Banten governor questioned over Akil bribery scandal
Hans Nicholas Jong
The Jakarta Post
Banten Governor Atut Chosiyah was grilled by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) for eight hours on Friday as a witness in a bribery case implicating her younger brother, Tubagus Chaeri Wardana.
As soon as she arrived at the KPK's headquarters in Kuningan, South Jakarta, and emerged from a black Pajero car, she was greeted by a swarm of reporters and protesters.
'Corrupter! Corrupter!' the protesters, who comprised a coalition of Banten residents, shouted at Atut, who donned a black hijab, a purple batik shirt and shiny black boots.
Bombarded with questions about her family's alleged corruption in Banten, Atut said nothing other than the Muslim greeting, assalamualaikum, before entering the building.
The Banten governor has been making headlines during the last few weeks following the arrest of her brother, Tubagus, for allegedly bribing former Constitutional Court chief justice Akil Mochtar.
Tubagus has been accused of paying Rp 1 billion (US$87,000) in bribes to Akil to rule in favor of Lebak Deputy Regent Amir Hamzah, who had challenged the result of the Lebak election at the court.
The case brought to light other graft allegations implicating Atut's family members, who control many top political posts in Banten, which separated from West Java in 2000.
The results of an investigation by Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), released on Friday, showed that companies allegedly owned and indirectly controlled by Atut's family had won 175 goods and service procurement projects worth
Rp 1.148 trillion, from the Banten provincial administration and the Public Works Ministry between 2008 and 2013.
The KPK has slapped a travel ban on Atut, who is alleged to have instructed her brother to bribe Akil.
Atut's family has denied the allegation, saying that the Banten governor had nothing to do with her brother's case.
Tubagus' lawyer, Adnan Buyung Nasution, said his client might have received instructions from someone else to pay the bribe. 'The question remains as to where the idea [to bribe Akil] came from,' he said. 'We can't answer that yet.'
Adnan, a respected senior advocate, added that he did not yet know whether Atut had told her brother to pay Akil.
Tubagus, whom Adnan said was the backbone of Atut's family, was also questioned by KPK investigators on Friday. As he exited KPK headquarters, the protestors shouted 'Thief! Thief!'
The KPK searched two of Tubagus' offices in Jakarta and Serang this week, during which the antigraft body's investigators reportedly found 200 land certificates for sites in Melbourne, Jakarta and Banten. The certificates are allegedly related to projects managed by Tubagus.
When asked why he was representing Tubagus, Adnan said he felt he owed it to Tubagus' wife, Airin Rachmi Diany, who is the mayor of South Tangerang.
'She helped me with [a land problem relating to] my house. We have a good relationship. Now she's in trouble, so of course I feel morally obliged. Not to mention that she asked [me to handle the case],' he said.
Atut has led Banten for nearly a decade and built what is considered one of the strongest political dynasties in the entire country.
Her power grew after the introduction of direct local elections in 2004 and, once she became governor, led a Banten administration that was riddled with corruption, according to Kahfi Nusantara, spokesman of political watchdog, the Untirta Movement Community (UMS).
Kahfi accused her of embezzling funds from the provincial budgets between 2007 and 2010 to finance her gubernatorial campaign.
She was also reported to the KPK in 2011 for allegedly embezzling social-aid funds from the 2011 regional budget.
It has been alleged that Rp 28.9 billion in social-aid funding was awarded to 10 institutions, all of which were run by members of Atut's family.
Different family members control five of Banten's eight regencies and municipalities, with many rising to power amid controversy. (hrl)
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