Leader of New Indonesian Capital’s Regency Faces Kickback Allegations

Dandy Koswaraputra
Leader of New Indonesian Capital’s Regency Faces Kickback Allegations A student holds a fake tombstone during a protest outside Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission headquarters in Jakarta, Sept. 27, 2021.

The head of a regency that will be the seat of Indonesia’s new capital is to be detained until next month after being caught allegedly accepting $70,000 in kickbacks linked to local government tenders, officials said.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) said investigators arrested Abdul Gafur Mas’ud, chief of North Penajam Paser regency in East Kalimantan province, in a Jakarta shopping mall late Wednesday and seized 1 billion rupiah ($70,000) in cash.

“The suspect will be detained until Feb. 1 for the purpose of the investigation,” KPK deputy chairman Alexander Marwata told reporters Thursday night.

The cash is believed to be bribe money linked to local government projects and business licensing, he said.

Investigators also seized 447 million rupiah ($31,200) from Abdul Gafur’s bank account, Alexander said.

The money is not tied to the project to move the capital from Jakarta, officials said.

“[T]he KPK caught people red-handed late afternoon [Wednesday] in Jakarta and East Kalimantan. Among them, there were … the regent of Penajam Paser Utara, several civil servants and some from the private sector,” acting KPK spokesman Ali Fikri told Channel News Asia on Thursday.

Alexander said 10 others were arrested in Jakarta and East Kalimantan as part of the investigation, but only five are official suspects.

Meanwhile, a campaigner for the Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam) environmental group in East Kalimantan said Abdul Gafur was known as a young businessman with interests including coal mining.

The campaigner, Pradarma Rupang, said Abdul Gafur, who was elected in 2018 as one of the youngest regents in Indonesia, had been criticized for the construction of an official residence that cost 34 billion rupiah ($2.37 million) last year. That project has not been completed.

“The amount is fantastic for a regent’s official residence,” Rupang told BenarNews, calling for an investigation into that spending.

He also said Abdul Gafur’s arrest likely would not affect plans to move the Indonesian capital from Jakarta to North Penajam Paser regency.

Parliament members are discussing a legislative bill needed to move the capital and said they expect to pass it later this month.

Corruption arrests

In December, KPK chairman Firli Bahuri said 109 suspects were arrested and detained on corruption allegations throughout the nation in 2021.

One of the most high-profile suspects is lawmaker Aziz Syamsuddin, who is on trial for allegedly bribing a former KPK investigator and a lawyer to help stop an investigation into a corruption case.

Firli has been criticized for firing 57 staffers – including investigators who had handled major cases – after they were judged to have failed the so-called National Outlook Test, which was required to keep their jobs.

The employees were required to pass the test as KPK transitioned from an independent institution to one under the executive branch of the government. Critics have likened the exam to an ideological purity test, alleging it was designed to get rid of the agency’s most veteran graft investigators.

The parliament passed amendments that brought the agency under the control of the executive branch in 2019. The move provoked street protests where opponents accused the government of using the law to weaken the independence of the agency fighting corruption.

In May, the Constitutional Court rejected a petition filed by former KPK commissioners to overturn the amended law.

Since its establishment in 2002, the KPK has convicted former ministers, governors, central bankers, legislators and tycoons.

Despite that record, a November survey by local pollster Indikator Politik Indonesia suggested that public trust in KPK has deteriorated since 2019. The commission ranked eighth on the list of the most trusted institution, below the police and the military.


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