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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Leading Muslim fashion designer jailed in Indonesia fraud

Anniesa Hasibuan, 31, and her husband were convicted of cheating customers who booked pilgrimage trips to Makkah

Designer Anniesa Hasibuan walks the runway for the Anniesa Hasibuan collection during New York Fashion Week on February 14, 2017, in New York City. Angela Weiss / AFP
Designer Anniesa Hasibuan walks the runway for the Anniesa Hasibuan collection during New York Fashion Week on February 14, 2017, in New York City. Angela Weiss / AFP

An Indonesian fashion designer who shot to global fame with her Muslim-themed collection was sentenced to 18 years in prison on Wednesday for a multimillion dollar fraud and money-laundering.

A court near Jakarta convicted Anniesa Hasibuan, 31, and her husband of cheating customers who booked pilgrimage trips to Islam's holiest city Makkah through a travel agency they operated.

The pair was accused of bilking thousands of clients out of at least 848 billion rupiah (Dh225.5 million), a steep fall from grace for Hasibuan who had become a household name in the world's biggest Muslim-majority country.

In 2016 Hasibuan's collection was shown at New York Fashion Week where all her runway models wore hijab head scarves and Muslim-inspired designs, a first for the prestigious event.

Hasibuan and her husband Andika Surachman established Jakarta-based First Travel in 2009 to operate trips to Saudi Arabia. But it had not sent any clients to Makkah since early last year despite being paid for them, the court heard.

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The court fined Hasibuan 10 billion rupiah and sentenced her spouse to 20 years in prison. He was slapped with the same fine.

Prosecutors had demanded 20-year prison terms for both.

"[The defendants] have been proven legally and convincingly guilty of committing a criminal act together," said presiding judge Sobandi, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

Hasibuan's works have also been featured at shows in London, Istanbul and Cannes, but New York Fashion Week cemented her status as a rising star in the fashion world.

She is also well-known for her lavish lifestyle, regularly posting pictures of herself and her husband travelling abroad and wearing expensive clothing.