Jakarta slaps travel ban on Speaker amid graft probe

Speaker of Parliament Setya Novanto has denied claims about his involvement in a corruption case. He has been questioned repeatedly by the Corruption Eradication Commission but was never arrested or charged.
Speaker of Parliament Setya Novanto has denied claims about his involvement in a corruption case. He has been questioned repeatedly by the Corruption Eradication Commission but was never arrested or charged.PHOTO: REUTERS

At least 37 politicians allegedly linked to ID card scandal that led to over $211m in losses

Indonesia's Speaker of Parliament Setya Novanto has been slapped with a six-month travel ban, following allegations that he received millions of dollars in kickbacks from a biometric identity card project in 2010.

The move by the Indonesian immigration authorities on Monday came after the Corruption Eradication Commission, or KPK, applied to bar him from leaving the country.

The KPK's graft probe revolves around more than 2 trillion rupiah (S$211 million) in state losses - nearly half of the 5.9 trillion rupiah Parliament had approved to pay for the biometric identity cards that all Indonesians aged 17 years and older were to be issued with.

Investigations into the losses first started in 2014.

Two former Home Affairs Ministry officials are now on trial in what observers say could be the biggest corruption scandal in Indonesia's history.

The two men are Irman, the ministry's former director-general for demographics and civil registration, and Sugiharto, the former director for information management and demographics administration.

  • Probe into web of kickbacks, handouts

  • The ongoing e-KTP graft probe revolves around more than 2 trillion rupiah (S$211 million) in losses to the state, or nearly half of the 5.9 trillion rupiah approved by the Indonesian Parliament to pay for electronic identity cards.

    KTP stands for Kartu Tanda Penduduk, or identity card in Bahasa Indonesia.

    The new biometric ID cards were supposed to be issued to Indonesians aged 17 years and older, as part of a smart nation initiative first mooted in 2009 during Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's presidency.

    The hearing for the case, which observers say could be the biggest corruption scandal in Indonesia's history, started at the Jakarta corruption court last Thursday.

    Anti-graft investigators believe at least 37 politicians had benefited from a web of kickbacks and illicit handouts in the e-KTP deal.

    Mr Setya Novanto, who is the Speaker of Parliament and chairman of the Golkar Party, has been questioned several times by the Corruption Eradication Commission, or KPK, over the case. However, he was never arrested.

But KPK investigators believe that no fewer than 37 politicians were involved in fleecing the government of millions of dollars meant for the project, which was first mooted in 2009 during Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's presidency.

Mr Setya, who is also chairman of the Golkar Party, has been questioned repeatedly by the KPK, but was never arrested or charged.

His name has been mentioned on several occasions in indictments presented during court hearings.

Last Thursday, the court heard that Mr Setya helped businessman Andi Agustinus secure the biometric identity card deal because they were allegedly involved in a joint venture, The Jakarta Post reported.

KPK prosecutors also claimed that Mr Setya and Mr Andi were preparing to pay off dozens of lawmakers in the parliamentary commission that oversees matters under the Home Affairs Ministry.

Mr Setya, who was testifying in court last week, denied the allegations, claiming that he had met Mr Andi only twice - when the latter offered to supply paraphernalia for rallies organised by Golkar.

Yesterday, Mr Setya told The Jakarta Post that he had just been notified about the travel ban and promised to comply with the legal process. "As a citizen who adheres to the law and hopes this matter can be solved soon, I'll be patient to do the best I can."

Observers say the sheer amount of state funding allegedly plundered by the high-profile suspects in the probe will test the resolve of the Indonesian government in its perennial war on graft.

The case also took a violent turn yesterday when one of the lead investigators in the probe, Mr Novel Baswedan, was attacked by two unidentified suspects.

The veteran KPK investigator was returning home after early morning prayers at a mosque in Kelapa Gading in north Jakarta when the perpetrators splashed his face with hydrochloric acid.

Jakarta police spokesman Argo Yuwono said investigations into the assault are ongoing.

Indonesia Corruption Watch activist Adnan Topan Husodo said the attack on Mr Novel is a threat to the country's fight against graft.

"The people responsible (for the attack) want a certain graft investigation to be stopped," he said in a statement yesterday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2017, with the headline 'Jakarta slaps travel ban on Speaker amid graft probe'. Print Edition | Subscribe