Flying High with Harley

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  • TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The CEO of Garuda Indonesia, I Gusti Ngurah Askhara Danadiputra, is a prime example of a high ranking public officer blatantly abusing his power for personal interest. He is suspected of requesting ease in customs inspection in the landing of a new Garuda aircraft with the aim of smuggling in a Harley-Davidson motorbike. He had only helmed the state-owned enterprise one year, and already he showed himself unworthy before being stripped from office.

    Minister of State-Owned Enterprises Erick Thohir has declared the name of this former Pelindo II CEO as the owner of the illegal cargo. Erick decided to sack I Gusti Ngurah Askhara after receiving a letter from the Board of Commissioners and the Garuda Audit Committee on the results of their investigation into a smuggling attempt. An order for the Shovelhead type Harley classic was placed in 2018 and the purchase transaction carried out in April. The goods were then shipped in on the new Garuda Airbus A330-900 Neo.

    Suffering losses of Rp2.45 trillion last year, the airline company ordered nine new Airbuses to be sent in stages up to 2030. The first order arrived on November 17. Flying in from France one day before, the aircraft carried 22 passengers and 10 crew members. Four of the passengers were Garuda Indonesia’s board of directors, including I Gusti Ngurah Askhara, and their respective wives. The other passengers were Garuda management and several heads of other private national companies.

    For the maiden flight, the Garuda management requested certain special conditions from airport management. Not only did they request special treatment as very important person (VIP) passengers, the Garuda director also requested permission for the new aircraft to land in the Garuda Maintenance Facility hangar to conduct a special ceremony. The Garuda flight was only then required to report the craft’s manifest list, cargo, and luggage to customs. The requests were complied to by airport management. Currently under scrutiny for a 2018 financial manipulation scandal, the Garuda management should have been embarrassed about making special requests.

    Obtaining information the maiden flight was carrying illegal contraband, customs officers conducted a raid and discovered the Harley-Davidson allotted into 15 packages. There were also three other illegal cargo packages, containing two Brompton bicycles and a box of spareparts. This is a serious violation, and no mere administrative matter to be let off by paying a tax fine. The smuggling attempt violated customs laws, among others by manipulating the aircraft’s manifest. The matter cannot stop at merely stripping I Gusti Ngurah Askhara from office. His crime has to be dealt with thoroughly.

    The case could not have happened if airport management had not granted special treatment for Garuda and its management. Besides violating public rights, special concessions violate a sense of justice. Providing special facilities for high ranking officials are unnecessary and could end up abusing authority. High placed officials should be embarrassed about making requests like these, for they are in office to serve the public, and not the other way around.

    Gusti Ngurah Askhara is not the only officer who has ever made special scandalous requests. Because of this, the customs office should mete out the same treatment to whomever is suspected of violating customs by bringing in contraband from abroad. Any and all violators need to be processed by customs. Smuggling, however miniscule, is a crime – but especially when it is conducted by someone abusing their authority.

    Read the Complete Story in this Week's Edition of Tempo English Magazine