Indonesia’s House speaker evades arrest in graft case

The speaker of Indonesia’s parliament has evaded an attempt by the country’s anti-corruption commission to arrest him as a suspect in a huge graft case, the commission said.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has accused House of Representatives speaker Setya Novanto of corruption in a 440-million-dollar project to make electronic ID cards during the previous government.

Investigators came to Novanto’s house late Wednesday with an arrest warrant but he was nowhere to be found, said KPK spokesman Febri Diansyah.

“We’re still looking for him, but we don’t know where he is,” Diansyah said.

Novanto’s lawyer, Fredrich Yunadi, said his wife did not know where he was.

“The family is very worried but there’s nothing we can do,” he said.

Losses to the state as a result of corruption in the project are estimated at 2.3 trillion rupiah (172 million dollars), according to the commission.

Novanto is also the chairman of the Golkar Party, a member of the ruling coalition, and an ally of President Joko Widodo.

KPK first named Novanto a suspect in the case in August but a court ruled there was insufficient initial evidence to justify the step in a pre-trial decision.

Last week, the commission again formally named him a suspect.

A wealthy businessman himself, Novanto met US President Donald Trump in September 2015, while the latter was campaigning for the presidency, to discuss investment in Indonesia.

After Trump came to power, President Joko tasked Novanto with establishing a rapport with the new US administration.

Novanto has denied any wrongdoing.

Two officials at the Home Affairs Ministry have been sentenced to seven and five years in prison in the case, while a businessman is also on trial.

More than 30 members of parliament from the 2004-09 period, plus a former Home Affairs minister, have been implicated in the case.

In April, a top investigator for the anti-corruption commission investigating the case, Novel Baswedan, had acid thrown in his face by two attackers.

He is still being treated in a Singapore hospital. Nobody has yet been arrested for the crime.

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