The Disturbing Story of Citibank's Debt Collectors and a Dead Indonesian

The Washington Post investigates a man's death at a Citibank office

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In March, an Indonesian man named Irzen Octa was called into a local Citibank branch to be questioned about the debt he owed the bank. He died in the office that day, possibly--multiple accounts imply--due to harsh interrogation methods used by debt collectors employed by Citibank. Octa's story has already incited notable outrage in Indonesia, and today, courtesy of The Washington Post, it's getting more attention stateside.

As a Bloomberg article did in June, the Post retraces the events of that day through the conflicting reports of what police have said at the scene of the crime and by interviewing Octa's widow, Esi Ronaldi, who is now suing Citibank for $350 million. "Police have given conflicting accounts of the incident, saying both that Octa’s blood had been found on blinds in the Citibank office and that the 'blood' was just a stain," the newspaper reported. "Djafar, the police spokesman, said investigators think debt collectors wanted 'to frighten and intimidate' Octa but not kill him."

Regardless of the intent, the incident has proven to be a symbol of seemingly growing scandal for the bank:

A review of Citibank’s affairs by the Indonesian central bank found that contracts with debt collectors fudged what is supposed to be a mandatory principle: that banks bear ultimate responsibility for the actions of the collection agents they hire."There must be something wrong inside Citibank," said Difi Johansyah, a senior official at the central bank, which supervises banks but not their outsourced agents.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.