JAKARTA, Indonesia – A former Indonesian bank executive convicted in absentia in that country for her role in a massive fraud scheme that cost that country's government more than $260 million was deported Wednesday and turned over to the Indonesian National Police, capping a three year effort by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to investigate the case and gain her removal from the United States.
Sherny Kojongian Saroha, 49, who served in the 1990s as a director for Bank Harapan Sentosa, was repatriated to Indonesia aboard a commercial aircraft under escort by ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers. Saroha, who immigrated to the United States and resettled in the Bay Area, was convicted in Indonesia in 2002 of misusing bank funds and sentenced to 20 years in prison. In addition, the court ordered Saroha to pay more than $214 million in restitution.
Saroha's conviction came after Bank Harapan Sentosa failed in November 1997. The bank went under despite an advance from the government of Indonesia's Central Bank of more than $260 million. In August 1998, Saroha was detained for approximately three weeks by Indonesian authorities and questioned about her role in the bank's failure and the disappearance of the money. Ultimately, Saroha was one of three former executives convicted in absentia for their roles in the fraud scheme.
"Saroha's return to Indonesia to face justice is the result of cooperation between U.S. and Indonesian law enforcement authorities, and is one more example of the deepening cooperation between the United States and Indonesia under the Comprehensive Partnership," said U.S. Ambassador Scot Marciel.
Saroha originally entered the United States in 1999. In her subsequent application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) seeking permanent residence, she failed to disclose her prior arrest. After receiving a lead in 2009 about Saroha's possible criminal history, San Francisco-based special agents with ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) initiated a formal investigation. During the ensuing probe, HSI worked closely with ICE's attaché office in Jakarta and officers assigned to USCIS' Fraud Detection and National Security unit.
"This week's repatriation is a direct result of extraordinary interagency and international cooperation," said James Ink, regional attaché for HSI Singapore. "To be clear, we will not allow international boundaries to be barriers to bringing criminal fugitives to justice, nor will we permit the United States to serve as a haven for those seeking to evade prosecution for their crimes."
In November 2010, ICE took Saroha into custody and placed her in immigration removal proceedings. Attorneys from ICE's Office of the Chief Counsel San Francisco handled the ensuing litigation. Eight months later, in July 2011, an immigration judge with the Department of Justice's Executive Office for Immigration Review ordered Saroha deported for failing to be truthful about her employment and arrest history on her immigration benefit applications. Saroha appealed the decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals, which upheld the original removal order.
Since Oct. 1, 2009, ERO has removed more than 335 foreign fugitives from the United States who were being sought in their native countries for serious crimes, including kidnapping, rape and murder. ERO works with ICE's Office of International Affairs, foreign consular offices in the United States and Interpol to identify foreign fugitives illegally present in the country.