It was a shocking revelation and one that should be a warning sign for the entire police force.
A low-ranking police officer in Papua was found to have bank transactions totaling Rp 1.5 trillion ($154 million) and has been suspected of massive fuel smuggling and illegal logging.
Insp. Gen. Tito Karnavian, the provincial police chief, said on Tuesday that the figure was based on a report submitted to his office by the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (PPATK), the government’s anti-money laundering watchdog.
He was quick to add that the Rp 1.5 trillion was not the amount of money in the account that belonged to the officer, identified as Adj. First Insp. Labora Sitorus. But however one looks at this, the case remains a major wake up call.
The case will once again highlight the growing distrust between the public and the police force.
To be fair, this is most likely a one-off case and the police officer involved is a rogue member who was trying to use his position to earn something for himself.
There is speculation that Labora oversaw a syndicate that siphoned fuel from tankers out at sea and brought it to shore to sell.
Police have also seized an undisclosed quantity of timber linked to the officer, prompting suspicion that he was also involved in illegal logging.
The fact that the officer was involved in fuel smuggling is another reason why fuel subsidies need to be removed as soon as possible. If police officers are tempted to make illegal money, one can only imagine how many others are doing so.
It is imperative that this case compels the higher leadership of the police to get a grip of the behavior of its officers, as without public trust the police cannot be effective no matter how hard they work.
With this in mind, if the officer is found guilty of corruption, he must be publicly dealt with. Only then will public confidence in the force be restored.