Category: Corruption

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.

Indonesia’s anti-drug chief wants ghosts as prison guards

Frustrated by rampant drug trade in prisons, Indonesia’s anti-drugs chief has suggested that jails be guarded by ghosts because they cannot be bribed, reports said Wednesday.  Continue reading “Indonesia’s anti-drug chief wants ghosts as prison guards”

Jokowi appoints controversial police general as new spy chief

Police General Budi Gunawan,  who was embroiled in allegations of corruption two years ago, has been appointed by President Joko Widodo as the country’s new National Intelligence Agency (BIN) chief, raising concerns among reform organizations over the integrity of the nomination process.

Jokowi withdrew the appointment of Budi as National Police chief  in 2015 following widespread public opposition after the officer was named a corruption suspect by the Corruption Investigation Commission.

He later was appointed National Police deputy chief after he won a court case challenging his  suspect status.

Budi was also promoted to the rank of four-star general by presidential decree, creating another public fuss as traditionally there only the National Police Chief is entitled to the full general rank. Tito Karnavian, the head of the national police, took the promotion lightly, claiming that despite the fact that there are now two active police generals, he and Budi worked for different institutions.

The appointment and promotion are widely perceived as politically driven, as the controversial general served as longtime adjutant to Megawati, who is also Jokowi’s political patron. A former Indonesian president, she has chaired the PDI-P for 20 years.

“The promotion was probably granted as compensation because he failed to become National Police chief. If so, then it is more politically driven than a professional assessment” Bambang Widodo Umar, an expert in the police from University of Indonesia, was quoted as saying by local media, kompas.com.

The KPK suspected that Budi had accepted bribe money from a businesswoman when he was chief of the police’s Career Development Bureau from 2004 to 2006.

Responding the KPK’s move, the National Police named the commission’s leaders suspects in separate old cases in what many believed to be an attempt to intimidate the agency.

The police even arrested KPK deputy chief Bambang Widjojanto for alleged perjury when he was a defense lawyer. Bambang’s arrest outraged the public, including national figures who openly supported Joko Widodo during his presidential campaign.

The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) has questioned Budi’s nomination as spy chief, saying Budi’s integrity is questionable as he was once a graft suspect.

The rights group further criticized Jokowi for the nomination, saying he had again decided to name a public official without considering their track record.

In the recent cabinet reshuffle, Jokowi appointed Wiranto, who has a questionable human rights track record, as coordinating political, legal, and security affairs minister, as well as giving the energy and mineral resources minister post to Arcandra Tahar, who shortly after his appointment was dismissed for allegedly holding dual citizenship.

Before being inaugurated, however, Budi passed a screening process by the House of Representatives Commission I overseeing security and foreign affairs. All 10 political party factions approved his sole candidacy for the position as National Intelligence Agency (BIN) chief in a hearing on Sept. 7.

 

Spotlight on Indonesia’s law enforcement institutions after execution

Indonesia executed four convicted drug traffickers on July 29, the third group execution since President Joko Widodo took office in October 2014. A firing squad killed them amid pouring rain shortly after midnight on the Nusa Kambangan penal island in Central Java.

The executed inmates were identified as Freddy Budiman from Indonesia and Seck Osmane, Michael Titus and Humphrey Jefferson Ejike – all from Nigeria.

While the public was surprised after being told that only four were executed despite the planned 14, it was a confession by Budiman in an article that circulated just before the execution that shocked the country.

The article written by Haris Azhar, coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS), used Freddy Budiman’s drug smuggling case to show just how flawed the Indonesian legal system is, where impunity reigns.

The confession disclosed in full detail how top officials from the National Police, the National Narcotics Agency (BNN) and the Indonesian military (TNI) were deeply involved in Budiman’s illegal activities for years. Haris said he had sent the article to presidential spokesman Johan Budi on July 27, to try to get the president to issue a stay of execution. Since there was no response, Haris decided to publish the article less than 24 hours before the execution took place.

In the article, Haris said he had received an invitation from a church organization that is active in providing spiritual assistance to inmates in the Nusa Kambangan prison complex. He then had a chance to meet with a number of death-row inmates who were convicted of terrorism and those who were believed to be victims of miscarriages of justice. He chatted with Budiman for two hours, describing in detail the assistance he had received from powerful people.

