Two Indonesia Graft Cases Bubble to the Surface

Newspapers in Indonesia are having a field day with two spectacular scandals, one of which included a surprise witness delivering testimony that inextricably tied the head of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party to bribery allegations over the construction of an athletes’ village for the Southeast Asian Games last November. The other featured the naming of a former top Central Bank official in a 2006 bribery case in which nearly 30 lawmakers have already been arrested. .

The charges, by the former finance director of Permal Group, owned by former Democratic Party Treasurer, Mohammad Nazaruddin, appeared to back up in damning detail long-standing concerns that the Democrats were thoroughly enmeshed in corruption despite their reputation as young reformers helping Yudhoyono in his reformasi crusade.

Some political analysts question whether the party can survive as a viable political force in the midst of rising public anger over the charges. Yudhoyono himself said he was concerned about public anger, saying that “There’s anger and impatience out there among the public; they’re asking why corruption is still flourishing,” he said. “I accept that and I can understand the public’s distaste. My hope is that other institutions can accept it so we can become firmer in the coming years.

The story of the day features a petite woman named Yulianis, the former Permal Group official, who was seemingly indispensable to the former treasurer, displaying deep knowledge of the details of his dealings. She appeared completely covered with gray Islamic garb, only her bespectacled eyes showing.

At first Nazaruddin appeared taken aback by Yulianis’s appearance, saying he had never seen her dressed so religiously. She asked that the courtroom be cleared so that she could show her face to the defendant and the judge.

She said that she had repeatedly tried to resign, although not out of guilt for what she was doing, but because of the inhumane way Nazaruddin treated his employees. She claimed to have provided billions in funds used to bribe lawmakers and other Democratic leaders to ensure that Nazaruddin’s company was awarded lucrative government projects

Nazaruddin himself fled Jakarta last March ahead of pursuing KPK officials who wanted to charge him with taking bribes in the construction of the athletes’ village. From various places overseas, he repeatedly tweeted and texted messages to reporters, implicating top officials in the scandal. He was finally arrested in Cartagena, Colombia, and returned for trial.

Nazaruddin has made damaging allegations against Anas Urbaningrum, the party chairman, and others. Nazaruddin’s lawyer said last November that the former treasurer had warned Yudhoyono himself about the corruption charges, but that Yudhoyono had ignored them and that he had been told to flee the country.

Wednesday, Yulianis backed up many of Nazaruddin’s charges, saying she personally distributed Rp30 billion ($3.4 million) and US$5 million to the Democratic Party to help fund its 2010 congress. She told the Jakarta Anti-Corruption Court that said the money was paid over several installments.

“There were in total five cars carrying Rp30 billion and $5 million for the congress’ costs,” Yulianis said. Some US$3 million came from donations while the rest, Rp30 billion and $2 million, came from the Permai Group. The $3 million, she said, was received by Nazaruddin’s driver and one of his staff members. The money was later stored in the office of his wife, Neneng Sri Wahyuni.

Although Nazaruddin had claimed at the same hearing that the money was to help Urbaningrum win the party’s chairmanship, Yulianis said instead it was intended to help fund the congress, and that the Permai Group had paid Urbaningrum monthly salary of Rp20 million from January to April 2009. She said the envelopes containing the monthly salary were always given through a man identified as Azis. She said he was on Urbaingrum’s staff and was his nephew.

But after Azis, whom she identified as an administrative clerk, refused the envelopes in April, she paid the salary through Nazaruddin until September. Nazaruddin, she testified, told her that he would give the envelopes to Urbaningrum.

Going after other Democrats as well, Yulianis also said that Wayan Koster, a member of the House of Representatives Budget Committee, accepted a Rp3 billion “fee” in relation to the athletes’ village project. Her staff member at the financial department, she said, gave the money to Koster. Another Rp2 billion was given to Angelina Sondakh, also a House Budget Committee member. Mindo Rosalina Manulang, who worked for Anak Negeri, another Nazaruddin company, requested that the payments be made, she said.

Manulang, she said, requested that money also be sent to Wafid Muharram, the now-suspended secretary of the Youth and Sports Ministry, and to Paul Nelwan, a businessman with alleged close ties to the minister. Nazaruddin was reported to have steered the project to Duta Graha Indah, a private construction company.

Yulianis said she had told Nazaruddin that Duta Graha marketing manager Muhammad El Idris had given several checks totaling Rp4.3 billion. The checks were cashed and the money stored in a safe in Neneng’s office, she said. Nazaruddin has maintained that he never received the Rp4.3 billion from El Idris.

Another Nasaruddin employee, Mindo Rosalina Manulang, was arrested with El Idris on April 21 last year after being caught red-handed after providing bribe money to Sports Ministry secretary Wafid Muharam. The three are now in jail.

“Rosa was out playing, Yul. Go and fix her room,’ ” Yulianis quoted Nazaruddin as saying to her shortly after they heard that Rosalina had been arrested by the KPK. Nazaruddin, she said, instructed her and other employees to destroy all incriminating evidence that could lead to him.

“We all worked frantically until 3 o’clock in the morning,” she said, adding that she had emptied Rosalina’s safe box. “When KPK agents came raiding our office, we pretended to be doing the taxes,” she said. The KPK did manage to confiscate some checks and financial records that led back to her boss.

Miranda Goeltom Case

The second event was the naming by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) of Miranda Goeltom, the former deputy governor of the country’s central bank, as a suspect in a bribery scandal linked to her 2004 appointment.

The case against Goeltom has been long delayed by the disappearance nearly two years ago of businesswoman Nunun Nurbaeti, who decamped for Singapore after saying she had come down with a mysterious disease that prevented her from remembering anything at all.

She was finally arrested late last year and returned to Indonesia. She 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 Yudhoyono’s ruling coalition.

The lawmakers who have been convicted and jailed received 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 Goeltom’s reappointment in 2004.

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.

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.

(With reporting from Jakarta Globe)