Indonesia’s former House speaker must spend 15 years in prison and pay back U.S. $7.3 million (102 billion rupiah) for his role in taking kickbacks during the development of a national biometric identity card program (e-ID cards), a Jakarta court ruled Tuesday.
Setya Novanto received the kickbacks between 2011 and 2012. The court ruled he was a major player in the embezzlement scandal that saw about $170 million (2.3 trillion rupiah) disappear from the $440 million (6.1 trillion rupiah) project to issue the new ID cards.
“Declaring defendant Setya Novanto has convincingly been proven guilty, according to the law, of conspiring to commit corruption,” ruled Yanto, the head of a panel of five judges at the Court for Corruption Crimes in Jakarta. “Sentenced to 15 years in prison.”
“The defendant’s act has violated the government’s intense efforts in combatting corruption. Besides, corruption is an extraordinary crime,” added Yanto, who like many Indonesians uses only one name.
Setya was also fined 500 million rupiah ($36,000). Prosecutors had asked that the former politician be sentenced to 16 years and his fine be double what the court ordered.
“If the fine is not paid, it is to be replaced with an additional three months confinement,” Yanto ruled.
Yanto allowed Setya to consult with his lawyers about appealing the verdict.
“We will think about it, your honor,” Setya responded after the consultation.
The judge gave Setya a week to respond.
“We could directly file an appeal, but it would be wise if he talks to his family first,” lawyer Firman Widjaya said, adding the legal team intended to challenge parts of the verdict.
For example, the lawyers would like to challenge the court’s ruling against Setya serving as a justice collaborator by disclosing details about other suspects in the corruption scandal.
In March, prosecutors questioned the former house speaker’s request, telling the court he would not qualify because the law stipulated that collaborators must provide significant testimony and disclose names of more prominent people involved the case.
Setya has twice been forced to resign as house speaker over corruption-related allegations.
He stepped down in December 2015 after the leader of mining company Freeport McMoran in Indonesia told a parliamentary ethics panel that he had secretly recorded a meeting where Setya asked for a 20 percent stake in the company. Setya denied the allegation, the attorney general later dropped an investigation and the Constitutional Court ruled in his favor.
He was reappointed as speaker in 2016 but resigned after the charges in the e-ID case were filed against him.
Setya disappeared for a day in November 2017 as investigators issued a warrant for his arrest. He turned up in a hospital emergency room after claiming he was injured in a car accident.
In December, during his first court appearance on the charges, Setya claimed to be suffering from diarrhea and was unable to listen to the judges. By the end of March, he smiled and shook hands with prosecutors as he arrived for another hearing.
Trying the case against Setya, prosecutors said evidence showed he had violated the country’s anti-graft law by intervening in the e-ID project through a series of meetings.
They said he met with two officials from the Home Affairs Ministry, Irman and Sugiharto (who, like the judge, both go by one name), and an entrepreneur, Andi Narogong. All three were sentenced last year for their involvement in the scheme.
In addition, a Hanura Party politician was sentenced to five years for committing perjury.
The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) applauded the verdict, while another anti-corruption group would have preferred a longer prison sentence.
“We appreciate the decision of the judges for granting KPK demands for [Novanto] to pay the restitution and the revocation of his political rights, although the sentence is still one year less,” KPK Deputy Chairman Laode M. Syarif said in a written statement received by BenarNews.
Meanwhile, Lola Ester, a researcher with the Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW), said Setya should have received a life sentence and urged the KPK to investigate other politicians whose names were revealed during the trial.
“We cannot just stop at Novanto. All involved should be punished,” she said.