Indonesia Expat
Scams in the City

We Was Robbed!


Criminals pretending to be victims of theft are likely to be caught once police get involved.

It’s not an unfamiliar phenomenon in Indonesia. An employee is entrusted with money or a valuable item and pretends to be robbed.

Back in the days when paying an electricity bill meant visiting the local office of state power company PLN and waiting in a long queue, I usually entrusted this tedious task to my maid. Her salary was well above minimum wage, but her unemployed husband was an inveterate gambler, always desperate for more money.

One day, the maid returned home to say she had been robbed while on the bus to PLN, so she needed more money to pay the power bill. A few months later, she gave me the exact same story. I suggested we make a report to police. She then confessed her husband had ordered her to give him the money so he could buy illicit lottery tickets.

Motorbike Theft

Indonesian police often get a bad rap, being accused of failing to investigate crimes unless they are paid to do so. But police can usually spot a liar, so it doesn’t pay to play the victim when you’re actually the mastermind of a theft.

In Bantul regency, outside the ancient temple city of Yogyakarta, police are accustomed to reports of stolen motorbikes and can tell when a story doesn’t add up.

It was 1.30am on January 20, a Sunday, when a young man wearing a torn blue shirt and nursing a wounded arm entered Banguntapan Police station in Bantul to report his brother’s motorcycle had been stolen a few hours earlier.

Gembur (26) said he had borrowed the Honda Vario motorbike to visit a friend and was later crossing Jalan Banjardadap in Potorono village, when a gang of four men stopped him. He said the men were brandishing sharp weapons and one of them slashed his arm, so he was unable to stop them from stealing the motorbike. He then went to Rajawali Citra Hospital to have his wound treated, before going to police.

Officers immediately sent a team to the scene of the crime to investigate. They found the area was still busy with traffic, but curiously no one had witnessed the theft. Next, they checked with Gembur’s friend, who told them Gembur had not visited him that night.

Scrutiny of the wound to Gembur’s arm indicated it was superficial and unlikely made by a knife blow during an altercation.

Gembur eventually confessed he had concocted the whole story. He said he was unable to repay a debt, so he pawned his brother’s motorbike for Rp2.8 million and then pretended it had been stolen. He admitted to cutting his own arm with a box-cutter and tearing his own shirt.

Police decided not to detain Gembur, but he could face charges for making a false crime report. Article 220 of the Criminal Code states that any person who reports a punishable crime, knowing that it has not been committed, shall be punished by a maximum imprisonment of one year and four months.

Inside Bank Job

A security guard at a branch of state-owned Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI) in Bali was unable to resist the temptation of working with money.

I Made Darmawan (48) worked at the BRI branch at Teras Pasar Sari Winangun in Denpasar. On January 28, he was asked to deliver a bag containing Rp80 million to a BRI branch in Kerobokan, North Kuta. He later returned to his own branch and claimed to have been robbed while on Jalan Raya Muding Kelod in Kerobokan. He said a man riding a white Yamaha NMax motorcycle had put a gun to his head and stolen the money.

His superiors at BRI were suspicious and immediately reported the theft to North Kuta Police. Officers visited the crime scene but could not find any witnesses. They also examined CCTV cameras in the area but could not see the white motorcycle.

After intense interrogation, Darmawan admitted he had stolen the money himself. He had hidden Rp70 million in cash inside a bush near a cafe in the Muding Kaja area of North Kuta, and used Rp10 million to pay off some debts. He now faces up to four years in jail.

Indomaret Heist

Iwan, a senior worker at an Indomaret minimart in Tambora, West Jakarta, was last November entrusted to supervise the delivery of the shop’s takings to company headquarters in Ancol, North Jakarta. This involved transporting the money via a company box-truck, driven by Sofyanto.

The two men conspired to steal the cash, which amounted to Rp45.9 million. They stopped the truck in Pantai Indah Kapuk, North Jakarta, and damaged its padlock. Iwan tore his clothes and slapped his face, then went to police, claiming a gunman had held up the truck and robbed him.

When staging a re-enactment of the crime the following day, police found irregularities in Iwan’s story. Also, Sofyanto was unable to explain why he had chosen his unusually long route to Indomaret headquarters. Iwan eventually confessed to masterminding the theft to pay off his debts.

Cigarette Takings

If you’re planning on enlisting a friend to help you steal from your employer, then don’t leave evidence of your plotting on your smartphone.

Adi Setiawan (34) worked as a driver for a cigarette distribution company based in Kudus, Central Java. He conspired with his friend Sugihartono (35) to steal from the company. On December 21, 2018, Adi was driving a box truck containing Rp59.284 million from cigarette sales. He stopped in Salatiga for something to eat and messaged his friend, who then broke the truck’s lock and took the money.

Adi reported the theft to his supervisor, Njaelan, who was immediately suspicious and went to police. Officers visited the crime scene and learned from witnesses that Adi was one of the thieves. Police also found the two suspects had communicated via WhatsApp messaging service to plot the crime. The pair could face up to seven years’ imprisonment.

In Indonesia, small-time theft doesn’t always pay. Massive-scale embezzlement is another matter entirely.

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