Oddly Enough

Corruption song proves a hit for Indonesian ex-con

JAKARTA (Reuters) - A corrupt Indonesian tax official whose exploits in and out of court both shocked and entertained the nation before he was jailed last week has inspired a hit song by an ex-convict.

Indonesian musician Bona Paputungan, wearing a similar centre-parted wig to the one used by corrupt tax official Gayus Tambunan, performs during a recording for a local TV station in Jakarta January 24, 2011. REUTERS/Crack Palinggi

“If only I were Gayus Tambunan” is being played on radio and TV stations across the archipelago and tells of the eponymous subject’s exotic and well-travelled life while supposedly in custody awaiting sentencing.

Gayus, jailed for seven years last week and fined around $34,000 (21,300 pounds) for corruption and abuse of official position, has freely admitted receiving millions in backhanders for helping some of Indonesia’s biggest companies avoid paying tax.

He still faces several other charges and trials, and the companies he allegedly helped are also being investigated.

His exploits while supposedly in detention awaiting trial caused outrage as he managed to bribe his way out of jail more than 60 times -- visiting Singapore, Macau and China on forged passports and audaciously attending an international tennis tournament in Bali, where he was photographed wearing a wig.

Now musician Bona Paputungan, who served seven months in jail for domestic violence, is cashing in on Gayus’s notoriety in song.

“I don’t envy Gayus, I just thought, ‘Wow, he led such a great life, how cool it’d be if I were him’,” Paputungan told Reuters by telephone.

Paputungan, who uploaded his song to YouTube before he was discovered by the mainstream media, has now performed on several TV shows wearing a similar centre-parted wig to the one Gayus donned in Bali.

“Living in prison was very hard for me,” he croons. “I became skinny because of thinking too much ... If only I was Gayus Tambunan, who can go to Bali and had all his wishes fulfilled.”

“How funny is this country; justice can easily be bought.”

Several versions of Paputungan’s song appear on Youtube with the most popular downloaded nearly 200,000 times.

Buskers are playing it as they strum for money in the capital’s notorious traffic jams, and it is also available as an MP3 download.

Paputungan’s wishes may yet come true.

Since the song started catching on, he says he has been approached by at least three music industry officials who have variously offered him a car and a house “just like what other celebrities use” to join their label.

But the singer wants a long-term deal instead of instant riches.

“For me, what is important is certainty (of a contract), not just a house, because in prison I was used to sleeping on a piece of old newspaper,” he said.

Reporting by Olivia Rondonuwu; Editing by David Fox