Garuda CEO Fired For Smuggling On Brand New Aircraft

President and CEO of Garuda Indonesia I Gusti Ngurah Askhara Danadiputra, known as Ari Ashkara, will be fired from his post after he was discovered to have smuggled a motorbike and other goods into the country. A Harley Davidson and two folding bikes, among other things, were smuggled into Indonesia on board a brand new A330neo during a ferry flight from Toulouse.

Garuda Indonesia’s new A330neo had some hidden surprises on board. Photo: Airbus.

A hidden Harley

We’ve come across some funny reasons for airline employees to be sacked. Some have got the boot for being critical of other airlines, others due to a fear of flying. But today’s story really takes the crown. The CEO of Garuda Indonesia will be fired from his position after it has emerged that he smuggled a Harley Davidson into the country, hidden in the cargo bay of a brand new Airbus!

Garuda CEO fired
A Harley Davidson Shovelhead was found on board the A330-900. Photo: Moribunt via Wikimedia

I Gusti Ngurah Askhara Danadiputra will soon be packing up his desk after an audit committee found he had orchestrated the purchase of a classic Harley Davidson Shovelhead motorbike. He allegedly instructed conspirators to buy the bike in 2018, although payment was not made until 2019. The payment itself was made through the personal account of Garuda’s finance manager in Amsterdam.

The case is being investigated by the government. State-Owned Enterprises Minister Erick Thohir told Bloomberg,

“This will not stop there. We will continue to find other individuals who might be related to this case.”

Smuggled on a ferry flight

The brand new A330-900neo was heading to Indonesia from Toulouse last month as a standard ferry flight. The manifest said that there were 22 people on board and no cargo at all. However, customs and excise officials discovered no less than 15 unregistered pieces of cargo on board the brand new plane, including Ari Ashkara’s Harley Davidson.

Garuda A330neo
The new A330neo had conducted a ferry flight from Toulouse to Indonesia with the cargo on board. Photo: Airbus

Specifics of the rest of the illicit cargo are sketchy at best, but it appears it included some spare parts for the Harley, as well as two high-end Brompton folding bicycles. Bloomberg reports that the smuggling of these goods meant the state lost out on some 523m rupiah ($38,000), although some sources say it could have been almost three times that amount.

When the items were discovered, other Garuda officials tried to cover up the misdemeanor by saying they owned the items. Those individuals could now also face charges if they are proven to have made false statements.

End of the line for Ashkara

Thohir spoke to Nikkei Asian Review and expressed his disappointment with the situation, saying,

“I am sad because when we try to lift the performance of SOEs, there are people in it who are not ready. For that reason, I will suspend the duties of [the] Garuda president director.”

Askhara has been president of Garuda for only just over a year, taking the helm of the company in September last year. His leadership at the carrier was going quite well, having taken the carrier from a $179m loss in 2018 to a profit of $112m in the nine months to the end of September.

Although Ashkara’s dismissal will need to be approved by shareholders, it’s unlikely to be overturned. Whoever takes over from Ashkara will become Garuda’s fifth president since 2014.