Where’s the beef?: Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) president Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq waves at reporters after attending a party plenary meeting in Jakarta on Wednesday. The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has named him a suspect for accepting bribes in a government-run beef importation scheme. (Antara/M. Aung Rajasa)
The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) named the chairman of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq, a suspect on Wednesday in a bribery case centering on the government’s procurement of imported meat.
The KPK’s move against the PKS politician started on Tuesday morning with the arrest of four individuals at Le Meridien Hotel in Central Jakarta, where they were allegedly trying to deliver bribe money for Luthfi through an intermediary.
A KPK spokesman said that although Luthfi was not present at the meeting, investigators in the case had evidence that could link Luthfi to the bribe payers.
“In the next 24 four hours, we will slap a travel ban on LHI,” Johan said in a press conference on Wednesday night, referring to the PKS chairman by his initials.
Johan also said that the KPK prosecutors had charged Luthfi with Article 5, on bribery, of the 2001 Corruption Law.
In a statement late on Wednesday Luthfi said he preferred not to make a comment as he was still considering the matter.
The four people arrested in the sting operation that led up to the announcement were initially identified only as JE, AAE, AF and M.
Johan said that JE and AAE were directors of a meat importing company, since identified as PT Indoguna Utama, while AF was a private individual and M was a young woman who had accompanied AF.
It has since emerged that JE is Juardi Efendi and AAE is Arya Abdi Effendi, both directors of Indoguna.
As evidence in the case, the KPK confiscated Rp 1 billion (US$103,000) in cash stashed in the back of a car belonging to AF.
KPK investigators also seized several bank savings books.
Johan also gave details on how the bribery scheme was to work.
“In our case expose, we learned that JE and AAE gave the money to AF. But we also found strong indications, supported by enough evidence, that AF intended to give the money to the politician identified as LHI,” Johan said, once again referring to the PKS chairman.
The two individuals representing Indoguna intended to give the money to Luthfi so that the latter could help them secure a slot for the company in a government beef procurement project.
A lawyer representing PT Indoguna Utama, Panji Prasetyo, confirmed that two of the individuals arrested by the KPK were company executives. Panji also confirmed that KPK investigators had raided Indoguna’s office on Jl. Taruna No. 8 in Pondok Bambu in East Jakarta.
Several eyewitnesses said that a number of military personnel helped the KPK with its search of the office.
Panji said Indoguna would cooperate with the KPK.
“Of course we support the KPK’s effort to eradicate corruption, but we want the KPK to consider the future of our business operation since there are about 40 employees who work in the sealed office,”
Responding to the KPK’s move, chairman of the PKS faction at the House of Representatives Hidayat Nur Wahid, who is also a former chairman of the party, said that he would confirm the status of Luthfi with the graft body.
Hidayat said he was shocked upon hearing the news. “Where did you get that information from? Is it official?” Hidayat asked.
Earlier on Wednesday, the central board of the PKS held a meeting which was believed to have been called to discuss the party’s strategy to deal with the fallout from the KPK announcement.
PKS executives had previously said that they were braced for a stepped-up smear campaign against the party’s politicians.
In 2011, founding member of the PKS Jusuf Supendi filed a report with the KPK accusing Luthfi and party secretary Anis Matta of embezzling Rp 10 billion in campaign funds, which he believed came from unnamed Middle East sources.