An Unlikely Indonesian "Hero"

If there was ever an unlikely reformer, it is Susno Duadji, formerly the Indonesian National Police head of detectives, who was caught dead to rights by the country's anti-corruption agency for helping key officials ensnared in the notorious Bank Century scandal to flee the country. Susno was forced out of his position because of the scandal and was lucky he wasn't indicted. He remains in limbo in an unspecified capacity with the national police force.

But in the wake of his ouster, Susno has suddenly started blowing the whistle on his former associates. His revelations have caused an uproar in the entire national law enforcement establishment as he grants interviews to virtually every news organization that wants to listen.

What he is delivering has nothing to do with a sudden about turn in conscience. It appears to have more to do with injured pride and the machinations against President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's reform team by the Golkar Party, headed by coal tycoon Aburizal Bakrie.

In March, Susno raised a storm by accusing three police officials, then identified only by their rank and initials – which meant it wouldn't be hard to figure out who they were -- of taking bribes from a mid-ranking tax official named Gayus Tambunan to bury a criminal probe after he was discovered to have Rp28 billion (US$3.1 million) in his bank account. The case has since ensnared the Attorney General's Office, top officials of the National Police and the Tangerang District Court as well the Directorate General of Taxation and a number of companies.

Despite the revelations over Tambunan's bank accounts, the Tangerang District Court acquitted the tax official of embezzlement on March 12 and he promptly left Jakarta for Singapore with Susno sounding the alarm. Tambunan surrendered to police in Singapore. On Friday, the national police chief dismissed Police Brig. Gen. Edmond Ilyas, the former head of economic crimes, from his new job as Lampung Police Chief on information based on Susno's accusations. Brig. Gen. Radja Erisman, the current director of economic crimes, is also believed to have been implicated by Susno, partly because he unfroze Tambunan's bank accounts, which allowed him to flee. Ilyas and Erismana have filed criminal defamation complaints against Susno over his allegations, saying they were innocent of the charges.

Reportedly investigators have evidence that Ilyas received at least Rp1.1 billion from Tambunan and Andi Kosasih, a Batam businessman who was said to be "helpful in connecting entrepreneurs with officials, especially entrepreneurs who have difficulty in obtaining business licenses."

Two more police officials, Comdr. Arafat Enanie and Adj. Comr. Sri Sumartini, are also suspects after it turned out that they questioned Tambunan in the relaxed atmosphere of Jakarta hotels rather than at National Police headquarters during the earlier probe of the tax official. Enanie is said to have received a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, a Toyota Fortuner and a house from Tambunan, a police source said. "We already seized all of that as evidence, while Sumartini got Rp100 million in cash, which she used to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca." Arafat is also said to have received bribes from PT Mega Cipta Jaya Garmindo, a company that allegedly transferred funds into Gayus's accounts.

The Attorney General's Office is equally embarrassed over the way its prosecutors handled the case that ended with Tambunan's acquittal. Last week, Attorney General Hendarman Supandji was forced to stumble into a statement that they had not been bribed to dismiss the charges. Instead, he blamed "thoughtlessness," saying they were overloaded with big cases.

The falling police officials led Eliswan Azly, a columnist writing for Antara, the government-owned and operated news service, to write that Susno had shown "unprecedented courage in publicly disclosing case-brokering practices in the police force" and quoted officials recommending that he take up the post of Head of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK),which became vacant after the former anti-graft chief, Antasari Azhar, was convicted of arranging the murder of a rival for an attractive female golf caddy's affections.

Despite Antasari's conviction, the KPK is widely considered to be the most unbuyable public agency in Indonesia. It was Susno, during the Bank Century case, who did his best to wreck the agency, ordering the arrest of two KPK commissioners who had wiretap evidence that he had been advising corrupt officials at the bank and helping one of them to escape to Singapore.

Susno's candidacy is being pushed from behind the scenes by Golkar, which remains a component of the national ruling coalition headed by Yudhoyono. Despite its seeming loyalty to Yudhoyono, however, Golkar, at Bakrie's behest, spent months embroiled in a House of Representatives probe of Yudhoyono's two most important reformers, Vice President Boediono and Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati over allegations of their complicity in the Bank Century affair. The government poured more than US$710 million into the effort to save the ailing bank during the 2008 global financial crisis. Yudhoyono managed to retain the two officials despite the investigation and pressure from Golkar.

The KPK is a particular bête noir of Susno's. The agency wiretapped Susno in connection to a graft case involving fugitive businessman Anggoro Widjojo, the director of a company called PT Mararo Radiokom, who allegedly bribed at least four lawmakers and several forestry ministry officials in connection with an Rp180 billion (US$12.7 million) radio communication system procurement project for the Forestry Ministry. Anggoro fled the country for Singapore.

Anti-corruption reportedly discovered that Susno had met with Anggoro in Singapore three days after the agency named had him a suspect in the bribery case.

Susno promptly ordered the two KPK officials arrested for allegedly abusing their powers. It was only after weeks of vacillation and rising public anger that Yudhoyono finally came down on the officials' side and Susno was pushed out.

Now Susno is pushing back. He has also said two police brigadier generals have been acting as case brokers in money laundering and tax evasion cases. Watch this space.

"Despicable slimeball as he is, Susno deserves all our support and encouragement for the time being," wrote a blogger who writes on the "Unspun" site. "This is because he is the guy who knows where all the skeletons are buried in the Police Force. And now that he's been done out of a career in the Police Force, sacrificed, as it were by fellow slimeballs and corrupt officers, he's now out for revenge by spilling the beans on his former comrades."

With reporting from Jakarta Globe