Anti-graft watchdog probes Jokowi's brother-in-law

Indonesia's President Joko Widodo said he would not intervene in the investigation being carried out by the Corruption Eradication Commission.
Indonesia's President Joko Widodo said he would not intervene in the investigation being carried out by the Corruption Eradication Commission. PHOTO: REUTERS

He is accused of using clout to help friend's firm avoid taxes

JAKARTA • Indonesia's anti-graft commission is investigating the brother-in-law of President Joko Widodo for allegedly acting as a middleman to help a company get a tax clearance. The revelation is being seen as a blow to the President's clean image.

Mr Arif Budi Sulistyo, who is married to Mr Joko's sister Titik Relawati, allegedly introduced his acquaintance, Ramapanicker Rajamohanan Nair, to tax officials who later eliminated Nair's tax dues.

Mr Arif was Mr Joko's family spokesman during the 2014 presidential election campaign.

Mr Joko, who is widely known as Jokowi, said on Thursday that he would not intervene in the investigation being carried out by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

"Whenever someone does something wrong, they should be legally processed," Mr Joko told reporters.

He added that "we all respect the legal process... and I am sure that the KPK will work professionally in investigating the case".

The case revolves around Nair, a businessman who was allegedly caught red-handed bribing mid-level tax official Handang Soekarno in November last year.

KPK spokesman Febri Diansyah said that Mr Arif is a witness in the case and added that the KPK was still trying to delve deeper into his alleged role.

"We will look into the roles and positions of all witnesses, including their connections, communications and meetings with the defendant," the spokesman said on Wednesday.

Mr Arif was questioned as a witness by the KPK in the middle of last month, but the media only learnt about this on Monday, in a court hearing on the case that mentioned his name.

Nair is director of EK Prima Exports Indonesia, an Indonesian unit of Abu Dhabi-based Lulu Group.

He allegedly bribed Mr Handang with 1.9 billion rupiah (S$202,000) to help the company get rid of 78 billion rupiah in tax dues.

According to the indictment, Mr Arif sought the help of his friend, Jakarta Special Tax Office head Muhammad Haniv, to resolve EK Prima's tax problem.

Mr Haniv then allegedly brought Mr Arif into contact with Mr Handang and tax director-general Ken Dwijugiasteadi. According to the indictment, Mr Ken instructed his staff to eliminate the tax dues after the meeting.

Mr Ken has also been questioned by the KPK.

The KPK arrested Mr Handang and Nair on Nov 22 last year and the Cabinet Secretariat issued a circular on Nov 29 ordering all ministers and heads of state agencies to ignore any demands for assistance from Mr Joko's relatives.

Some members of the President's family have recently been in the media spotlight for the wrong reasons.

There was a controversy in August last year over the appointment of Mr Arcandra Tahar, who had both United States and Indonesian citizenship, to lead the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry.

A younger cousin of the President was supposedly involved in the appointment.

Criticism was also rife in 2015, when another cousin of Mr Joko's, Mr Sigit Widyawan, was appointed to the board of commissioners of state toll operator PT Jasa Marga, despite his lack of experience in the field.

THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 18, 2017, with the headline 'Anti-graft watchdog probes Jokowi's brother-in-law'. Print Edition | Subscribe