Agriculture Minister Suswono Questioned By KPK Over Forestry Graft

By : Jakarta Globe | on 7:31 PM March 27, 2014
Category : News, Featured, Corruption

IMAL0746_preview Minister of Agriculture Suswono seen here at the Corruption Eradication Commission headquarters in South Jakarta on Nov. 30, 2013. (JG Photo/Afriadi Hikmal)

Jakarta. Investigators with the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) took the unusual step of traveling to Central Java on Wednesday to speak with Minister of Agriculture Suswono in order to "speed up" the investigation into a 2007 procurement of radio communication equipment for forestry rangers.

“Suswono was questioned as a witness relating to his time as a lawmaker 'back then'," KPK spokesman Johan Budi said.

The agriculture minister, the Prosperous Justice Party's most senior member of the Democratic Party-led governing coalition, was asked to attend questioning at the KPK's Jalan Rasuna Said headquarters on Thursday. Suswono declined, saying he had ministerial commitments to fulfill in Central Java. Suswono was in Tegal, on the northern coast of Central Java — which happens to be his place of birth — to launch an export cooperative set up by local jasmine farmers on Wednesday.

Investigators decided that if Suswono would not come to them, they would go to Suswono. He was questioned by the KPK at a Tegal police office on Wednesday.

“I was not informed by the investigators about the questions, whether it's related to money flow from [Anggoro Widjojo], I don't know,” Johan said.

The questioning was not related to Suswono's tenure at the ministry — he has already had to answer plenty of questions during his stint at agriculture. "Back then" refers to 2007, when Suswono served as the deputy chairman of House of Representatives (DPR) Commission IV, which overseas agriculture, fisheries and forestry.

The case surrounding the radio equipment has been a focus for the KPK since Anggoro Widjojo, the director and owner of Masaro Radiokom, was apprehended in Shenzhen, China, and extradited to Indonesia. He arrived at the KPK in January. 

Anggoro has been named a suspect for bribing lawmakers to renew his company's contract to provide radio equipment to the country's forest rangers in 2007.  DPR Commission IV, chaired by Yusuf Erwin Faishal, issued its letter of approval asking the Ministry of Forestry to rubber stamp the radio procurement, which was worth Rp 180 billion ($15.7 million).

“It's not true that I ever received money from Anggoro Widjojo,” Suswono told news portal in January.

An Indonesian newspaper reported on Thursday, however, that Suswono had changed his mind about whether he had accepted money from Anggoro — but said, perhaps crucially, that Suswono claimed to have returned the money to the KPK. The Jakarta Globe could not confirm the validity of this report with Suswono or the KPK by deadline.

Suswono has been questioned by the KPK over similar issues in the past. He denied all charges against him during the beef import corruption scandal, which took out the chairman of his party, Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq. Suswono has also been questioned by the KPK for taking Rp 300 million in bribes while on Commission IV to push through a permit for the construction of a port on protected land in Tanjung Api-Api, Banyuasin District, South Sumatra. Suswono admitted to taking the money, but handed it over to KPK investigators and was not liable to any charges. 

Article 12 of the 1999 Anti-Corruption Law includes an amnesty provision. Anyone in a position of accountability who receives a bribe, or a titipan (deposit), may hand over the money to the KPK within 30 days. Once that period has expired, however, corruption charges are applicable.

There is no indication that Suswono is guilty of wrongdoing in the Masaro Radiokom case. He has been questioned only as a witness, and has not been named a suspect.

We will update this story as it develops.

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