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No mention of returning graft suspects’ assets in 2022 agreement between Indonesia and Singapore

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A video of a bilateral meeting between Singaporean and Indonesian leaders in 2022 has resurfaced with a false claim that it shows Singapore agreeing to return billions of dollars of assets parked by corruption suspects in the city-state to Indonesia. In the meeting, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Indonesian President Joko Widodo signed a number of agreements, including an extradition treaty, but there was no mention of corruption asset transfer to Jakarta. There are no credible reports that the two neighbouring countries have ever made such an agreement.

“The most beautiful gift at the end of the term,” says the Indonesian-language caption of a TikTok post uploaded on January 28, 2024.

The post shared a 32-second clip, which has been viewed more than 142,100 times. It opens with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong signing a document as Indonesian President Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, looks on.

“Thank you, Mr Jokowi. Singapore agrees to return 1,000 trillion rupiah of corruption suspects’ assets,” a female narrator says in the video.

The second half of the clip shows Nurul Ghufron, the deputy chairman of Indonesia’s anti-graft agency, or KPK, talking about an extradition treaty (archived link).

“The Corruption Eradication Commission really appreciates the progress of the extradition agreement process that was signed today,” he says.

<span>Screenshot of the false post, taken on March 21, 2024</span>

Screenshot of the false post, taken on March 21, 2024

Indonesian-language text on the video repeats the claim, saying that “Singapore is handing over a trillion rupiah” ($64 billion) of Indonesia’s “state assets stolen by corruption suspects”.

“I really got goosebumps, Mr Jokowi is the best and great,” the text also says, praising the president for his “courage to stand up against foreign countries to defend his people”.

Jokowi, who first took office as president in October 2014, has enjoyed consistently high approval ratings — despite accusations that he had used state resources to tilt the vote for presidential candidate Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto, who chose Jokowi’s eldest son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, as his running mate in the February 2024 election.

As Jokowi entered the final year of presidency, his approval rating reached 80.8 percent in January 2024 but was slightly down to 76.6 percent the following month amid rising rice prices (archived links here and here).

The same video has been watched more than 917,600 after it was shared alongside a similar claim on TikTok here and here, as well as on Instagram in late February and early 2024.

A longer clip has circulated since at least 2022, racking up a million views. The five-minute video shows not only Jokowi and Lee, as well as Ghufron, but also other Indonesian top officials: then chief security minister Mahfud MD and Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati.

However, the video has been shared in a false context.

First clip

A keyword search on Google found that the first part of the false video was posted by the official YouTube account of Indonesia’s Presidential Secretariat on January 25, 2022 (archived link).

The video is titled: “The Meeting of President Joko Widodo and Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong, at Bintan Regency on 25 January 2022”.

During the bilateral meeting on the Indonesian resort island of Bintan, the two leaders signed a number of agreements, including extradition of fugitives, airspace management and defence cooperation, according to press statements from the Singaporean and Indonesian governments (archived links here and here).

There is no mention about the return of corruption suspects’ assets in the Presidential Secretariat’s video and the governments’ statements.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the video in the false post (left) and the original video from Indonesia’s Presidential Secretariat (right):

<span>Screenshot comparison of the video in the false post (left) and original video from Indonesia's Presidential Secretariat (right)</span>

Screenshot comparison of the video in the false post (left) and original video from Indonesia’s Presidential Secretariat (right)

The clip was also used in reports on the bilateral meeting, published by Indonesian news outlet Kompas Daily and Singapore-based TV station CNA (archived links here and here).

Second clip

Keyword searches on YouTube found that the the second clip, which shows the KPK official Ghufron, was taken from his interview with Indonesian broadcaster Metro TV, which was uploaded at midnight on January 26, 2022 (archived link).

In the interview, Ghufron applauded the long-awaited extradition treaty, saying it could help bring graft fugitives who had taken sanctuary in other countries to justice.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the video in the false post (left) and the original video from Metro TV (right):

<span>Screenshot comparison of the video in the false post (left) and the original video from Metro TV (right)</span>

Screenshot comparison of the video in the false post (left) and the original video from Metro TV (right)

The extradition treaty, which was later approved by the Indonesian parliament in December 2022, aims to help Jakarta track down corruption suspects who have been taking refuge or storing money offshore in Singapore.

The longer video circulating in 2022 includes two extra clips. One clip shows Mahfud giving a press conference in February 2022 on the ratification of the agreements signed by Jokowi and Lee the previous month, while the other shows Sri Mulyani giving a lecture on state assets and fiscal policy at Indonesia’s Gadjah Mada University in October 2018 (archived links here and here).

Other clips used in the false posts  do not mention about Singapore returning any assets in the reports on the 2022 bilateral meeting.

AFP cannot find any credible reports that Singapore and Indonesia have ever made such agreement.

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