCT) in February last year.

The FATF will review Indonesia's position in its plenary session in Cape Town, South Africa, in mid-February to decide whether the country can be removed from its monitored status and taken off the list.

Reports of suspicious transactions at the end of the year jumped to 3,311, lodged by 106 banks and 26 nonbank institutions, from 1,256 reports by 69 banks and 10 nonbank institutions recorded in January last year, PPATK said.

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
February 01, 2006

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