Jakarta. Last week, the Jakarta Corruption Court sentenced lawmaker Setya Novanto to 15 years in prison for his role in one of Indonesia's largest corruption cases.
The lengthy prison sentence is likely to end Setya's long and volatile career, over which he built a reputation as a capable political operator and treasurer. At his peak, Setya served as chairman of the Golkar Party and as speaker of the House of Representatives.
But, his rise to the top has been marred with several corruption allegations and ethical breaches, which he successfully dodged until last week's ruling, cementing his shady reputation among political opponents.
According to Setya’s official wealth report, known as LHKPN, in 2015, his total assets were recorded at $8.3 million, mostly in the form of owned property in cities like Jakarta, Bogor and Bekasi (West Java) and Kupang (East Nusa Tenggara).
Born in Bandung, West Java, 63 years ago, Setya and his family moved to Jakarta in 1967, where he attended high school and befriended Hayono Isman, a former Minister of Youth and Sports under then-President Suahrto, according to a report by Tempo magazine.
In 1973, he continued his studies in accounting at Widya Mandala Catholic University in Surabaya, East Java.
"I became the driver of the family of where I lived [to be freed from the cost of living]. I became the house helper, cleaning the house," Setya said at a public seminar in West Sumatra on March 27 last year, as published on his Youtube channel.
He said he also worked various jobs, such as a rice and honey hawker at a traditional market and as a car wash technician and salesman at a local car dealer.
Setya returned to Jakarta six years later to continue his studies, also in accounting, at Trisakti University and lived in Hayono’s house. During this time, he worked as a driver and within Hayono’s fertilizer supplier company.
He then managed a gas station business owned by the family of his first wife, Luciana Herliyanti, who is a daughter of former West Java police chief Sudharsono.
Business and Political Relationship With Cendana Clan
Through his business relations, Setya met with Sudwikatmono, Suharto’s cousin, and worked on a joint project on the development of 400-hectare international class golf course in Batam in 1989.
In an interview with SWA business magazine in 1999, Setya said that he waited for Sudwikatmono in his office for days in an attempt to get employment.
The successful golf course project brought Setya closer to Suharto’s family, often dubbed the Cendana Clan after the name of the street where they resided.
According to George Aditjondro’s investigative book "Korupsi Kepresidenan: Reproduksi Oligarki Berkaki Tiga: Istana, Tangsi dan Partai Penguasa" [Presidential Corruption: Reproduction of Three-Legged Oligarchy: Palace, Barrack and Ruling Party], in 1991, Setya was trusted by Suharto’s eldest daughter Siti Rukmana, often called Tutut, to chair Citra Permata Persada that was tasked with designing new driving licenses.
In 1992, Setya also managed a business owned by Elsye Sigit, the wife of Suharto’s son Sigit Harjojudanto. That company, Solusindo Mitra Sejati, was in the midst of a project to create computerized identity cards (KTP).
The two projects later became problematic. Local newspaper Kompas on Nov. 30, 1995, reported that Solusindo determined the cost of the KTP project, as opposed to the Regional Legislative Council (DPRD), which was formally tasked with the responsibility in an initial agreement with the Ministry of Home Affairs.
According to the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) in 2005, the driving license project caused Rp 15.4 billion state losses due to low rates of production.
In the political sphere, Setya also maintained a political relationship with Suharto's party, Golkar.
Setya began his political career by joining the youth organization Kosgoro under the then-largest party, Golkar, of which he became chairman in 1990.
In 1993, Setya became a member of the party’s central executive board (DPP). His excellent eye on managing money was recognized by the party, which appointed him the party’s treasurer in 1999.
His political career took off after being appointed as the House of Representatives speaker in 2014 and the party’s chairman in 2016.
Not the First Scandal
Before the e-KTP graft case, Setya had been named repeatedly in various scandals since the 1990s, but never went to trial for his alleged involvement in those cases.
One of those cases includes the Bank Bali scandal in 1999, which resulted in Rp 904 billion in state losses. According to Tjipta Lesmana’s book "Dari Soekarno Sampai SBY" (From Soekarno to SBY), around 60 percent of the fund that was supposed to help Bank Bali was Era Giat Prima company’s account, in which the chief directorship was chaired by Setya.
Ten people were named suspects in the case, including Setya, but only three were convicted — Era Giat Prima’s director, the governor of Bank Indonesia and the vice chairman of the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency (BPPN).
In 2005, Setya’s name appeared in what has been called the Vietnam rice smuggling case. He was summoned by the Attorney General's office, but the case was eventually put on ice. Setya maintained his innocence in both cases.
He was again implicated in the 2012 National Games (PON) graft case, in which former Riau Governor Rusli Zainal funneled Rp 9 billion in bribes to Golkar lawmakers, including Setya. But he was eventually named as witness only after the KPK checked on his office.
In late 2015, an audio recording was released involving Setya and Maroef Sjamsoeddin, the chief executive of copper and gold miner Freeport Indonesia, in which Setya attempted to win a 20 percent stake in Freeport Indonesia divested through him and oilman Muhammad Riza Chalid, claiming that President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Vice President Kalla would be the final recipients.
There was no follow-up from the case for Setya.
The disgraced House speaker was already admonished by the House Ethics Council earlier the same year for appearing at a campaign rally in New York for US presidential hopeful Donald Trump.
Setya was again named a graft suspect in November and subsequently arrested after a series of political theater, including a staged car crash due to his involvement in a billion-rupiah electronic identity card graft case.
The e-KTP procurement project was originally estimated to cost Rp 5.8 trillion and confer a major technological upgrade to the country's identity card system. It was intended to offer more efficient applications and better, more secure data.
The project mothballed, however, as many high-profile lawmakers were directly accused of having taken $500,000 bribes, including Setya. The graft inflicted a total of Rp 2.3 trillion in state losses, according to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).
Setya was first named a suspect by KPK in July when he was still speaker of the House of Representatives and chairman of Golkar, but was eventually acquitted of graft charges in September by the South Jakarta District Court.
For his involvement in the graft case, Setya has been sentenced to 15 years in jail and given a five-year ban from entering politics upon his release. Setya, who will be 64 years old in October, is still taking time to consider whether to appeal the sentence.