Indonesian graft buster to seek Interpol help to pursue fugitive member of ruling party PDI-P

Harun Masiku fled Indonesia after he was named a suspect for bribing an elections official to get a parliamentary seat. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

JAKARTA - The Indonesian authorities will be requesting Interpol to issue a red notice for the arrest of a fugitive graft suspect who is a member of the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

The case is seen as a litmus test of the effectiveness of the anti-corruption agency, or KPK, after a revised law passed last year which stripped it of some key powers such as full wiretapping authority.

Harun Masiku fled Indonesia after he was named a suspect for bribing an elections official to get a parliamentary seat, in a case that has also implicated a number of high-ranking party officials, including secretary-general Hasto Kristiyanto.

Harun departed the country's main Soekarno-Hatta International Airport at 11am on Jan 6 for Changi Airport, according to immigration records. This was two days before the KPK arrested General Elections Commission (KPU) member Wahyu Setiawan and at least two others.

Up to Monday (Jan 13), there had been no update on Harun's whereabouts, whether he was overseas or had returned to Indonesia, local media reported, citing national immigration spokesman Arvin Gumilang.

"KPK will soon work with the police to get assistance from the NCB (National Central Bureau) Interpol. It wouldn't be difficult to pursue a corruption suspect," Kompas daily reported Nurul Ghufron, a KPK commissioner, as saying on Monday night.

Contacted by The Straits Times on Tuesday morning, National Police spokesman Argo Yuwono said via messaging app WhatsApp: "Police will indeed make maximum efforts to assist as mandated by the existing regulations."

Harun allegedly gave bribe money to Wahyu via Saeful Bahri, a businessman believed to be close to PDI-P's Hasto. Saeful then handed the bribe money to Agustiani Tio Fridelina, a trusted aide of Wahyu.

Wahyu, who resigned as a KPU commissioner after the allegation, was promised a total of 900 million rupiah (S$88,800) to help Harun fill a national Parliament seat left vacant by the death of a PDI-P cadre who had won it in the legislative elections on April 17, 2019. The seat has since been filled.

Tempo reported last week that PDI-P's Hasto was at Indonesian Police Staff College (PTIK) in South Jakarta when the KPK investigators wanted to meet him on the evening of Jan 8. In a surprising turn of events, the KPK investigators deployed to PTIK were apprehended and interrogated by police detectives before they were ordered to undergo a urine test.

They were held there for seven hours before being allowed to leave upon the arrival of the KPK director for investigation, Mr Panca Simanjuntak, at 3.30am the following day. Brigadier-General Argo told Tempo there was a misunderstanding and the police had taken action as the KPK investigators had not reported their presence at PTIK.

The KPK corruption investigation, centred on the ruling party and its senior cadres, is being seen as a test of whether the anti-graft agency - created in 2002 after the fall of strongman ruler Suharto - could operate effectively to fight corruption.

Since its establishment, the KPK has emerged as a new force in the fight against graft amid a crisis of public trust in the existing law enforcement agencies.

But Parliament, in the final month of its 2014-2019 term, passed an amendment to the KPK law on Sept 17, stripping the powerful anti-graft agency of key powers, including its full authority to wiretap public officials suspected of wrongdoing.

Under the new law, the KPK must get prior approval from a newly-formed supervisory council - appointed by the President - before wiretapping any suspect, a rule that could affect any operation. Raids on suspects must also be approved in advance by the council.

The passing of the anti-corruption Bill into law was widely criticised as a rush job and for weakening the powers of the KPK.

Using timely wiretaps in the past, the KPK had made numerous arrests of rogue senior officials and MPs who were caught red-handed taking bribes.

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