Former PKS leader grilled over Bunda Putri identity
Hans Nicholas Jong
The Jakarta Post
Former Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) leader and graft suspect Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq has refused to divulge the identity of Bunda Putri, a mysterious woman linked to the beef import graft case, only saying that she is an influential figure among the country's political elites.
Luthfi took the stand in the trial of his aide, Ahmad Fathanah, and testified that the woman whom he identified as Bunda Putri was no stranger to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. 'Bunda Putri is very close to SBY and she knows about the [Cabinet] reshuffle,' he told the panel of judges at the Jakarta Corruption Court in Kuningan, South Jakarta.
Bunda Putri is reportedly an alias for Non Saputri, the wife of the ministry's horticulture director general, Hasanuddin Ibrahim. She reportedly has close ties to high-ranking officials and the clout to pull strings in the government.
When asked whether Bunda Putri is Non Saputri, Luthfi told the judges that he did not know.
According to Luthfi, he was introduced to Bunda Putri by PKS religious council leader Hilmi Aminuddin because she was believed to have information on the looming cabinet reshuffle, in which it was rumored that one of the three PKS ministries would be ousted from the cabinet.
Therefore, he paid a visit to Bunda Putri's house in Pondok Indah in South Jakarta one day after Fathanah was arrested by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) to confirm the matter, he added.
'I was worried that there might be a reshuffle due to the news circulating in the media. I needed her to confirm whether there would be a reshuffle,' Luthfi said, adding that he was not talking about the arrest of Fathanah with Non.
Luthfi said that he trusted Bunda Putri because Hilmi told him that she was the one who always acted as a liaison for several boards of advisors of different political parties in the country.
When asked whether Bunda Putri's husband was a state official, he said that he did not know. 'From what I've heard, she is single now because she is divorced or her husband has died. And [the husband] is a foreigner. From what I know, he runs a business abroad.'
According to Bernaldi Djemat, who was married to Non's daughter Peni Farnita Saputri in 2006, Non's first husband was a French national. Her first husband, however, had passed away in 2000, he added.
After that, Non married once again, this time to a former official at the National Land Agency (BPN) from 2003 until 2009. According to Luthfi, Non's father is one of the founders of the Golkar Party.
Following the testimony, presiding judge Nawawi Pomolango lambasted Luthfi for seemingly trying to attack the President by connecting Bunda Putri to him. 'When you were asked [if Bunda Putri was] close to SBY, you answered quickly. But when you were asked about who she was, you said you did not know,' he said.
Bunda Putri's name was first mentioned in the testimony of Hilmi's son, Ridwan Hakim, an alleged broker in the beef scandal, during a hearing session last month.
During the hearing, KPK prosecutors played a wiretapped phone conversation between Ridwan, Luthfi and a woman identified as Bunda Putri. In the conversation, Luthfi told Ridwan that 'Bunda influences decision makers.'
Ridwan declined to reveal the true identity of Bunda Putri, only saying that she was his business mentor.
Besides shedding further light on Bunda Putri, Thursday's hearing also revealed that Luthfi had a role in the appointment of an official at the North Sumatra administration.
Luhfi said that he had ordered his personal assistant Ahmad Zaky and Fathanah to go to North Sumatra to promote a local official named Hasan Tamam.
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