A senior Indonesian Air Force official was removed from his post at the National Defense Agency, but not because of his suspected links to the ongoing Citibank embezzlement scandal, a military spokesman said on Thursday.
Air Vice Marshal Rio Mendung Thalib, who was deputy governor of the agency, also known as Lemhannas, was stood down on April 9 as part of procedural changes due to his upcoming retirement, said Rear Adm. Iskandar Sitompul, a spokesman for the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI).
Iskandar said Rio’s scheduled retirement in October required him to be replaced three to four weeks before then.
“While that process was going on, the issue on Rio’s involvement in the Malinda embezzlement scandal came up,” he said. “Therefore, we decided to have an emergency meeting regarding this case.”
Rio is listed as a commissioner at Sarwahita Global Management, a company that was partially owned by Inong Malinda Dee, a senior relationship manager at Citibank Indonesia accused of embezzling Rp 20 billion ($2.3 million) of her customers’ money.
Police suspect Malinda laundered at least Rp 2 billion through Sarwahita, although this has been denied by the company’s current president director.
“From the results of the emergency meeting, we decided that the best solution was to remove Rio from his position as deputy of Lemhannas, and from any other positions,” Iskandar said.
But he stopped short of saying that Rio’s involvement with Sarwahita was the reason behind his removal from the agency.
Budi Susilo Supandji, governor of Lemhannas, confirmed that he had met with Rio to discuss his relationship with Sarwahita, but declined to comment on Rio’s removal.
“I invited Rio to explain his involvement in Sarwahita Global Management and he has explained it. However, that information is classified,” Budi told journalists on Thursday. “Regarding the current investigation, it is up to the National Police to give an explanation.”
Rio is not a suspect in the Citibank embezzlement case and has not been summoned for questioning by police.
However, Iskandar suggested Rio might face a military tribunal for violating the military code of conduct over the issue.
“As there was an emergency meeting regarding Rio’s involvement in Sarwahita Global Management, resulting in his removal as a deputy Lemhannas, you can guess what will happen,” he said. “He was still active in the military at the time.”
Military regulations forbid TNI personnel from being involved in politics or business while on active duty.
Iskandar said Rio’s replacement had not yet been selected.
“Currently, we do not have any candidates to replace Rio as deputy governor because it will take some time to decide,” he said.