Set­ting the Crooked Record Straight

► Some for­eign­ers are in­volved in hyp­no­tism scams in Indonesia, but the me­dia should not be too hasty to blame Sin­ga­pore­ans.

Indonesia Expat - - CONTENTS - BY KEN­NETH YE­UNG Ken­neth Ye­ung is a Jakarta- based edi­tor

Two weeks ago, this col­umn re­ported on the case of a scam­mer who posed as a Sin­ga­porean phi­lan­thropist and tricked older In­done­sian women into hand­ing over their money and valu­ables in re­turn for ex­pired Sin­ga­pore cur­rency. First, a cor­rec­tion: he wasn’t hand­ing over old se­ries S$500 notes from Sin­ga­pore. He did show such notes to his vic­tims, but he then gave them ex­pired 500 Be­laru­sian rou­ble ban­knotes, claim­ing they were Sin­ga­pore dol­lars.

One of the frus­trat­ing things about the news in Indonesia is that re­porters do not al­ways fol­low up a story. For ex­am­ple, a provin­cial gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial might be ar­rested on sus­pi­cion of cor­rup­tion, or a lo­cal teacher might be de­tained for al­legedly as­sault­ing a stu­dent. What hap­pens next? Some­times the me­dia just stops re­port­ing, es­pe­cially if the sus­pect is able to avoid be­ing charged.

For­tu­nately, in the case of the phony phi­lan­thropist, In­done­sian me­dia on Au­gust 2 re­ported the fraud­ster and his gang had been busted. “Sin­ga­porean De­tained Over Scam­ming In­done­sians,” de­clared the head­lines. Oops. Just be­cause a scam­mer claims to be a par­tic­u­lar nationality, it doesn’t mean they’re telling the truth.

The “Sin­ga­porean” scam­mer had posed as a gen­er­ous ex­ec­u­tive of Shell oil com­pany and called him­self Salim Anan Brother. He claimed to have a suit­case full of Sin­ga­pore dol­lars that he wanted to ex­change for ru­piah to donate to char­i­ties sup­port­ing or­phans or needy wi­d­ows. As­sisted by two ac­com­plices in an elab­o­rate street hus­tle, he duped women into be­liev­ing that his worth­less Be­laru­sian rou­bles were high-de­nom­i­na­tion Sin­ga­pore dol­lars.

Ac­cord­ing to po­lice, the “oil busi­ness­man” is Dodi Dana, a 64-year-old In­done­sian cit­i­zen. His above-av­er­age height and pale com­plex­ion do not make him look typ­i­cally In­done­sian. He was ar­rested on Au­gust 1 at the ar­rivals ter­mi­nal at Hu­sein Sas­trane­gara Air­port in Ban­dung,

West Java. His ac­com­plices, Rudi Me­lalo (50) and Teddy Se­ti­awan (27), were ar­rested the same day at their re­spec­tive res­i­dences in Cib­i­nong, West Java, and Cilil­i­tan, East Jakarta.

Dodi con­fessed to scam­ming at least 11 peo­ple. He said he bought bun­dles of one-hun­dred ex­pired 500 Be­laru­sian rou­ble ban­knotes from an­tique money deal­ers in Pasar Baru, Cen­tral Jakarta. Each bun­dle cost him Rp300,000 (US$21). He could later dupe his vic­tims into giv­ing him Rp40 mil­lion (US$2,770) for 13 of the ban­knotes. For the record, 500 Be­laru­sian rou­bles is worth about US$250, while the ex­pired ban­knotes are prac­ti­cally worth­less. The gang also used fake ru­piah that were clearly stamped as chil­dren’s play money.

Jakarta Po­lice said Dodi was caught with a Bank Per­mata cheque for Rp1.3 bil­lion and a stack of prop­erty cer­tifi­cates. Other ev­i­dence seized from the gang in­cluded Sin­ga­pore dol­lars, Be­laru­sian rou­bles, ru­piah play money, do­na­tion let­ters and jew­ellery.

