The murky past of Ahmad Fathanah
Hans Nicholas Jong
The Jakarta Post
Some members of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) believe Ahmad Fathanah is a secret agent whose mission is to ruin the party's image ahead of the 2014 elections.
Since his arrest by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in January, Ahmad has made headlines for many of his alleged improprieties, including his apparent predilection for buying fancy gifts for a number of women, including adult magazine model Vitalia Shesya.
Sadly for the PKS, Ahmad is a close friend of its former leader, Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq, who is accused of collaborating with Ahmad to help a beef import company acquire a higher import quota from the Agriculture Ministry. The company, PT Indoguna Utama, allegedly promised to pay Luthfi Rp 40 billion (US$4.12 million) for his aid. The party has since been associated with all the scandals surrounding Ahmad.
PKS spokesman Mardani Ali Sera said the party was outraged by Ahmad, whom he described as 'criminal' and 'a broker'. Ahmad is neither a member nor an official of the party and whatever he did has nothing to do with the PKS, he said.
However, the KPK said Ahmad is no stranger to PKS leaders, including the party's consultative council chairman Hilmi Aminuddin, who is now facing questioning by the KPK over the beef graft scandal.
Who is Ahmad? If he is not a PKS member, how did he get access to the party's top leadership?
Ahmad's real name is believed to be Olong Achmad Fadeli Luran. He is the eighth child of Fadeli Luran, a respected figure in Makassar, South Sulawesi, who established a renowned Islamic organization as well as an Islamic boarding school called IMMIM in the city, according to his brother, Zulkifli.
Zulkifli said Fathanah left Makassar for Jakarta 15 years ago to set up businesses, but he claimed to have known next to nothing about what his brother did for a living.
According to media reports, Fathanah and Luthfi established a trading company named PT Atlas Jaringan Satu in July 2004.
The two have long been friends. According to Luthfi's lawyer, Zainuddin Paru, Luthfi knew Fathanah when they studied together in King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in the 1980s.
Both Luthfi and Ahmad have faced legal problems before. In 2005, PT Atlas Jaringan Satu was reported by PT Osami Multimedia to the police for not fulfilling its contract of providing Rp 7.1 billion worth of cellphone vouchers to
Farhat Abbas, the lawyer who reported the case with PT Osami, said that Fathanah was sentenced in 2005 for his role in the case. 'Fathanah was sentenced to three years' imprisonment, but he was released in 2007 as he was granted parole,' Farhat told The Jakarta Post.
Senior PKS politician and Communication and Informatics Minister Tifatul Sembiring said that Ahmad was jailed again in 2008 for people smuggling.
Australian media reported that Ahmad, identified only as Olong Ahmad, was sentenced to five years in prison in Australia in 2008 for attempting to smuggle 353 Iraqi, Kuwaiti, Afghan, Algerian, Palestinian and Iranian asylum-seekers to Ashmore Reef, Australia in 1999.
Ahmad was arrested in Bangkok, Thailand, during a holiday with his family in 2007 and spent six months in a Thai prison before he was extradited to Darwin, Australia in early 2008. Antara news agency, however, reported that Ahmad was released from jail early in 2010.
Upon his return to Indonesia, Ahmad became rich almost instantly. The Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (PPATK) said that there was a total of Rp 23 billion coming into Fathanah's bank account from 2009 to 2013.
PPATK deputy chairman Agus Santoso said on Saturday that his agency had reported Ahmad to the KPK before the latter apprehended him. The PPATK, he said, had information about whom Ahmad channeled his allegedly ill-gotten money to.
Ahmad allegedly gave his money to some female friends, including the 43-year-old swimsuit model and film actress Khadijah 'Ayu' Azhari and Vitalia. When he was picked up by the KPK, Ahmad was found naked with a female student, whom he allegedly paid Rp 10 million.
Fathanah's habit of getting too cozy with women besides his wife, Sefti Sanustika, was revealed by his driver, Sahrudin.
According to Sahrudin, Fathanah often met with young women without Sefti's knowledge.
'He often lied (to Sefti). If he met with women, he would ask me to say to Sefti that he was at the PKS' headquarters,' he said.
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