In a first, KPK holds party chief
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Meat scandal: Juard Effendi (center) is rushed into a waiting detention car after he finishing a question session at the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) on Thursday. Investigators spoke to the PT Indoguna Utama director on his role in a bribe scandal centered around lawmaker and Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) chief Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq. (Antara/Rosa Panggabean)
The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) detained Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) chairman Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq on Thursday, making him the first active leader of a political party ever held on criminal charges.
The commission is currently holding Luthfi at the newly-renovated military prison facility in Guntur, South Jakarta, over graft allegations.
Moments after the KPK investigators wrapped up their questioning, Luthfi announced that he had resigned from his position as PKS chairman.
“I can no longer perform my duty as party chairman. The party organization must keep on going even though I can no longer run the party,” he told reporters at KPK headquarters in South Jakarta on Thursday.
Luthfi, who wore a KPK detainee jacket, declined to answer queries from reporters about his links to officials at the Agriculture Ministry.
Shortly after Luthfi was whisked away, KPK spokesperson Johan Budi gave details about Luthfi’s status in the case.
“We will detain suspect Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq for the next 20 days based on a decision by our investigators,” Johan said.
Johan said Luthfi, and his aide, Ahmad Fathanah, were accused of accepting Rp 1 billion (US$103,000) in bribe money from two businessmen, Juard Effendi and Aria Abdi Effendi, executives of meat importing company PT Indoguna Utama.
The bribe money was allegedly given in exchange for a slot in the 2013 government-run beef importation program overseen by the Agriculture Ministry.
“The beef importation project is a project overseen by the Agriculture Ministry. It regulates the issuance of licenses and allocation [of the imported meat],” Johan said.
Johan said that Luthfi was charged under Articles 5, 11 and 12 of the Corruption Law.
He said that the KPK would apply the principle known as mens rea, or guilty mind, which allowed the KPK to charge a suspect even if he or she had not received the bribe money.
Separately, KPK deputy chairman Bambang Widjojanto said that the KPK would for now primarily focus its investigation on the current suspects in the case.
“We will not talk about other parties, we must concentrate here first,” he said when he was questioned about the involvement of officials from the Agriculture Ministry or even Minister Suswono himself. Suswono is a member of the PKS.
In spite of Bambang’s statement, early on Thursday, KPK investigators raided the office of the Agriculture Ministry’s Livestock and Animal Health director general Syukur Iwantoro, in Ragunan, South Jakarta.
Sources have suggested that Luthfi used his influence to sway the decision of the Agriculture Ministry to award a tender to import 8,000 tons of beef in 2013 to Indoguna.
In return, Indoguna promised to pay Rp 5,000 per kilogram to Luthfi, a total of Rp 40 billion, if the contract was secured.
Speculation was also rife that Luthfi planned to share the money with Suswono.
Separately, Suswono shrugged off the allegations, saying that he had no knowledge of the alleged bribery.
“I have repeatedly told the director general to blacklist any importers who tried to cheat. We only
approve importers that are qualified. I can’t understand how there could be wrongdoing while we have already applied a very tight selection process for qualified importers,” Suswono said, referring to Syukur.
In a press conference, Syukur said that he would cooperate with the KPK in the investigation.
Syukur said that there was no more room for new companies to join the list of meat importers.
He said that the ministry had produced the final list of 67 firms selected for the importation process.
“We have reduced the quota of imported meat this year down to only 80,000 tons from 100,000 tons in 2012,” he said.
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