Beef Import Quota Scandal Widens Further

By : Novianti Setuningsih | on 9:10 AM June 25, 2013
Category : News, Crime, Featured

Former Prosperous Justice Party chairman Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq listens to prosecutors at the Jakarta Anti-Corruption Court on Monday. (JG Photo/Afriadi Hikmal) Former Prosperous Justice Party chairman Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq listens to prosecutors at the Jakarta Anti-Corruption Court on Monday. (JG Photo/Afriadi Hikmal)

The scope of the beef import quota scandal that dragged down former Prosperous Justice Party chairman Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq seems to have ensnared the party’s chief advisor Hilmi Aminuddin also.

The indictment against Luthfi as read out by Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) prosecutors at the Jakarta Anti-Corruption Court said Hilmi had received a car worth Rp 350 million ($35,350) and a plot of land worth Rp 1. 5 billion from Luthfi.

“In 2007, the defendant spent 350 million rupiah on a Nissan Frontier with license plate number B 9051 for Hilmi Aminuddin,” prosecutor Rini Triningsih told the court on Monday.

But to cover the origin of the car, Luthfi asked a Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) staff member Agus Triyono to change its ownership to his personal assistant Rantal Sikayo, the prosecutor said.

Rini added that on March 29, 2007 the defendant made a down-payment for a house for Hilmi and spent another Rp 1.5 billion buying a house in Cianjur, West Java, which was paid for in up to 29 installments.

The KPK has so far questioned Hilmi three times as a witness against Luthfi and he consistently denied his involvement in the scandal.

After a questioning session with the KPK investigators recently, Hilmi admitted he had met with Luthfi’s close aide Ahmad Fathanah, a defendant in the same case.

Hilmi said he met Fathanah at a PKS event in Lembang, Bandung in West Java. Fathanah, who was not invited to the event, came along with Aksa Mahmud, former deputy speaker of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR).

Hilmi said KPK investigators also played a recording which allegedly involved his son Ridwan Hakim and Fathanah in which Ridwan asked Fathanah to give money to an engkong or elderly man, believed to be Hilmi.

Another KPK prosecutor, Avni Carolina, said Luthfi met with Ridwan in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to discuss the additional beef import quota request by Indoguna Utama, the granting of which is alleged to have initiated the bribery involved in this case.

In the meeting, Luthfi was accompanied by Fathanah and businesswoman Elda Devianne Adiningrat, who served as a mediator between Indoguna and the PKS officials involved in the case.

“On January 20, the defendant, together with Fathanah and Elda, met with Ridwan in Kuala Lumpur,” Avni said, adding that the meeting was intended to discuss beef data submitted by Indoguna Utama president director Maria Elizabeth Liman to Soewarso, a close aide of Agriculture Minister Suswono, also a PKS cadre.

The data contained information about the sale of beef import licenses that Maria told Suswono about during a meeting in Medan, North Sumatra.

It was reported that Suswono did not believe the information and asked Maria to back up her claims with evidence.

The prosecutor said Maria later handed over the data to Luthfi via Fathanah along with a request for Indoguna to get an additional beef import quota. Prosecutors also said Luthfi had admitted he was going to hand over the data to Suswono.

“And the defendant was going to meet with Suswono to discuss it,” Avni said.

Prosecutors believed that Luthfi was not only involved in the beef import quota scandal, but also in other Agriculture Ministry projects.

Aside from discussing the beef import data, the Kuala Lumpur meeting with Ridwan was also meant to sort out a misunderstanding between Maria and Ridwan related to other projects.

Elda previously confirmed that a meeting with Ridwan did take place in Kuala Lumpur, but failed to mention Luthfi’s presence.

Hilmi’s attorney Zainuddin Paru had denied the Kuala Lumpur meeting ever took place.

The indictment also accused Luthfi of ordering PKS treasurer Machfud Abdurrachman to lie to KPK investigators about the ownership of his black VW Caravelle, which has been seized by investigators.

Avni said Luthfi ordered Machfud to tell KPK investigators, who came to the PKS headquarters to confiscate six cars, that the Rp 1.9 billion VW Caravelle was a PKS vehicle.

“Machfud then ordered staff member M Masyhuri to write a report declaring a 1.9 billion rupiah expenditure that would make it appear that PKS had purchased the car in 2012,” Avni said.

Avni said prosecutors suspected the car was purchased with ill-gotten gains as it was never reported in Luthfi’s state officials’ wealth reports (Lhkpn).

Previously KPK investigators confiscated six of Luthfi’s cars from the PKS headquarters. However, investigators later returned one after it learned the car was a prize Luthfi had won in a golf tournament.

Prosecutors also accused Luthfi of receiving Rp 2 billion from businessman Yudi Setiawan, said to be an Idul Fitri aid package. Avni said Luthfi received the cash through Fathanah on Aug. 24 last year.

“Prior to that, the defendant called Yudi Setiawan to ask for some money as an Idul Fitri package,” Avni said.

She added that Yudi immediately responded to the request by raising money from, among others, Elda’s company Indoguna, because both were engaged in a joint business venture related to the procurement of corn seeds for the Agriculture Ministry.

“The money [he] raised was then kept in a briefcase and was given to the defendant through Fathanah who came to Yudi’s apartment in Sudirman,” the indictment stated.

The KPK said Yudi was involved in fictitious credits disbursed by Bank Jabar Banten (BJB), Bank Jatim, and Bank Kaltim, which also implicated several PKS cadres, including West Java governor Ahmad Heryawan.

Yudi is currently detained at a prison in South Kalimantan for a corruption case involving the procurement projects of an Education Agency in the region. The KPK has questioned Yudi and compiled a complete dossier on him.

In response to the prosecutors’ indictments against him, Luthfi said he was only helping minister Suswono find a solution to the country’s beef shortages.

“I only talked about the macro [aspect] of the beef supplies and that was because of my concerns about the soaring beef prices and the rampant distribution of meat that was not supposed to be consumed. I was morally moved to help the minister to find the right solution and I just discussed it from the macro [aspect],” Luthfi said after the trial on Monday.

“All of the things I talked about were just macro, regarding general things, discussions of beef supplies for the people.”

Luthfi said he and his team of attorneys will prepare an objection related to the prosecutors’ indictment. “I was indicted for the micro [aspects], I wasn’t involved in the micro [aspects],” Luthfi said.

He is facing a 20-year prison term for allegedly using his influence over Agriculture Ministry officials.

“The defendant, as a lawmaker and PKS chairman, influenced officials in the Agriculture Ministry that is headed by Suswono, also a member of the PKS’ board of advisors, to approve an additional quota of 10,000 tons for Indoguna for 2013, which violated his duties as a lawmaker,” Avni said.

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