The Jakarta Post
The Bandung Corruption Court in West Java on Wednesday sentenced suspended Riau governor Annas Maamun to six years in prison and fined him Rp 200 million (US$15,300) after finding him guilty of accepting bribes.
'An aggravating factor is that the defendant is a regional leader who should have served as a good example for the community,' said presiding judge Barita Lumban Gaol as he read the verdict.
The panel of judges found Annas guilty of two charges, violating Law No. 31/1999, amended to Law No. 20/2001 on corruption eradication.
In the first charge, Annas was found guilty of receiving bribes, as a state official, of Rp 500 million and S$156 million from businessman Gulat Medali Emas Manurung.
The money was entrusted to Gulat, who was also chairman of the Indonesian Oil Palm Farmers Association's (Apkasindo) Riau chapter, by Edison Marudut Siahaan to convince Annas, as Riau governor, to include a 1,188-hectare oil palm plantation in Kuantan Sengingi regency, a 1,124-hectare plantation in Rokan Hilir regency and a 120-hectare plantation in Duri, Bengkalis regency, in a revision letter to change their status to non-forest zones.
'The areas were previously not included in a conversion proposal,' said judge Basari Budi.
However, the panel ruled that prosecutors had failed to prove the third charge, which was related to an alleged bribe of Rp 3 billion paid by Surya Darmadi aimed at expediting Surya's request to Annas to include the land owned by PT Darmex Agro in Indragiri Hulu regency in the forest conversion revision letter.
'The judges did not take into account witness testimony that a proposal had been made to include Surya's land in the revision letter. Gulat also verified the matter. As proof, the judges failed to heed a meeting taking place in a hotel and bugging,' said prosecutor Irene Putri from the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).
KPK officers arrested Annas, Gulat and seven others, including the governor's wife, driver and adjutant, at Annas' house in the Citra Gran housing complex in Cibubur, West Java, on Sept. 25 last year.
For his part, Annas said he would file for an appeal against the verdict. His lawyer, Sira Prayuna, said the judges had handed down the sentence requested by the prosecutors.
'This is not legally logical. The sentence should be less than six years,' said Sira.
Meanwhile, Irene said she was still considering whether to file an appeal for a heavier sentence. 'We must initially report to our superiors regarding the court ruling,' she added.
Irene also expressed hope that the sentence against Annas could pave the way for investigators to pursue Edison and Surya for their alleged payment of bribes to Annas. Both are palm oil businessmen.
'There is a possibility that other suspects may be implicated,' said Irene.
On Feb. 23 this year, the Jakarta Corruption Court sentenced Gulat to three years in prison for bribing Annas. The court also slapped Gulat with a Rp 100 million fine, or a further three months behind bars.
In their indictment of Gulat, KPK investigators said that during a visit to Riau in August, former forestry minister Zulkifli Hasan, in a speech at the administration office, encouraged Riau businesses to make proposals to change the status of their land to be included in the 1,638,249 ha allowed for conversion by the ministry.
Following the urging from Zulkifli, who currently serves as People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) speaker, the Riau administration conducted studies on which specific areas were eligible for conversion, prosecutors said.