The testimony reported by Haris went viral on social media, shortly before the drug kingpin was put to death by the firing squad, saying he had over the years given around Rp450 billion (US$34.42 million) to the narcotics agency and Rp90 billion to top officials at the National Police.

Once, Budiman told Haris, he had delivered drugs from Medan, North Sumatra, using a car belonging to a two-star TNI general. The general even accompanied him in the car during the journey, he claimed.

Freddy Budiman was arrested on April 28, 2011, by the Jakarta Police’s narcotics division for smuggling 1.4 million ecstasy pills from China. He was sentenced to death by the West Jakarta District Court in 2012.

From November 2012 to July 2013, Budiman was confined at the Cipinang Narcotics Prison in East Jakarta. Although he was sentenced to death, he shocked the Indonesian public as he was still able to carry on his drug dealing activities from within his prison cell. He was then transferred to Batu Prison on Nusakambangan island in July 2013.

He dodged execution at least twice as his lawyer team had kept postponing a plan to file for a case review. 

As expected, instead of cleaning up their own acts, the National Police and the narcotics agency filed a report against Haris with the police’s Criminal Investigation Department, accusing him of violating defamation provisions in the 2008 Electronic Information and Transactions Law.

“We will check the truth of the statement. If it was correct, we will take further action,” TNI chief Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo said on Aug. 6 as quoted by kompas.com, commenting on the part of the story of the delivery of the drugs in the two-star general’s car.

Legal experts have since called for the government to provide protection for Haris, while The Witness and Victim Protection Agency (LPSK) said law enforcers needed to cooperate with those who had information and make them justice collaborators, not criminalize them.

More than 100 people are currently on death row in Indonesia primarily for drug-related crimes, according to the Justice Ministry. Last year, the country executed 14 death row convicts. Jokowi, as the president is known, has taken a tough stance against drug trafficking since his election in 2014, saying the country is facing a drug emergency.

In a new development, president Jokowi told an independent team to check the validity of Freddy’s confession saying “All who can help verify the claims should help the team although they need to be very careful since it’s an old story”.

The Indonesian police decided to suspend the defamation case against Haris Azhar while independent team is working to verify the story.

Coal downturn leaves behind deaths, environmental ruin

For nearly two years Rahmawati has been seeking justice for her 10-year-old son, Muhammad Raihan, who drowned in a water-filled coal mine pit in Indonesia’s East Kalimantan province. Continue reading “Coal downturn leaves behind deaths, environmental ruin”

Freddy Budiman’s tale of law enforcement corruption

By Haris Azhar*

As Indonesia was preparing the third set of executions under President Joko Widodo, I recalled a 2014 encounter with Freddy Budiman on Nusa Kambangan, which led me to believe that the executions have not been carried out to uphold justice but merely to boost popularity.

Freddy’s drug smuggling case showed just how flawed the legal system is, for reasons which I describe as follows.

During the 2014 presidential election campaign, I received an invitation from a church organization that is active in providing spiritual assistance to inmates in the Nusa Kambangan prison complex.

I had a chance to meet with a number of death-row inmates who were convicted of terrorism and those who were believed to be victims of miscarriages of justice.

I met among others, John Refra, also known as John Kei, and drug convicts on death row Freddy Budiman and Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte, who was executed in April 2015.

I thank Mr. Sitinjak, the prison chief warden at that time, for giving me an opportunity to talk to him and exchange ideas about his work. I think Mr. Sitinjak was very strict and disciplined in managing the prison.

Almost every day, Mr. Sitinjak ordered his staffers to confiscate cellular phones and weapons that were in the inmates’ possession. I witnessed prison guards seizing many cell phones and sharp weapons.

But instead of being appreciated for his hard work to build the integrity of the prison, including installing two security cameras to monitor Freddy around the clock, Mr. Sitinjak admitted to me that officials from the National Narcotics Agency (BNN), who often visited the prison, had asked him to remove the cameras.

I thought this was odd and I asked him why BNN would object to the cameras. Didn’t Freddy’s status as a drug lord require close monitoring? I then had my question answered by Freddy himself who told me his story.

According to the church member who took me to the prison, Freddy was eager to meet and talk directly with me. I, accompanied by two servants of the church and John Kei, chatted with Freddy for two hours.

This is what he told me.

“Mr. Haris, I’m not a person who is afraid to die. I am ready to be executed because of my crime, I know the risk of the crime I have committed. But I am also disappointed with the officials and law enforcers.”

