Setya scandal / Indonesia’s former House speaker hauled to court over $7m kickbacks

By: Madeleine Keck - Posted on: December 15, 2017 | Current Affairs

Setya Novanto faces charges of allegedly rigging the procurement of his country’s electronic identity system, causing the government huge losses

Former Indonesian House of Representatives speaker Setya Novanto was charged on Wednesday for allegedly receiving at least $7.3m in kickbacks in the procurement of his country’s electronic identity system.

Novanto was brought to trial by Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) over suspicions that he had played a role in rigging the procurement of the national identity system, a scandal that is estimated to have cost the government close to $170m. 

The lawyer defending Novanto – who recently stepped aside as chairman of the Golkar Party, one of Indonesia’s major political parties – said he will continue to argue for his client’s innocence during next week’s hearing, reported the Wall Street Journal.

The former speaker will be given a chance to respond to the indictment at the hearing. “That’s what we are trying to prove here,” said Maqdir Ismail, the lawyer for Novanto, according to the Journal.

‘Diarrhoea for days’

The Straits Times reported that Wednesday’s proceedings at the Central Jakarta district court initially stalled after Novanto’s lawyers argued he needed more medical attention and was unfit to attend trial.

“I’ve had diarrhoea for five days. I asked the doctor for medicine but I was not given drugs,” Novanto told the court, according to The Straits Times.

This is not the first time that the former Golkar leader has used ill health as an excuse to delay legal proceedings against him.

Last month, after being involved in a car accident while on the run from the authorities, the Australian reported that Novanto and his lawyers were able to resist initial arrest by saying he required additional medical attention.

KPK prosecutor Irene Putri dismissed Novanto’s claims, saying doctors had examined him just hours earlier and said they were “sure the defendant was healthy and could follow the court proceedings”.

“This is part of the defendant’s lies,” Putri told the court on Wednesday morning, according to the Straits Times.

Uncooperative stance

After the court doctors had postponed the proceedings to examine the politician, a panel made up of five judges ruled that he was indeed fit for trial, the Washington Post reported.

Novanto, however, maintained his non-cooperative stance in court by refusing to confirm facts like his name or place of birth, according to The New Paper.

Critics of Novanto’s claim the defiance shown in court on Wednesday is the former parliamentarian’s latest tactic to avoid the corruption charges being brought against him. Since he was first named a suspect in the corruption scandal back in July, Novanto has repeatedly failed to attend summons for questioning, claiming that he has been ill and needs to undergo heart surgery.

Saut Situmorang, the deputy Chairman of KPK, told Xinhua Net that should Novanto continue with his noncompliance directive against the court, a maximum sentence could be meted out.

“The KPK has the rights to press for the prosecution. The maximum punishment may reach sentence to life or 20 years.”

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