Also seized were a sil­ver Dai­hatsu Xenia and a phony Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI) em­ployee iden­ti­fi­ca­tion card. Teddy had posed as a BRI em­ployee and driven vic­tims to banks to with­draw their money in ex­change for rou­bles. Rudi’s job was to pose as a passerby and con­vince vic­tims to ex­change their money or valu­ables. Po­lice said he used his share of the pro­ceeds to buy a house in his home­town of To­mo­hon, near the North Su­lawesi cap­i­tal of Manado.

Dodi, who lived in a rented house in Kra­mat Jati, East Jakarta, said many crime syn­di­cates op­er­ate with a sim­i­lar mo­dus operandi, hav­ing one per­son pose as a phi­lan­thropist seek­ing to make do­na­tions to Is­lamic char­i­ties. In Au­gust 2017, Jakarta Po­lice busted a gang whose boss posed as a Bruneian busi­ness­man seek­ing to donate money for the con­struc­tion of mosques. In such cases, vic­tims in­vari­ably claim they were hyp­no­tised.

“FOR­EIGN­ERS” FLEECE DUCK RESTAU­RANT

A more brazen ex­hi­bi­tion of hyp­no­tism in­volv­ing ap­par­ent for­eign­ers took place on July 18 at a re­cently opened duck restau­rant on Jalan Fat­mawati in South Jakarta.

At about 9.50pm, one man and two women of Mid­dle East­ern ap­pear­ance en­tered Be­bek BKB restau­rant. The man asked the cashier to change a Rp50,000 note so he could pay for a taxi, while the two women ini­tially dis­tracted the other staff. The man quickly moved be­hind the counter and helped him­self to the day’s tak­ings, which amounted to Rp2.8 mil­lion, while the cashier sim­ply watched. One of the women spoke to the cashier and the sec­ond woman later opened a menu at the counter. The trio ex­ited swiftly, be­fore the cashier, Maysaroh, re­alised she had been robbed.

The theft was recorded on a closed cir­cuit TV cam­era and later up­loaded to so­cial me­dia. Po­lice said they were work­ing with Im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties in an ef­fort to iden­tify the crooks.

PET STORE PIL­FER­ING

Footage up­loaded to YouTube in April shows a Cau­casian man swin­dling a cashier in a pet shop in Muara Angke, North Jakarta. The man asks for change but then tricks the woman into hand­ing over more money.

IRA­NI­ANS

In March, po­lice ar­rested two Ira­ni­ans af­ter they crashed their Toy­ota Avanza into four mo­tor­bikes in three dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions in De­pok, south of Jakarta. Among those in­jured dur­ing the hit-and-run spree was a four-year-old girl.

The Ira­ni­ans, who were ap­pre­hended af­ter crash­ing into a road sep­a­ra­tor, were iden­ti­fied as Az­imi Ja­far (36) and Husen (15).

Po­lice later said Az­imi had pre­vi­ously used hyp­no­tism to rob a min­i­mart at Ci­mang­gis in De­pok. The cashier said Az­imi had bought candy and a milk drink, which he paid for en­tirely in coins. He said the Ira­nian then asked to ex­change a US$100 note for new se­ries Rp100,000 notes. The cashier said he could not ex­change any money, but the Ira­nian man­aged to hyp­no­tise him and stole Rp1.4 mil­lion.

What hap­pened to the two Ira­ni­ans? Me­dia re­ports sim­ply said they of­fered to com­pen­sate their vic­tims, and po­lice han­dled the case in co­or­di­na­tion with the Ira­nian Em­bassy. Out of sight, out of mind.

“Po­lice later said Az­imi had pre­vi­ously used hyp­no­tism to rob a min­i­mart at Ci­mang­gis in De­pok. The cashier said Az­imi had bought candy and a milk drink, which he paid for en­tirely in coins. ”

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