Corruption News highlight: Graft fugitive’s allegations rock Indonesia’s ruling party

Christina zur Nedden looks at a highlight of Transparency International’s Daily Corruption News, a daily selection of leading corruption-related news.

Former treasurer Muhammad Nazaruddin has tainted the reputation of Indonesia’s Democratic Party by accusing its members of rampant corruption. The country’s most-hunted graft fugitive made his allegations during his own escape from corruption charges and on his return to Indonesia after ten weeks on the run.

At the end of May, Nazaruddin was “accused of accepting bribes worth almost $3m” in connection with the construction of an athlete’s village in the city of Palembang for the South East Asian games, to be hosted by Indonesia this year, writes the BBC. A day before Indonesia’s anti-corruption agency was to issue a travel ban for him, the ex-treasurer fled to Singapore for a “medical check-up”.

Nazaruddin went on to Vietnam, Cambodia, Dominica via Madrid before entering Colombia to evade an “international manhunt while lobbing allegations of corruption against senior Democrat politicians and other officials” the New York Times reports.

The article details how while on the run “he riveted Indonesians from abroad with accusations — delivered in interviews via the telephone and Skype — of corruption involving senior Democrats, including the party chairman, Anas Urbaningrum, and a minister, Andi Mallarangeng, as well as officials of the independent Corruption Eradication Commission, or K.P.K”.

The Wall Street Journal notes that “Mr. Nazaruddin apparently wants the public to believe that he is the fall guy for more powerful figures who will go free. Having betrayed his friends, he may hope to receive help from the opposition if he maximizes the damage to the ruling party”.

The bribery suspect was arrested in Colombia and returned to Indonesia in early August for questioning by the KPK. The anti-graft agency said it was “investigating alleged corruption in 34 other government projects, with a combined worth of more than Rp 6 trillion (US$702 million), implicating Nazaruddin-affiliated companies”, the Jakarta Post writes.

Most recently, Nazaruddin ironically accused the chairman of the agency investigating him, Chandra Hamzah, of accepting bribes worth US$500,000 as part of a deal to stop graft investigations, the Jakarta Post reports. The bribe was allegedly handed over at Nazaruddin’s house in the presence of Democratic Party politician Benny Kabur Harman. Nazaruddin said he viewed a CCTV recording which showed that Chandra “left [his] house with a package covered by a black plastic bag”. The recording went missing while the ex-treasurer was on the run and is currently being searched for.

Regardless of who speaks the truth, according to the New York Times, “the case has proved to be a severe headache for Mr. Yudhoyono, who has positioned himself as a corruption fighter but has seen his public support steadily erode amid perceptions that he is underperforming in that role. The Democrat Party, which was founded as Mr. Yudhoyono’s political vehicle, has seen its image similarly damaged”.


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