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Jakarta Post

WhatsApp thread 'implicates' KPU chair in Saeful Bahri bribery trial

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, April 22, 2020   /   11:52 am
WhatsApp thread 'implicates' KPU chair in Saeful Bahri bribery trial General Elections Commission (KPU) chairman Arief Budiman (left) attends a press conference in Jakarta on Jan. 30, alongside Lili Pintauli Siregar (center) of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and a KPK officer displaying some of the money confiscated during the Jan. 8 arrest of KPU commissioner Wahyu Setiawan for alleged bribery. (JP/Seto Wardhana)

General Elections Commission (KPU) chairman Arief Budiman has been dragged into a bribery case pertaining to the replacement of a deceased lawmaker that has already embroiled KPU commissioner Wahyu Setiawan as a suspect.

Arief's alleged involvement emerged at a hearing on April 16, when prosecutors of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) revealed evidence in the ongoing graft trial against Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician Saeful Bahri.

However, Arief immediately dismissed the allegation, saying that he did not attend the meeting in question, but another meeting with the KPU.

“I went home directly after the meeting and didn’t go anywhere else,” Arief said as quoted by tempo.co on Monday.

Arief’s name was dragged into the case during the hearing last Thursday in the trial of Saeful Bahri, who has been indicted for bribing Wahyu. 

Read also: KPK indicts PDI-P member in bribery case while key suspect remains at large

At Thursday's hearing, KPK prosecutors presented as evidence a WhatsApp thread dated Jan. 8 between Saeful and PDI-P secretary-general Hasto Kristiyanto. KPK prosecutor Takdir Suhan said that in the thread, Saeful told Hasto that someone named "Arief" was also present at his meeting with Wahyu.

The KPU arrested Saeful and Wahyu as suspects in the case on Jan. 8,  the date of the meeting as well as the WhatsApp thread.

“'Last night, we met with Wahyu. There’s Mas [Mr.] Arief too',” Takdir read out the thread in court. “'Wahyu is still lobbying [for the replacement]. The letter has been issued but the process is still ongoing.'”

The prosecution alleged that "Arief" referred to the KPU chairman. It continued that in the WhatsApp thread on Jan. 8, Saeful also told Hasto that he was on his way to the PDI-P central executive board in Central Jakarta to explain his messages to the secretary-general in person.

Read also: Bribery scandal litmus test for antigraft body

Hasto, who testified as a witness during Thursday’s hearing, initially denied that he had exchanged the messages with Saeful. However, he changed his statement after Takdir read out the investigation report.

“I didn’t pay any attention [to the messages] due to the defendant's arrest. I also do not understand what the messages mean,” Hasto told the courtroom.

The KPK indicted Saeful despite the absence of key witness Harun, who remains at large. The antigraft body has not made any significant progress in locating him.

Saeful, who once worked under Hasto, is alleged to have coordinated with fellow PDI-P politician Harun Masiku to bribe Wahyu and former Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) member Agustiani Tio Fridelina. The bribe was intended to secure Wahyu's approval for Harun to fill the House of Representatives seat that was left vacant upon legislator Nazaruddin Kiemas's unexpected passing.

The indictment accuses Saeful of acting as an intermediary for Harun in giving Wahyu and Agustiani a combined sum of S$57,350, or Rp 600 million (US$38,265). (mfp)