Amid Turmoil, Indonesian Anti-Corruption Body Names Sports Minister a Graft Suspect

Tia Asmara
Jakarta
2019-09-18
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190918_ID_SportsMinister_1000.jpg Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo (center) holds the Asian Games torch as Youth And Sports Minister Imam Nahrawi (left) looks on during an Independence Day ceremony at the Merdeka Palace in Jakarta, Aug. 17, 2018.
AP

Indonesia’s anti-corruption commission, facing a threat to its independence after changes to its founding law, on Wednesday named the country’s sports minister a suspect in a corruption case related to funding of the National Sports Committee (KONI).

Sports and Youth Minister Imam Nahrawi is suspected of accepting 26.5 billion rupiah (U.S. $1.17 million) in bribes from KONI between 2014 and 2018 in return for facilitating its funding, said Alexander Marwata, deputy chairman of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

KONI is an office of the ministry Nahrawi heads that is tasked with developing and promoting Indonesian achievement in sports at the regional, national and international levels.

Imam’s personal assistant, Miftachul Ulum, was arrested earlier this month as part of the investigation, Alexander said.

“After examining facts from the investigation and trials, KPK has found enough initial evidence [to name Imam a suspect],” Alexander told reporters.

He said Imam had ignored three summonses sent by the commission since July.

Imam, a politician from the National Awakening Party (PKB), a member of the governing coalition, denied the charges.

“Just prove it. Do not make accusations without evidence,” Imam, 46, was quoted as saying by CNN Indonesia.

“I hope it’s not political. I will face it and naturally, the truth must be fully revealed,” he said.

In May, the Jakarta corruption court sentenced KONI secretary general Ending Fuad Hamidy and treasurer Johnny Awuy to 32 months and 20 months in prison, respectively. Three sports ministry officials are currently on trial in the same case.

Wednesday’s announcement came amid turmoil at the KPK after the House of Representatives (DPR) on Tuesday passed a law governing the commission that anti-graft activists say could undermine its independence.

The amendments to the KPK law include provisions on the establishment of a supervisory agency tasked with monitoring the commission’s conduct and that has the power to decide whether the commission can wiretap a suspect.

Currently, KPK investigators do not require the approval of an external body to conduct wiretapping, a tool which has resulted in the convictions of many senior officials caught while accepting bribes.

The amended law, which is opposed by the current KPK leaders, also stipulates that the body falls under the executive branch.

Wiranto, the minister for security and political affairs, denied that the changes were designed to weaken the KPK.

“Wiretapping is a violation of people’s privacy. The KPK is allowed to wiretap, but if their power is unlimited it will make things complicated,” Wiranto told reporters.

“Having an approval process can prevent them from making things up, so there will be accountability. This will strengthen the KPK,” he said.

Meanwhile, dozens of students who rallied outside the KPK headquarters in Jakarta to express their opposition to the revision of the law clashed briefly with police, local television reported.

Transparency International, a Berlin-based NGO that monitors corruption worldwide, warned last week that the proposed revision of the law governing the KPK “demonstrates continuous efforts by legislators to systematically weaken the institution.”

Since it was established in 2002, the KPK has secured the convictions of former ministers, governors, central bankers, legislators, as well as business tycoons, making it one of the most respected and feared institutions in the country.

Last week, lawmakers appointed five new KPK commissioners for the next four-year term led by Inspector-General Firli Bahuri, a former investigator for the agency and the incumbent police chief of South Sumatra province

KPK officials had earlier accused Firli of having met with two suspects being investigated by the agency, while he was working as an investigator.

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