Jokowi's in-law testifies in graft trial

JAKARTA • The brother-in-law of President Joko Widodo has appeared in court to testify in the bribery trial of a business associate.

Mr Arif Budi Sulistyo, who is married to Mr Joko's youngest sister, Madam Titik Relawati, is the operational director of the President's extended family's flagship company PT Rakabu Sejahtera.

Corruption Eradication Commission's (KPK) prosecutors alleged that Mr Arif acted as a broker in a deal to clear taxes owed by PT EK Prima Ekspor Indonesia - a local unit of the Abu Dhabi-based retail giant LuLu Group International.

The bribery case is the first to implicate a family member of President Joko, who won the 2014 presidential election largely on a clean image.

Mr Arif served as the spokesman for Mr Joko's family during the election campaign.

The bribery case accuses PT EK's country director Ramapanicker Rajamohanan Nair, who is one of Mr Arif's business partners, of bribing mid-ranking tax official Handang Soekarno. Nair was caught by KPK investigators on Nov 21 last year with a large sum of money said to be meant for Handang.

Nair had filed a tax amnesty application for PT EK in September after the company was handed a 59 billion rupiah (S$6.2 million) tax bill for revenue received from the export of cashews in 2014 and 2015.

His application was rejected after the tax office found the company had other unpaid taxes of 51 billion rupiah in 2014 and 26 billion rupiah in 2015.

The indictment alleged that Nair then sought help from Mr Arif.

At Monday's hearing, Mr Arif acknowledged that he was aware that PT EK was seeking help to register for the tax amnesty, the government's recent initiative to boost tax revenue by offering a lenient rate of redemption for unpaid taxes.

But he said he only helped Nair figure out ways for his company to settle the problems that came with tax amnesty registration.

"I asked Pak Mohan to send all documents related to his companies to me and, when I received them, I forwarded them directly to Pak Handang without reading them," said Mr Arif in his testimony, referring to Nair's nickname.

Mr Arif claimed that he forwarded PT EK's documents to Handang because the tax official had earlier helped him register his company for the tax amnesty.

He said he had no idea why PT EK had failed to register for the tax amnesty.

JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2017, with the headline 'Jokowi's in-law testifies in graft trial'. Print Edition | Subscribe