Indonesian Speaker, Wanted Over Corruption Scandal, Injured in Car Crash

Arie Firdaus
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171116-ID-corruption-620.jpg Journalists gather outside the Corruption Eradication Commission building in Jakarta, Nov. 16, 2017.
Arie Firdaus/BenarNews

Indonesia’s parliamentary speaker, who vanished for 24 hours as anti-corruption investigators issued a warrant for his arrest, turned up in a hospital emergency room Thursday, claiming he had been involved in a car accident in South Jakarta.

Officers from the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) sought to arrest House Speaker Setya Novanto over his alleged role in a multi-million dollar graft scheme.

Novanto, chairman of one of Indonesia’s largest political parties, was among senior government officials who allegedly received kickbacks from funds allocated for a government project to issue electronic national identification cards.

KPK announced in July that Novanto was suspected, along with other officials and several companies, of embezzling more than one-third of the 5.9 trillion rupiah (U.S. $443 million) allocated for the I.D. program known as e-KTP, between 2011 and 2012.

Novanto’s lawyer, Fredrich Yunadi, said he might have suffered a concussion in the crash.

“There is a big bump on his head, his hands are bleeding,” Yunadi told reporters Thursday evening at Medika Permata Hijau Hospital in South Jakarta, where Novanto was admitted. “He is still unconscious.”

The hospital is near where Novanto’s car hit a utility pole, Yunadi said, explaining that the politician had intended to go to the KPK building.

Investigators, who had gone to Novanto’s home to arrest him Wednesday night, issued a summons for him to appear at the KPK office within 24 hours. They could not locate him until learning about the crash.

Yunadi denied that the parliament was trying to run away from the charges. He said Novanto was picked up by an unknown person shortly before the KPK team arrived and he had not been able to contact him.

Previous hospitalization

In July, after being named a suspect in the estimated $175 million corruption case, Novanto spent weeks at the Premier Jatinegara Hospital in East Jakarta and did not appear before KPK for questioning.

He left the hospital in early October after the South Jakarta District Court annulled KPK’s action against him following a pretrial hearing in September. On Nov. 10, KPK again named him a suspect.

Before learning of the accident, KPK Chairman Agus Rahardjo on Thursday afternoon told reporters his organization would ask police to add Novanto to its list of wanted persons.

Later, spokesman Febri Diansyah said KPK sent a team to the hospital to check on Novanto. During his previous stay, hospital officials refused to release information on the speaker’s condition.

To prevent a repeat of that scenario, Diansyah said his team will discuss options with the Indonesia Doctors Association (IDI).

“We will talk further if we need to coordinate with IDI later on. It will be very important to coordinate with the doctors,” he said.

Another allegation

In a December 2015 case, Maroef Sjamsoeddin, president-director of Freeport Indonesia, testified to lawmakers and submitted an audio recording of Novanto allegedly demanding company shares valued at $4 billion, in exchange for helping extend its operating contract.

Novanto was cleared of the allegations, but was forced to resign as speaker. He was reappointed last year.

Earlier this week Novanto ignored a KPK summons, claiming he was not required to meet with investigators without written consent from President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, The Guardian reported. The speaker is a key ally of Jokowi.

In response to another summons two days later, Novanto’s lawyers sent a seven-page letter to the KPK claiming he had legal impunity because he is a high-level legislator, according to The Guardian.


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