“I am not a dealer. I am the operator of a large-scale drug smuggling network. I have a boss who is not from Indonesia. He is in China. When I want to smuggle drugs, I would arrange it, I called the police, BNN, Customs officials and those people who I called, would chip in and named their prices. Can you guess the actual price of the drugs I sell in Jakarta for around Rp200.000 – 300.000 in the market?” Freddy asked me.

I answered Rp50.000. Freddy immediately replied:

“Wrong. It costs only Rp5.000 straight out of the factory in China, so I was never afraid if some people quoted their prices to me. When I phoned a particular person, that person would chip in  Rp10.000 per pill, another would offer Rp30.000 and I never refused. Do you know why Mr. Haris?”

“Because I could sell Rp200.000 per item, so if you simply give from the proceeds around Rp10.000 – 30.000 to each of people of certain institutions, it was no big deal. I only need Rp10 billion and the goods will arrive. From the sale profits, I could share tens of billions with some officials in certain institutions.”

Freddy said police often sold confiscated drugs themselves. “When I smuggled the stuff, I was arrested. My goods were confiscated. But from my informants, the confiscated goods were sold.

“So my boss (in China) asked: ‘You said that you already greased the palms of the police, how come you got arrested? And if you are captured, why are the goods available in the circulation. Who is playing the game? You or the police?’”

Freddy went on: “I know because every drug plant has its own characteristics such as a unique shape, color and taste. So if my goods are being sold, I know. And my networks discovered that.”

Freddy continued again. “And why have I been singled out? Where are those people? I calculated that over several years of smuggling drugs, I had given Rp450 billion to BNN and Rp90 billion to certain officials at the national police headquarters. I even drove the official car of a two-star army general, with the general sitting next to me from Medan to Jakarta with the car fully loaded with drugs. My trip was smooth and safe without any trouble.”

“I am concerned with such officials. When I was arrested, I was asked to confess and tell all about where and who the dealer was. I said, my investor was the son of a high-ranking official in Korea (Not sure if Freddy meant North or South Korea – Haris). I was ready to show where the factory was, and I went there with BNN officers (not sure if it was one or more officials – Haris). We went to China and we got to the front of the factory. Then I asked the BNN people: Now what?”

“In the end, they didn’t know [what to do], so we returned. I have always been cooperative with law enforcement officials. If [they] want to uncover, just do it. But they misused my being cooperative.”

“When they said I escaped, actually I did not escape. When I was in custody, I was approached by the police who offered me to escape. But I did not want to run away because I still could control my business from inside the prison. But I knew the police needed money, so I accepted the offer. But I told him I had no money. Then the police looked for about Rp1 billion loan out of the agreed price of Rp2 billion. Then I escaped. When I was already on the run, I paid the other one billion. But a few days later I was arrested again. I understand that I was arrested again because from the beginning I knew he was just going to blackmail me.”

Freddy also expressed that he was sorry for the ordinary people such as the drivers of trucks in which the drugs were loaded and could not accept the fact that they were the ones who are punished, instead of the high-profile actors who enjoyed protection.

I then asked Freddy where I could get [more of] this story? Why not just publicise this story? Freddy replied:

“I had already told my lawyer, if I want to publicise this, to whom? That is why it is important to you, Mr. Haris. So you can tell the story to the wider public, that I am ready to be executed, but I am concerned with the current state of law enforcement. Why don’t you read my plea, Mr. Haris, the story I am telling you now is all in the plea.”

So I looked for Freddy’s written plea. I could not find it on the Supreme Court website. I could only find the verdict on the website. The verdict however does not provide any information of what Freddy had told me about allegations of state, law enforcement officials involvement in the case.

We at KontraS then tried to look for Freddy’s lawyer’s contact, but interestingly, despite the abundance and wealth of information on the internet, we could not find any information that mentioned who Freddy’s lawyer was and his whereabouts. Eventually we failed to meet the lawyer through whom we hope to dig this information deeper, whether such information was included in Freddy’s dossier and ask further information about the progress of the case.

Note: Haris’ testimony made rounds on social media and messaging apps just before midnight on July 28, 2016. Freddy was executed shortly after midnight on July 29, 2016 along with Seck Osmane from Senegal and Michael Titus and Humphrey Jefferson Ejike from Nigeria.

Haris Azhar is the coordinator of The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras)