Tambunan was sentenced to seven years for gaining millions from companies to help them avoid taxes [EPA]

The man at the centre of Indonesia's most closely watched corruption scandal has been sentenced to seven years in jail for gaining millions of dollars from big companies to help them avoid paying taxes.

Albertine Hoe, a judge at a district court in the capital Jakarta, said on Wednesday that Gayus Tambunan, a former tax official, was guilty of corruption. She also fined him $30,000. 

Tambunan's case had made headlines and dominated social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook for months.

Tambunan also allegedly embezzling at least $2.7 million, a relatively small sum in a nation considered one of the world's most corrupt.

The web of his involvement allegedly extended to senior police, immigration officials and judges.

Among Gayus's more daring exploits was to attend a tennis tournament on the island of Bali - while supposedly in detention awaiting sentencing - disguised in a wig. 

Gayus was a junior official in Indonesia's vast bureaucracy until 2009 when he was charged with accepting millions to wipe vast chunks off the tax books of individuals and companies.

After initially being found not guilty, Gayus was re-arrested and charged with corrupting court and law
enforcement officials.

In subsequent testimony he admitted giving and taking bribes and implicated prominent companies and officials -- including tycoon Aburizal Bakrie, chairman of Golkar, the country's second biggest political party.

'Sand castle'

Bakrie and his firms have denied any wrongdoing.

But it has been Gayus's exploits while supposedly in detention that have caused the most uproar.

Photographed in the wig at the Bali tournament, he also made trips to Singapore, Guangzhou and Macau on fake passports - among 60 excursions he apparently made while in detention.

Corruption remains a major impediment to Indonesia's growing economy, adding millions of dollars to start-up and operating costs and frequently slows down infrastructure projects.

The country ranked 110 last year on Transparency International's corruption perception index.

"Gayus has succeeded to rebut all claims about any bureaucratic reform and corruption eradication commitment,"  Febri Diansyah, researcher at Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), told Reuters news agency.

"Like a sand castle, it was all torn down by a flick of Gayus' fingers."

Details of Gayus's testimony and exploits while under investigation have become so outrageous that Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the president, issued a decree on Monday ordering officials to investigate all aspects of the case.

Corruption has become a significant issue for Yudhoyono, re-elected in a landslide in April 2009 on a campaign promise to clean up graft and reform the civil service.

Source: Agencies