Former Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency head Syafruddin Arsyad Temenggung, second from left, talks to reporters after he was released by the KPK in July. (B1 Photo/Fana Suparman)

KPK to Challenge Syafruddin's Acquittal as BLBI Saga Continues


OCTOBER 14, 2019

Jakarta. The Corruption Eradication Commission, or KPK, confirmed on Sunday it would request a review of the Supreme Court's decision to acquit Syafruddin Arsyad Temenggung, the former head of the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency, or IBRA, from charges of issuing a letter to exonerate tycoon Sjamsul Nursalim from paying back Rp 3.7 trillion in government bailout. 

The key reason for the challenge is a recent discovery that one of the Supreme Court justices who handled the case had met an attorney of Syafruddin prior to issuing the verdict.

KPK commissioner Laode M. Syarif said his office received a copy of the verdict two weeks ago. Since then the anti-graft agency has been preparing its response.

"We've studied the verdict and we think the reasoning of the Supreme Court [for the acquittal] was questionable," Laode said in an interview with the Jakarta Globe.

"New evidence has emerged that Syafruddin's lawyer met one of the Supreme Court justices [before the verdict was issued]. We're going to use that evidence to challenge the decision," Laode said. 

Under Indonesian law, a Supreme Court verdict can be challenged if new evidence emerges.

On July 8, a three-member panel at the Supreme Court overturned an earlier conviction by a lower court and a 15-year jail sentence for Syafruddin for unlawfully declaring that Sjamsul, a major debtor of a government bailout handed down after the 1998 Asian financial crisis, had already repaid his debts.

The panel also ordered Syafruddin's immediate release from KPK detention.

However, the Supreme Court announced on Sept. 29 that justice Syamsul Rakan Chaniago who handled the case had been found guilty of ethical misconduct for secretly meeting Syafruddin's lawyer.

The justice was barred from the court for six months as a sanction.

The case was part of a massive scandal stemming from the government's Rp 144.5-trillion bailout scheme to help ailing banks and prevent the country’s financial system from collapsing in the wake of the 1998 Asian financial crisis, when the value of the rupiah fell sharply against the dollar, severely affecting most lenders' ability to repay their dollar-denominated debt.

Much of the bailout, known as the Bank Indonesia Liquidity Assistance or BLBI, was misused by the bank owners to finance other businesses and they eventually failed to repay the debts.

Tycoon Sjamsul, owner of the now-defunct BDNI bank, was given an acquittance letter for his debts by Syafruddin even though according to the KPK he still owed Rp 4.58 trillion to the government.

Sjamsul and his wife, who are thought to be hiding in Singapore, are also suspects in the case but they have never been put on trial.

Softer Stance on Sjamsul

Despite its determination to reinstate Syafruddin's conviction, Laode indicated the KPK may not be so eager to pursue Sjamsul's imprisonment.

"Because he is quite old, he would be more than 80 years old by now," Laode said. 

"The main goal is to recover the government's assets, not putting him in jail because he is already very old," he said. 

When acquitting Syafruddin, the Supreme Court panel said he was guilty of the charges brought to him by the KPK, but that the case was a civil and not a criminal matter.

Presiding judge Salman Luthan delivered a dissenting opinion and reinstated the lower court's conviction, but he was outvoted when a third judge, Mohamad Askin, sided with Syamsul, the embattled justice.

Syafruddin, who headed the IBRA during Megawati Sukarnoputri's presidency, was released by the KPK a day after the Supreme Court delivered its verdict.