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Jakarta Post

Home minister denies Bekasi regent allegation in Meikarta graft case

  • Kharishar Kahfi and Marguerite Afra Sapiie

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, January 15, 2019   /   05:31 pm
Home minister denies Bekasi regent allegation in Meikarta graft case Illustration of a construction site. (Shutterstock/File)

Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo has dismissed a recent accusation made by suspended Bekasi regent and graft suspect Neneng Hasanah Yasin over his involvement in an alleged corruption case surrounding the Meikarta mega-development project in the regency.

“Every time there is a problem regarding permit issuance, particularly because of overlapping authority among regional administrations, the Home Ministry has a role in finding [solutions to the problems] as long as it is in line with existing regulations,” Tjahjo said in a press statement on Monday afternoon.

Neneng testified as a witness against defendants Lippo Group operational director Billy Sindoro and three Lippo Group consultants at the Bandung Corruption Court in West Java on Monday -- during which Neneng said Tjahjo had told her to facilitate the issuance of the necessary permits for the Meikarta project.

According to Neneng, the ministry’s director general for regional autonomy, Sumarsono, had summoned her to his office to talk about a West Java bylaw on infrastructure development around Bekasi.

Upon arriving at Sumarsono’s office, Neneng found the director general talking to the minister over the phone. Sumarsono later gave her the phone and Tjahjo asked her to facilitate the permit issuance for Meikarta, Neneng told the court in an apparently incriminating statement against Tjahjo.

Neneng told the court she had agreed to fulfill the request, as long as she followed procedures.

Febri Diansyah, the spokesman of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) that is investigating the Meikarta case, said the KPK would study Neneng’s testimony, along with other information obtained during the investigation.

The KPK has accused Neneng of accepting Rp 7 billion (US$495,530) from Billy to facilitate the issuance of permits necessary for the Meikarta project. Billy allegedly promised Rp 13 billion as a “commitment fee” to the regent -- who was arrested and named a suspect last October.

On Monday, Neneng also testified that Sumarsono would facilitate a meeting between the West Java provincial administration, Bekasi regency and Meikarta project developer PT Mahkota Sentosa Utama.

Last week, KPK investigators grilled Sumarsono for further information on the meeting.

Sumarsono claimed the meeting was intended to find a solution to the conflicting authority between the West Java and Bekasi administration regarding the permit issuance.

“After the meeting, we sent a letter to the then-governor to solve the problem immediately,” Sumarsono told the media after the KPK questioning. He, however, said he did not know how the provincial administration had followed up on the meeting.

Last week, graft-busters had summoned the then-West Java governor Ahmad Heryawan to question him on his role as governor in relation to the project.

Ahmad admitted he had issued a recommendation that would facilitate the issuance of Meikarta permits, but maintained that he was innocent as he knew nothing about the bribes.

Febri said Neneng had returned Rp 11 billion that she had accepted from Billy, warning others, including Bekasi councillors, to follow in Neneng’s step.

“We will appreciate a cooperative attitude because graft-busters have the names of people who allegedly accepted a bribe in the form of a trip to Thailand,” Febri said.

The Meikarta modern city project in Cikarang, Bekasi, West Java, is the flagship project of the Lippo Group. (ipa)