The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) made another bold move in naming Youth and Sports Minister Andi Mallarangeng a suspect in the Hambalang sports complex case, the first active cabinet minister to be attributed the status.
Only four days after the incarceration of Insp. Gen. Djoko Susilo in another scandal, the move could deal a severe blow to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party ahead of the 2014 general elections.
Questioning and court proceedings for Andi could drag on until the middle of 2014 when the country will be in the thrall of legislative elections.
Based on the KPK’s previous modus operandi, Andi will probably be detained early next year and tried in mid 2013.
Andi’s status was confirmed in a letter from the KPK to the Immigration Office asking for an overseas travel ban on the minister on Thursday. The KPK have also requested the same ban for Andi’s younger brother Zulkarnain “Choel” Mallarangeng and businessman M. Arif Taufiqrahman. The ban will be in effect for the next six months.
“The KPK has sent a letter to the Directorate General of Immigration,” KPK deputy chairman Bambang Widjojanto confirmed, but refused to confirm Andi’s status as a suspect in the case.
A transcript of the letter confirmed Andi’s status.
“Herewith, we announce that the KPK is conducting a graft investigation into the construction of sports facilities in Hambalang overseen by the suspect Andi Alfian Mallarangeng in his role as youth and sports minister,” the letter says.
It is normal for the KPK to request a travel ban as a precursor to the act of naming an individual suspect.
The director general of immigration at the Law and Human Rights Ministry, Bambang Irawan, confirmed his office had received the travel ban notification letter at around 5 p.m. on Thursday.
“We will implement the ban order directly because we, as executor, only follow instructions,” Bambang said.
Responding to the travel ban, Andi said that he would abide by the rules and comply with whatever decision was made by the KPK.
Andi praised the travel ban, saying that it could indicate the maturity of the country’s democracy.
“Everybody is equal before the law. This is the process of a true democracy,” Andi told MetroTV news channel.
Presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha said that Yudhoyono approved of the KPK’s actions.
“The palace respects the KPK’s decision,” he said.
The KPK has found irregularities, primarily when the project was handed over from former sports minister Adhyaksa Dault to Andi in 2009.
After Andi assumed control, the planned site was changed and the budget swelled from Rp 125 billion to Rp 1.17 trillion (US$265 million).
The KPK launched its investigation into the Rp 1.17 trillion Hambalang project in Bogor, West Java, in late 2010, and has since moved at a sluggish pace.
Before Thursday’s announcement, the commission had only named one suspect, Dedy Kusdinar, chief of the ministry’s financial and internal affairs bureau.
In the investigation, the KPK has questioned more than 60 people including Andi and Democratic Party chairman Anas Urbaningrum.
Former Democratic Party treasurer Muhammad Nazaruddin has repeatedly accused Andi and Anas of accepting money from the project. Nazaruddin claimed Anas used his share to pay for his campaign for the Democratic Party chairmanship in Bandung in 2010.
Nazaruddin has also accused Choel, Andi’s brother, of brokering projects in the Youth and Sports Ministry including the Hambalang project.
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