The Foreign Office confirmed last night that it was investigating reports of an alleged relationship between a female British diplomat and a prison inmate serving six years for drugs charges on the Indonesian holiday island of Bali.
Alys Harahap, 30, a vice consul, was said to have been caught by prison officers embracing inmate Julian Ponder during one of their regular meetings inside the notorious Kerobokan Prison, according to the Mail on Sunday.
The Foreign Office declined to say if it had suspended the newly appointed Ms Harahap after officials at the prison reportedly accused her of inappropriate behaviour and of breaching prison rules and regulations. “We take allegations of this nature extremely seriously and we investigate them thoroughly,” the Foreign Office said. “We do not comment on individual cases.” Ponder, 44, a former antiques dealer, was linked to Lindsay Sandiford, an Englishwoman sentenced to death by firing squad by a Balinese court for cocaine smuggling in 2013.
He was sent to Kerobokan, a dirty prison that was home for some of the 2002 Bali bombers and previously known for internal corruption. Ponder was said to have been an unpopular figure within the notorious prison and had been sentenced to solitary confinement after a brawl with a fellow inmate.
Ponder’s meetings with the married diplomat were said to have gone back a couple of months but they were allowed time alone in the clinic, where he was being treated for his injuries, and during private meetings inside the governor’s office to discuss the case, according to the Mail on Sunday.
“I can only hope this is a misunderstanding and that Alys was giving this prisoner a hug to say, ‘take care of yourself’,” a former honorary consul on the island, Mark Wilson, told the newspaper. “It may have been something entirely innocent that has been misinterpreted.”
The diplomat, who studied Indonesian at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, had moved from Hong Kong where she lived with her husband and two daughters and started the job earlier this year. Her position is fairly low-ranking.
The prison governor, Farid Junaedi, said that he had not made a formal complaint but welcomed the inquiry by the Foreign Office. “It is a good thing and it should help us to understand each other better,” he was quoted as saying. “We have been working professionally in dealing with problems in the prison.
“I am not concerned with the relationship between them [Ponder and Ms Harahap]. It is not our business. I am only concerned with Ponder’s behaviour in prison.”
Ponder, 44, is one of several Britons who have been given jail terms for drugs offences in a country that has a zero-tolerance attitude towards such crimes. He was cleared of trafficking but was jailed for possession of cocaine and given six years.
Two other Britons – including Ponder’s estranged partner – received shorter sentences after they were named by Sandiford following her arrest in May 2012 at Bali’s airport after officers found 4.8kg of cocaine inside her luggage. She said she was expected to deliver the shipment to Ponder.