Thursday, 13 November 2008

MP admits to 'bribes' for forest

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

MP admits to 'bribes' for forest

Irawaty Wardany , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta Wed, 11/12/2008

Legislator Yusuf Erwin Faishal admitted Tuesday to receiving a total of Rp 625 million (US$56,561) in alleged bribes to push for approval from the House of Representatives for the conversion of a protected forest in South Sumatra.

The money was part of Rp 5 billion disbursed by the provincial administration in two installments in relation to a forest conversion project in Pantai Air Telang, Banyuasin, he told the Corruption Court.

"In 2006, my secretary told me I had received entrusted goods (from legislator Sarjan Tahir) worth Rp 125 million," Yusuf said in his testimony at the trial of suspended fellow legislator Al Amin Nur Nasution, who has been charged in the bribery case.

Al Amin is also a suspect in another graft case over a forest conversion in Bintan, Riau Islands, and in a blackmail case related to the procurement of GPS equipment for the Forestry Ministry in 2006-2007.

Yusuf was head of the House's Commission IV, which oversaw forestry and agriculture issues, from January 2006 to September 2007.

He denied any knowledge of the chronology of the checks' disbursements.
"I was only told I received Rp 275 million in total, but Rp 150 million of that amount was taken by the secretariat (of Commission IV), so my secretary only cashed in the remaining Rp 125 million."

Yusuf said that on June 25, 2007, Sarjan reported receiving a "gift" from South Sumatra and arranged a meeting with a team of officials from the province.

"We agreed to meet at the Hotel Mulia. Among those in attendance were legislators Hilman Indra, Fachri Andi Leluasa and Sarjan Tahir, Tanjung Api Api Port executive director Sofyan Rebuin and South Sumatra administration secretary Musrif," Yusuf added.

He said that during the meeting, Musrif handed him an envelope and put it on the desk in front of the participants.

"I asked my colleagues at that time not to touch the envelope because I did not want anything wrong to stem from it," he said.

He added he was told by his colleagues that the envelope was a "thank you" gift from the South Sumatra administration for the commission's support in approving its plan in 2006-2007 to convert 600 hectares of a protected forest in Banyuasin to build Tanjung Api Api Port.

"So I asked them whether we should accept the gift, and Sarjan said it was money from the private sector. He made an impressive case that it would not cause any state losses," Yusuf said.

Besides, he went on, Sarjan underlined that it was a donation for their electoral districts.

"That was the main reason why we accepted the money," said Yusuf, from the National Awakening Party (PKB).

He admitted he received traveler's checks worth a total of Rp 500 million from the envelop, because of his position as the head of Commission IV.
Yusuf insisted that initially he objected to the checks, claiming his colleagues agreed that those who did not want to receive them personally could report to their parties.

"That was what I did. I directly handed over the money to my party's central board," he said.

Also testifying at the trial was Sofyan Rebuin, who said the distribution of the money was handled completely by Sarjan, a Democratic Party legislator from South Sumatra.

"When we told him about the proposal, he said he needed Rp 5 billion for operational funds," he said.