Indonesia to fire airline CEO over smuggling accusation

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia’s state-owned enterprises minister said Thursday he will fire and seek the prosecution of the head of the national airline after he was implicated in the smuggling of a Harley Davidson motorcycle into the country on a new jet.

The minister, Erick Thohir, said at a news conference in Jakarta that a government investigation found Garuda Indonesia President and CEO Gusti Ngurah Askhara Danadiputra was involved in the attempt to import the motorcycle on a new Airbus A330neo being delivered from France without declaring it.

The jet is one of 14 A330neo planes ordered by the airline that will be delivered gradually until 2022. Danadiputra, his wife and other airline executives were on the Nov. 16 flight, according to the manifest.

“I’m very sad. This has tarnished the image of state-owned enterprises,” Thohir said. “We will not stop here, we will keep seeking other persons involved in this case.”

His comments came days after customs officials found the motorcycle and other goods when the flight arrived at Garuda’s maintenance facility in Jakarta’s airport.

A red classic Harley Davidson and other goods, including two high-end folding bicycles, were displayed at the news conference.

Thohir said an audit committee has testified that Danadiputra, who is also known as Ari Askhara, made the purchase of the motorbike in April through a bank transfer via a personal account of Garuda’s finance manager in Amsterdam.

A Garuda spokesman, Ikhsan Rosan, did not answer calls seeking comment on the accusations. He declined to provide more details when asked in person by reporters.

“If the minister has decided … we should follow (the decision),” Rosan said.

Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said the flight’s manifest from Toulouse to Jakarta showed the plane was carrying 32 people, including 10 crewmembers, and no cargo. She said the state could have lost up to 1.5 billion rupiah ($107,200) in import taxes.

Indrawati said the shipping of goods into Indonesia through illegal means occurs often through many channels.

“I have ordered the customs and excise office to intensify its supervision,” she said.

Niniek Karmini, The Associated Press