Indonesia's anti-graft organisation says death of witness will not derail investigation

JAKARTA (REUTERS) - Indonesia's anti-corruption commission said on Saturday (Aug 12) the death of a witness in a graft investigation implicating dozens of politicians will not derail its probe.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has already named the parliamentary Speaker, Setya Novanto, as a suspect in the investigation that targets at least 37 people.

Novanto has denied any wrongdoing in the the case which dates back to 2009, and centres on allegations that sums ranging from US$5,000 (S$6,807) to US$5.5 million - money generated by marking up the costs of a national electronic ID card program - were divided up in a room in parliament.

The witness, Yohanes Marliem, was reported by US media to have died in West Hollywood on Thursday after a standoff with police involving several hostages.

Indonesia's National Police international relations chief Saiful Maltha told Reuters on Saturday that the US authorities had confirmed Marliem's death.

"We do not know the cause of the death yet," Maltha said, adding that his team was working with the FBI.

Despite the death of the witness, KPK spokesman Febry Diansyah said the investigation would go on. "We are confident with the evidence we have," Diansyah told Reuters on Saturday.

Indonesian domestic newspaper Kontan on Saturday published recent quotes from Marliam saying he had feared for his safety.

Novanto, the Speaker of the House of Representatives (DPR) and chairman of Indonesia's second-biggest political party, Golkar, was named as a suspect in the case last month.

Tensions between the KPK and parliament have festered for years and some members have suggested political motives are behind the probe.