Indonesian President’s Son Implicated in Scandal

Rumors that have bubbled through the Indonesia political community for months – that Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s son was involved in a 2010 scandal that nearly wrecked the president’s Democratic Party – have burst into the open.

A former close aide to Anas Urbaningrum, the former party chairman now standing trial for corruption in connection with a sports complex scandal, testified on Thursday that Edhie Baskoro Yudhoyono, the president’s youngest son, took a US$200,000 bribe in relation to a number of what were described as “dirty projects” that Anas handled. Anas could face 20 years in prison if convicted.

Edhie has previously denied any wrongdoing in connection with any of the projects. However, one well-placed political source in Jakarta said speculation centered around Edhie possibly facing charges sometime after October, once incoming president Joko Widodo is sworn in.

It is widely believed that the powerful Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has a dossier on Edhie already due to various ongoing investigations.

Yudhoyono won his first election in 2004 on an anti-corruption platform, only to see that promise come apart in his second term as his scandal-plagued party lost some of its most prominent leaders to bribery charges and prison. To his credit, the president has not openly tried to block the KPK or trim its vast powers.

"It’s an open secret among insiders in the SBY government that the president has been seeking future political protection for his family from prosecution over these scandals,” said a seasoned political observer. “That is going to be very hard to secure in the case of Ibas [Edhie]. The KPK is just beginning this process. It could go on for years."

Some sources in Jakarta speculated that Yudhoyono and the Democrats had lined up with losing presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto’s coalition – which included Golkar Chairman Aburizal Bakrie – after assurances were given that no one in his immediate family would be prosecuted in the affair, which revolves around Anas, the party congress at which he was elected chairman and a massive sports center project in Hambalang, West Java.

The party congress is said to be just at the edge of a massive web of scandals linking back to the Democrats and used mostly for party funding. In addition to Anas, Andi Malarangeng, the former sports minister and once considered to be a political star, was sentenced to four years in prison for his role in the scandals.

It was Anas’s trial Thursday where the witness, Yulianis, testified in the Anti-Corruption Court that she had seen Muhammad Nazaruddin, the former party treasurer now in prison, hand the money to Edhie, then the chairman of the party’s steering committee, in April 2010 before the party congress. The payment, she said, had been authorized by Anas.

Edhie’s name has come up before in connection with the party congress. Nazaruddin made a spectacular run for freedom in May 2011, decamping for parts unknown a day before he was to be banned from travel for allegedly accepting US$3 million in bribes on tenders for the construction of the athletes’ village facilities for the Southeast Asian Games, which were hosted by Indonesia in South Sumatra that year.

While on the run before he was arrested in Cartagena, Colombia, he issued a blizzard of statements via BlackBerry and Twitter on corruption scandals including allegations against Anas and others and dropping heavy hints about the involvement of Edhie.

Nazaruddin was subsequently tried and sentenced in 2012 to seven years in prison

In March, Anas also charged that Edhie had been involved and asked the KPK to question him. A subsequent "request" from the KPK for Edhie to testify in the Anas trial was turned down.

Yulianis was the former deputy finance director at the Permai Group, an umbrella corporation for a string of shell companies allegedly used by Anas and Nazaruddin to obtain government contracts.

“It was dirty money, because all the projects – all the money linked to the Permai Group – was dirty,” She told the court in December last year. “These were projects that were being investigated by the authorities, all of them.”

Yulianis has not been charged, in exchange for cooperating with investigators. Her testimony has been instrumental in sending several senior Democrats and their associates to jail, including Nazaruddin’s wife, Neneng Sri Wahyuni; and Angelina Sondakh, a former beauty queen and deputy secretary general of the party.

Also this week, Sutan Bhatoegana, a senior Democratic legislator, was charged in another scandal linked to the president's party and involving the energy ministry and government regulators.

With reporting from the Jakarta Globe