Amid speculation that the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) can only build the weakest of cases against Democratic Party chairman Anas Urbaningrum, the anti-graft body once again delayed a decision over his status in the Hambalang sports complex case.
After failing to hold a case expose on Monday, when the KPK was expected to name Anas a suspect, the commission once again delayed an announcement on Wednesday, following a claim by a lawyer representing the Democrats’ chairman that Anas bought the car with his own money.
The KPK was expected to charge Anas with accepting a Toyota Harrier sedan as thank-you gift from the construction firm that won the tender for the Hambalang sports complex.
Anas paid former Democratic Party treasurer Muhammad Nazaruddin for the car in installments in 2009, making a down payment of Rp 200 million (US$20,600), lawyer Firman Hakim said in a press conference on Tuesday night.
Nazaruddin had suggested that the car was a gift from PT Adhi Karya to Anas.
When the news about the Harrier being a gratuity broke in May 2010, Anas decided to return the car to Nazaruddin, said Firman.
Nazaruddin refused to accept the car, so Anas decided to sell it in July 2010 and gave the money to
Nazaruddin, Firman added.
Early on Wednesday, KPK Deputy Chairman Busyro Muqoddas said that their would be a case presentation later this week and that KPK investigators were working on evidence and testimonies from witnesses.
The commissioners can only sign off on naming Anas a suspect in the Rp 1.17 trillion ($121.4 million) case after the investigators complete their probes.
“The material for the case presentation comes from the investigators. If they haven’t finished, then we can’t make any decision,” Busyro told reporters.
Busyro said that the KPK needs to be very careful in building a case against Anas, or it would lose the case in court.
In the first place, the commissioners appear to be split over whether to press ahead with the charges or not, and, in the second, on whether Anas actually received the car at all, and if so, was he still a member of the House of Representatives at the time?
Last week, KPK commissioner Adnan Pandu Praja argued that even if the car was a gratuity, the value of the car was below the KPK’s minimum threshold of Rp. 1 billion.
“We need more serious charges against Anas. We need to dig deeper,” he said last week.
A brand new Toyota Harrier starts at Rp 735 million.
KPK spokesperson Johan Budi said that a public official like Anas can still be charged with corruption regardless of the value of the gratuity received.
Criminal law expert Yesmil Anwar of Padjajaran University in Bandung, believes that the KPK should not be concerned with the value of the gratuity.
“The KPK could use the Harrier as a stepping stone before charging Anas with other heavier charges,” he told The Jakarta Post.
“If the KPK is too cautious, then it may hamper the investigation.”
Yesmil’s opinion is that the amount of the gratuity is irrelevant, since Anas is implicated in a case involving other high-profile suspects, including Andi Mallarangeng, former youth and sports minister who resigned from his post soon after being named a suspect in the case.