King Con Gets 18 Years for Mur­ders

Indonesia Expat - - NEWS - BY KEN­NETH YEUNG

No­to­ri­ous con­man and cult leader Taat Prib­adi, who gave him­self the no­ble­sound­ing ti­tle of Di­mas Kan­jeng, has been sen­tenced to 18 years in jail for or­ches­trat­ing the mur­ders of two of his fol­low­ers. The charlatan, whose name Kan­jeng means ‘his Ex­cel­lency’ in Ja­vanese, is also be­ing tried for fraud. He al­legedly scammed bil­lions of ru­piah from his fol­low­ers, who be­lieved he could cre­ate money, gold and jew­els out of thin air. Po­lice said most of the gold he ‘cre­ated’ was fake, while his money came from gullible dis­ci­ples who thought it could be mul­ti­plied one thou­sand-fold.

It will be in­ter­est­ing to see how many years he ends up spend­ing be­hind bars, given that In­done­sia’s jus­tice sys­tem has a rep­u­ta­tion for giv­ing huge sen­tence cuts to wealthy mur­der­ers. For ex­am­ple, for­mer pres­i­dent Suharto’s youngest son Tommy was in 2002 given a 15-year jail sen­tence for or­der­ing the mur­der of a judge, pos­ses­sion of il­le­gal weapons and flee­ing jus­tice, but walked free just four years later. Sim­i­larly, tycoon Adi­guna Su­towo was in 2005 sen­tenced to seven years’ jail for mur­der­ing a waiter but was re­leased within three years.

Krak­saan District Court in Probol­inggo, East

Java prov­ince, on Au­gust 1 found Taat guilty of mas­ter­mind­ing the mur­ders of Is­mail Hi­dayah and Ab­dul Ghani. The two were killed be­cause they had threat­ened to ex­pose the money-mul­ti­ply­ing scam, in which Taat per­formed sim­ple con­jur­ing tricks to cre­ate the il­lu­sion of ma­te­ri­al­iz­ing money. Ghani had been a key wit­ness in a Rp. 25 bil­lion (US$1.8 mil­lion) fraud case re­ported by one of Taat’s vic­tims.

Po­lice said Taat paid nine of his se­cu­rity guards, in­clud­ing a mil­i­tary de­serter, to mur­der Hi­dayah in Fe­bru­ary 2015 and Ghani in April 2016. Five of the killers were ear­lier this year given sen­tences rang­ing from ten to 20 years be­hind bars, while four oth­ers re­main at large.

In sen­tenc­ing Taat, judges Ba­suki Wiy­ono and Yud­i­s­tira Al­fian said he had par­tic­i­pated in the pre­med­i­tated mur­ders, caus­ing suf­fer­ing to the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies. They said he was spared a heav­ier sen­tence be­cause it was his first of­fense. Taat was pun­ished un­der Ar­ti­cles 55 and 340 of the Crim­i­nal Code. Ar­ti­cle 340 states: “Any per­son who with de­lib­er­ate in­tent and pre­med­i­ta­tion takes the life of an­other per­son shall be pun­ished by the death sen­tence, life im­pris­on­ment or a max­i­mum 20 years in jail.” Ar­ti­cle 55 states that those who per­suade or in­cite oth­ers to com­mit a crim­i­nal act shall be pun­ish­able as if they per­formed the act them­selves.

The judges said Taat had not con­fessed to the killings, even though it had been proven he paid the killers. With his long oily hair slicked back, the portly con­man ap­peared non­cha­lant through­out his trial. Be­fore the ver­dict was an­nounced, he ex­pressed hope he would be ac­quit­ted. His sen­tenc­ing was tightly guarded by po­lice. Only a few re­porters were al­lowed in­side the court and those left out­side were un­able to hear pro­ceed­ings, as there were no loud­speak­ers to broad­cast the read­ing of the ver­dict. At the same time, about 200 po­lice tightly guarded the cult’s com­pound, where some diehard fol­low­ers re­main.

