Asia

Indonesian Speaker of Parliament named suspect in graft scandal

Published: 4:00 AM, July 18, 2017

JAKARTA — Indonesia’s anti-graft agency yesterday named the Speaker of Parliament as a suspect in a corruption scandal involving electronic identity cards in which officials allegedly pocketed more than US$170 million (S$233 million) in government money.

Corruption Eradication Commission chief Agus Rahardjo said there was sufficient evidence to name Speaker Setya Novanto as a suspect.

“We name SN, a House member for 2009-2014, as the new suspect in the case,” Mr Agus said, referring to Mr Setya by his initials. “He is a suspect for alleged misuse of authority, which reportedly resulted in 2.3 trillion rupiah (S$237 million) in state losses.”

Mr Setya, who is also the chairman of the Golkar Party, may face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of 1 billion rupiah if found guilty.

A special anti-corruption court began hearing a case in March that alleges huge amounts of money were siphoned off funds earmarked for a government project to issue new identity cards to the country’s 255 million inhabitants.

Anti-corruption police said a network of about 80 people, mostly legislators and several companies used the introduction of an electronic identity card system in 2011 and 2012 to steal more than a third of the allotted funds.

Even by the standards of graft-riddled Indonesia, one of the world’s most corrupt countries, the seriousness of the allegations has caused widespread shock.

Among those named in an indictment presented at the trial of two Interior Ministry officials in March are the justice minister, a former interior minister and two provincial governors.

Mr Agus said yesterday that Mr Setya played a role in swindling the funds that was earmarked for the project. “SN, alongside AA, is suspected of playing a role in planning and procuring items for the project,” he added, referring to businessman Andi Agustinus, who in March was also named a suspect in the case.

Indonesia’s Parliament had agreed to allocate more than five trillion rupiah to the project, which was supposed to provide biometric identity cards for all Indonesians aged 17 and older.

However, about half of the funds were allegedly embezzled and handed out to politicians and Interior Ministry officials, causing the state an estimated loss of US$170 million, the court heard.

The project was eventually mothballed in October 2015 following a series of problems, including a late start, technical glitches and officials demanding payments from residents. AGENCIES