Indonesia’s House Speaker Denies Corruption Allegations

Arie Firdaus
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170718_ID_eIDTrial_1000.jpg Indonesian judge Jhon Halasan Butar-butar (center) leads a trial on electronic national I.D. cards at an anti-corruption court in Jakarta, March 9, 2017.

One of Indonesia’s most powerful politicians Tuesday rejected a report by an anti-corruption agency that named him a suspect in one of the biggest graft scandals to hit the country.

House Speaker Setya Novanto was among many senior government officials who received kickbacks from funds allocated for a government project to issue electronic national I.D. cards, the state’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) announced late Monday.

Investigators said the corruption scheme had pumped out about U.S. $173 million from government funds.

“I was said to have received 574 billion rupiah (U.S. $43 million),” Setya, 61, told reporters at the House of Representatives (DPR) building in Jakarta. “I never received it. The sum … is incredibly huge. How was it transferred, how was it received and how did it look like?”

“I really beg you to stop abusing me,” Setya said, vowing that he would respect the legal process and not quit his parliamentary position.

At news conference on Monday, KPK Chairman Agus Raharjo named Setya as a suspect in the massive graft case, which allegedly involved a network of about 80 people, mostly legislators, and senior government officials.

He said the suspects and several companies embezzled more than one-third of the 5.9 trillion rupiah ($443 million) that was allocated for the I.D. program known as e-KTP, between 2011 and 2012.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, through his spokesman, called on all involved parties to respect the legal process.

The case could turn into a test of Jokowi’s commitment to overhaul the image of Indonesia, which is still known as one of the most corrupt countries in Asia, political observers said.

Setya, who is also a chairman of Golkar, one of Indonesia’s largest political parties allied with Widodo’s administration, was previously named a suspect in another corruption case two years ago when he was accused of trying to extort a 20-percent stake from the U.S. mining giant Freeport-McMoRan.

In December 2015, Maroef Sjamsoeddin, president-director of Freeport Indonesia, testified to lawmakers and submitted an audio recording of Setya purportedly demanding company shares estimated to be worth around $4 billion, in exchange for helping the company get its operating contract extended.

Setya was cleared of the allegations but its aftermath forced him to resign as speaker in 2015. He was reappointed as speaker last year.


Indonesian House Speaker Setya Novanto answers questions during a news conference in Jakarta, July 18, 2017. [Arie Firdaus/BenarNews]


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