Anger & Ap­peals

There were dra­matic scenes out­side the courthouse when Is­mail’s widow, Bibi Re­sem­jen, threat­ened to kill Taat. She said he de­served life im­pris­on­ment or death.

“If the penalty for mur­der is only an 18-year prison sen­tence, then I’d be bet­ter off killing Taat. I want to avenge my hus­band’s mur­der on him. I'm ready to go to jail if his pun­ish­ment is not life im­pris­on­ment,” she was quoted as say­ing by

Her com­ment sparked an­gry jeers from Taat’s sup­port­ers. She tried to con­front one of them for taunt­ing her, but her rel­a­tives pulled her away.

Bibi, who has three chil­dren, was not im­pressed when a re­porter asked if she was sat­is­fied with the ver­dict. “How can I feel re­laxed? Would you be re­laxed if your wife or your chil­dren were mur­dered?” she shouted.

“What kind of a ver­dict is this?” she asked. “Don’t the judges have chil­dren and wives or grand­chil­dren? He was the brains be­hind the pre­med­i­tated mur­ders of two peo­ple... Where are ev­ery­one’s brains? Haven’t they got a heart?”

She said the ver­dict re­flects the poor state of jus­tice in In­done­sia, as the law sides with the rich. “How much did Taat pay this court?” she was quoted as say­ing by

Tempo mag­a­zine’s on­line por­tal. Bibi tried to protest to the judges, but they left the court swiftly, so she broke down and wept. Chief pros­e­cu­tor Mo­hamad Us­man, who had de­manded life im­pris­on­ment for Taat, said he would ap­peal the ‘le­nient’ ver­dict.

Taat’s lawyer Muham­mad Soleh also vowed to ap­peal, say­ing the 18-year sen­tence was more than he ex­pected. He claimed the guilty ver­dict was “full of doubts” and in­sin­u­ated his client was con­victed only be­cause the judges feared they might be ac­cused of ac­cept­ing bribes if they had ac­quit­ted him. “The de­fen­dant had noth­ing to do with the mur­ders ...

If he were ac­quit­ted, [the judges] would be afraid of pub­lic opinion, later they would be ac­cused of ac­cept­ing some­thing,” he was quoted as say­ing by BBC In­done­sia.

The lawyer said Taat should be freed be­cause four wit­nesses had tes­ti­fied he was not linked to the mur­ders.

In July, Soleh showed a ridicu­lous video of Taat pro­duc­ing money from be­hind his back. It was sup­posed to prove the guru’s mag­i­cal pow­ers, as the lawyer at first lifted up part of his client’s batik shirt to show there was no con­cealed money, only a sub­stan­tial paunch, but the lit­tle pile of ban­knotes could eas­ily have been hid­den in his trousers or sleeves.

While many fol­low­ers of Taat lost their en­thu­si­asm af­ter he was ac­cused of fraud and mur­der, some re­main con­vinced he is a great sage with mag­i­cal pow­ers. One of those loyal fol­low­ers, As­miati, 51-years- old, said Taat is God's mes­sen­ger, sent to Earth to spread good­ness and money. “I still be­lieve that Taat is a pow­er­ful and wise per­son, I be­lieve he has the abil­ity to make money,” she said af­ter the ver­dict.

She showed re­porters a pile of for­eign money she claimed Taat had ma­te­ri­al­ized for her. The notes were from Venezuela, Cam­bo­dia, North Korea, Ar­gentina, Turkey, Vietnam and Iran – which might im­press peo­ple who don’t know about ex­change rates. As­miati said Taat had also given her ex­pen­sive di­a­monds and jew­ellery, usu­ally af­ter a monthly Is­lamic prayer cer­e­mony.

It now only re­mains to be seen how many years Taat will re­ceive for al­leged fraud and how long he will ac­tu­ally spend be­hind bars. Money doesn’t al­ways talk in In­done­sia; some­times it shouts.

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