Saturday, 6 June 2009

Go get the big fish, KPK challenged

Go get the big fish, KPK challenged

The Jakarta Post , JAKARTA | Tue, 05/26/2009

The arrest of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) chief Antasari Azhar may well prove a blessing in disguise for the antigraft body, by encouraging the remaining four members of the five-member presidium to wrap up several unresolved high-profile graft cases.

Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) revealed recently that under now-suspended Antasari's command, many cases implicating high-powered government officials were held up or only half-completed, with vested political interests interfering in the KPK's investigations.

ICW deputy coordinator Emerson Yuntho cited the suspended investigations into several legislators who allegedly received bribes to vote for Miranda S. Goeltom as the senior deputy governor of Bank Indonesia last year. The suspension was called despite the glut of evidence, including a key confession from former Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) legislator Agus Condro.

Agus admitted to receiving Rp 500 million (US$47,000) following Miranda's election, but later returned the money to the state through the antigraft body after undergoing a series of "consultative" questioning, including his request for immunity for handing in the money.

Other stalled cases that netted only small fry include that surrounding the flow of Rp 31.5 billion from BI to the House's 1999-2004 commission on banking and economics, in which 49 ex-legislators were implicated, including Bappenas chief Paskah Suzeta and Forestry Minister M.S. Kaban; an illegal logging case in Pelalawan, Riau, also implicating the forestry minister; and a sewing machine procurement implicating Social Affairs Minister Bachtiar Chamsyah.

"ICW is not saying Antasari had a hand in suspending all these cases, but he clearly played a big role," Emerson said, adding Antasari's arrest would allow the KPK a greater opportunity to settle the cases.

ICW legal researcher Febri Diansyah added Antasari had become a stumbling block for the KPK.

"Therefore, despite the seemingly negative aspect of the murder case, his arrest and suspension is actually good news," he said, adding the KPK would likely breathe a sigh of relief now that Antasari was no longer in the picture.

"Antasari's case is a personal matter and has nothing to do with the KPK. The institution is far more important than Antasari."

Data from ICW shows that during Antasari's time at the KPK's helm, the Corruption Court convicted 45 officials of graft, sentencing them to an average of three years and seven months apiece.

"As much as 33 to 42 percent of cases handled by the KPK during this time were relatively insignificant, causing state losses of less than Rp 20 billion *$1.9 million* per case," Emerson said.

The data also shows only five of 75 cases during this period were considered significant, causing state losses of between Rp 81 billion and Rp 100 billion.

"Although the KPK successfully dealt with more cases that previously, most of those convicted were *middle-class' perpetrators," Emerson said.

ICW's data also shows 39 of 79 suspects during Antasari's reign were government officials, while 11 were legislators.

"Only one was an official from the judiciary," Emerson pointed out.

Bribery accounted for the bulk of the crimes, present in 24 of the 79 cases.

"In light of our study and analysis, we recommend the KPK focus more on enforcement rather than prevention, because of the large number of suspended cases," Emerson said.