The Case of the Missing Songbird

More than a year and a half ago, businesswoman Nunun Nurbaeti, the key witness in a massive Indonesian bribery case, apparently came down with a mysterious disease that prevented her from remembering anything at all. Suffering from what may have been a case of the vapors, she got on a plane and flew to Singapore.

She does not appear to have recovered her memory of how to get back to Jakarta. When last heard from, she was thought to be in Cambodia, but nobody was sure. On Wednesday, Busyro Mugoddas, the chairman of Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), charged that “large powers” have prevented his organization, perhaps the country’s most incorruptible, from tracking the woman down.

Nunun is the wife of Adang Daradjatun, a prominent Prosperous Justice Party lawmaker and former Deputy National Police Chief, The Prosperous Justice Party is a key component of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s ruling Democratic Party coalition.

Daradjatun said Thursday that he was only a common person who didn’t have the power to protect his wife or hinder any efforts to bring her home

“It's impossible that I, a common person, can organize security [for Nunun],” Adang claimed, saying he had no idea what Mugoddas was talking about. Adang, a member of Commission III, which oversees legal affairs, said he was not present during the hearing in which Mugoddas made the statement, to avoid conflict of interest.

So far 28 former and active lawmakers have been convicted and sent to jail for receiving between Rp350 million and Rp1.4 billion in 480 travelers’ checks that the woman is believed to have handed to them in an attempt to secure the reappointment of senior Deputy Gov. Miranda Goeltom at Bank Indonesia, the country’s central bank, in 2004. The lawmakers pleaded to no avail that they thought the money was campaign contributions that weren’t tied to any legislation.

Nunun is hardly alone in her flight. A long series of Indonesian politicians and public figures have decamped from Jakarta for Singapore, pleading illness, although the memory loss syndrome has become a running joke in Jakarta. The most publicized was Muhammad Nazaruddin, the former treasurer of the Democratic Party, who led investigators on a long chase before they tracked him down in Cartagena, a resort city on the coast of Colombia, earlier this year.

An irritated President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has ordered Nunun’s arrest and return to Jakarta, to no avail..Her passport was ordered revoked on May 27 when it became clear she was no longer in Singapore.

KPK officials said earlier that they had tracked the woman on frequent trips to Bangkok from Singapore and said they were coordinating with Cambodian officials to track her down. .

The bribes in the Goeltom case seem to have been spread equally between members of the Democrat party, Golkar, headed by businessman Aburizal Bakrie, and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), headed by former President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Goeltom herself, who has since left the central bank, apparently is not under threat of indictment because there is no proof that she knew bribes were being paid to install her in office, although she was called to the Anti-Corruption Court o answer questions. She said it had been four years since she had seen Nunun.

What nobody seems to want to ask is why unnamed parties wanted Goeltom reappointed so fervently. The travelers’ checks were purchased by a company called First Mujur, a palm oil company, from Artha Graha Bank.

Both First Mujur and Artha Graha are subsidiaries of the Artha Graha Group, owned by a Sumatran businessman named Tommy Winata. The checks, according to testimony, were delivered in paper sacks to some lawmakers, color-coded envelopes to others. Officials from First Mujur told the KPK said they had no idea how the checks had ended up the hands of the lawmakers.

They had been purchased to finance a palm oil plantation project, they said. Although the names of the bank and the palm oil company have been made public, Winata’s name has not been mentioned in the trial, and it is unlikely that it will be. He is considered too powerful to mess with.