Indonesia’s Crazy Rich Public Servants Are Being Exposed by Online Sleuths

"It’s secret public knowledge that tax officials have unrealistic assets. It shows in the lifestyle of their families."
Koh Ewe
Visitors admire Harley Davidson motorcycles at a motor show in Jakarta. BlastingRijder, a luxury motorcycle club formed by tax officials, was recently disbanded after being exposed by online sleuths, amid a wave of criticism against unusually wealthy publ
Visitors admire Harley Davidson motorcycles at a motor show in Jakarta. BlastingRijder, a luxury motorcycle club formed by tax officials, was recently disbanded after being exposed online, amid a wave of criticism against wealthy public servants. Photo: GOH CHAI HIN/AFP via Getty Images

When 20-year-old Mario Dandy ​​Satrio heard that his 15-year-old girlfriend had been mistreated by an ex-boyfriend, he got in his jeep and confronted the ex at a residential complex in Jakarta.

In a graphic video of the confrontation on Feb. 20 that has since gone viral, Mario is seen kicking and punching 17-year-old Cristalino David Ozora Latumahina, who lay motionless on the ground. David has spent the past month in intensive care after falling into a coma. His uncle said on Saturday that the teen’s condition has improved recently with physiotherapy, but David remains unable to recognize his parents due to severe brain injuries he sustained during the attack.


Meanwhile, Mario was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, an offense that carries five years in prison. He may also be charged under child protection laws for assaulting a minor. 

As the video of the assault sparked anger across Indonesia, public attention soon turned to Mario’s penchant for expensive vehicles—including a Harley Davidson motorcycle and the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon he had driven to confront David—which he would flaunt on social media. This raised questions about the extraordinary wealth of his public servant father, Rafael Alun Trisambodo. 

The initial anger over the attack has now morphed into a campaign against suspiciously wealthy public servants in Indonesia, who have long been an open secret. The campaign, in which internet sleuths have scoured social media to expose the luxurious lifestyles of public servants, shows little sign of waning, as more officials find themselves in the crosshairs facing widespread public anger.

Vishnu Juwono, an associate professor of public governance at the University of Indonesia, says that Mario Dandy’s case has amplified what the public has long known about Indonesian public servants’ shady wealth.

“It’s secret public knowledge that tax officials have unrealistic assets. It shows in the lifestyle of their families,” he told VICE World News. “Now in Indonesia there’s growing usage of social media, especially in Mario Dandy’s case—social media [content] related to luxurious lifestyles.”


Within a week of Mario’s assault, Rafael was suspended from his post as the authorities launched a probe into his source of wealth. The government’s anti-money laundering agency also froze the family’s bank accounts. 

Last year, Rafael, a mid-level tax official, reported 56.1 billion rupiah ($3.7 million) in personal wealth to the Corruption Eradication Commission—almost as much as that of Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, local media reported.

But his actual wealth may be far higher. During the probe by the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center, investigators found that the sum across dozens of Rafael’s suspected bank accounts may total up to 500 billion rupiah ($33 million). However, Rafael has denied that he underreported his wealth. 

The Corruption Eradication Commission, or KPK, said that they have since received more tip-offs about disproportionately wealthy public officials.

“This just happens to be one incident. But there are actually many government officials whose wealth reports do not match their profiles or their job as a civil servant,” KPK deputy chairman Alexander Marwata said in February.

Public officials who have been called out have either retreated into the shadows or offered weak rebuttals. 

Last week, embattled by criticisms of his wife’s designer handbag collection and her luxurious holidays to Europe, Riau Province Regional Secretary SF Hariyanto tried to set the record straight at a press conference.

“These are fake,” he said of his wife’s designer handbags, adding that she would stay in budget-friendly apartments and take public transportation during her trips.


One of the sleuths at the forefront of the campaign is the Twitter account @PartaiSocmed, which scours social media for suspiciously wealthy public officials and their families, and shares their findings to their 373,000 Twitter followers.

“The public response has been very positive and supportive, perhaps because they are already fed up with the corruption that is displayed openly in this country,” the account owner, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions, told VICE World News.  

“[Public servants] are known publicly as corrupt and lazy, although many are also good. Without generalizing, the public believes Indonesian public servants must be bribed first to serve the community.”

As a social media movement called for the boycott of taxes in response to the perceived corruption of tax officials like Rafael, snowballing public outcry has sparked concern from even the country’s top officials, who have publicly spoken out against the lavish lifestyles of their subordinates.

When netizens pointed out the existence of BlastingRijder, a luxury motorcycle club formed by tax officials, finance minister Sri Mulyani urged on social media for the club to be disbanded.

“A hobby and lifestyle of riding large motorcycles create a negative perception and a suspicion from the public as to where DJP employees get their riches from,” she wrote in an Instagram post, describing the behavior as “unbecoming.”


As more officials come under fire for their lifestyles, Indonesian President Joko Widodo told ministers this month to clean up the acts of their subordinates and urged other public officials to refrain from flaunting their wealth. 

“[The public believes] the public service has been poor, and the government officials are behaving arrogantly, flexing their power and wealth, and are hedonistic,” he said, adding that he was not surprised that people were disappointed with these officials. 

According to the Corruption Eradication Commission, it had long harbored suspicions about Rafael’s wealth and has been working with the finance ministry to look into his case since 2020. But it took the torrent of public anger to accelerate their investigation before Rafael was dishonorably discharged earlier this month. 

Vishnu, the associate professor, says the investigation and dismissal of Rafael is a “rare” case of accountability for Indonesia’s senior officials. Public scrutiny and media attention has proven useful in bringing justice to officials whose misdeeds would have otherwise slipped under the radar, he added.

“This will be a good precedent,” said Vishnu. “But the dismissal of Rafael still leaves a huge problem within the Ministry of Finance and the bureaucracy in Indonesia overall.” 

“The next couple of months will be a crucial period for the Ministry of Finance [to show that] they do take this seriously and they have to do more in terms of bureaucratic reform and improving internal supervision.”


Jonathan Latumahina, David’s father and a prominent figure in the non-profit Islamic organization Ansor Youth Movement, is still hoping for justice to be served for his son, who now faces a long road to recovery. Days after the attack, Jonathan wrote in a tweet that he had accepted the apology from the perpetrator’s family after a visit from them in hospital.

But on March 22, exactly 30 days after David was battered into a coma, his father rescinded his forgiveness in another tweet

“I am writing here, in front of my son who is currently unconscious, still struggling due to severe damage to his brain nerves…” he wrote.

“I am not willing and there is no forgiveness whatsoever. Ask your God for forgiveness.”

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