21 Jan 2011

Prison sentence for corrupt taxman

6:02 am on 21 January 2011

An former tax official in Indonesia has been sentenced to prison for seven years for causing millions of dollars in state losses.

Gayus Tambunan, 31, was found guilty on four charges of corruption - including bribing his way out of bribery charges.

The BBC reports the case has gripped the nation as the defendant managed to bribe his way out of jail dozens of times during the trial, including for overseas trips.

It has opened a window on government corruption, and damaged the president's reputation as an anti-graft reformer.

During the trial, Tambunan confessed to having helped powerful firms evade taxes, paying prosecutors and police officials, and leaving his jail cell to watch an international tennis tournament in Bali.

He also admitted to having flown to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Macau using a forged passport while supposedly in detention.

In an attempt to avoid a heavy sentence, Tambunan offered to be made a special advisor to the nation's graft busters to help them catch not only the "small fish, but also the sharks and the whales" in the corrupt system.

He promised Indonesia would be "clean" within two years.

The judges did not consider this offer a factor, but sentenced him to seven years in prison. Prosecutors had sought a sentence of 20 years.

Gayus was also fined 300 million rupiah (around $US34,000).

The BBC reports the case has embarrassed Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who came to power on an anti-corruption platform.