Chairman of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), Abraham Samad, at the KPK's headquarters in Jakarta on Jan. 15, 2015. (JG Photo/Afriadi Hikmal)

In War Over Top Cop, KPK Faces Familiar Threats

JANUARY 16, 2015

Jakarta. President Joko Widodo risks repeating a 2009 standoff between Indonesia’s highly regarded antigraft commission and the country’s notoriously corrupt police force if he goes ahead in swearing in a corruption suspect as chief of the National Police, analysts and activists warned on Thursday.

Both Joko and his pick to head the police force, Comr. Gen. Budi Gunawan, have refused to back down in the wake of the Corruption Eradication Commission, or KPK, naming Budi a graft suspect in connection to reports of millions of dollars passing through his bank accounts.

Following the KPK’s announcement on Tuesday, the National Police deployed dozens of plainclothes officers to stand guard outside Budi’s house in South Jakarta, including from the heavily armed Mobile Brigade, or Brimob.

“We are preparing ourselves just in case the KPK plans to play rough,” said a police general who asked not to be identified.

The case has drawn instant parallels with that of the infamous Susno Duadji, the police’s chief of detectives back in 2009 who engineered a plot to have two KPK deputy chairmen brought up on trumped-up charges of graft.

An unprecedented hearing at the Constitutional Court later played back wiretapped phone conversations that showed the charges were fabricated and a conspiracy to discredit the KPK, which had been homing in on Susno’s own indiscretions.

Susno, who inadvertently unleashed a torrent of support for the KPK by likening it to a gecko and the police to a crocodile — “How can a gecko win in a fight against a crocodile?” — was later charged and convicted on two counts of corruption.

Leading to chaos

Budi, flagged by the Financial Transactions Report and Analysis Center (PPATK), the government’s anti-money-laundering watchdog, for suspicious transactions amounting to at least $5.9 million through his bank accounts, was on Thursday approved at a plenary session of the House of Representatives as Joko’s candidate for the National Police chief.

All that is left before he takes up the reins of the country’s biggest law enforcement agency is an inauguration by Joko — something that would constitute a major betrayal of public trust, says Siti Zuhro, a political analyst at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, or LIPI.

“Jokowi must stick to his principles,” she said in Jakarta on Thursday. “He mustn’t squander the trust of the people. He’s going to regret it if he ignores the public outcry against [Budi’s] nomination as police chief.”

Adnan Pandu Praja, a deputy chairman of the KPK, warned of “chaos” if Budi was inaugurated while under the shadow of criminal charges.

“Imagine what would happen if we continued to investigate the case and raided [Budi’s home], seized the personal property of a National Police chief,” he said at the KPK office in Jakarta on Thursday.

“We would be accused of insulting the honor of the police force, and as a result there would be a conflict between our two organizations. That could lead to chaos.”

Adnan said the KPK had no intention of making an enemy out of the police, pointing out that the antigraft commission relied heavily on police manpower in its investigations.

“Our fear is that this will affect the performance of the KPK, because much of our graft-prevention efforts in the regions that rely on support from the police will be affected. The way we cooperate at present is good,” he said.

Taking measures

The police have ensured that any attempt by the KPK to arrest Budi will get ugly, by posting officers armed with assault rifles and semiautomatic weapons outside the suspect’s house.

“If we come under an armed attack, we can’t be expected to fight back with sticks, can we?” Insp Gen. Ronny F. Sompie, a police spokesman, said on Thursday.

“We’re taking anticipatory measures to prevent anything [from happening].”

But a top officer denied that the police were taking the issue as a personal affront.

“We respect what the KPK is doing, even though we don’t know what on grounds or evidence they are basing their decision to name [Budi] a suspect,” Comr. Gen. Suhardi Alius, the current chief of detectives, said at the National Police headquarters on Thursday.

He also denied that the issue would devolve into a standoff as in Susno’s case, with police fabricating charges against KPK officials.

“We will never do such things,” Suhardi said. “Right now there isn’t a single case or information about alleged crimes involving leaders of the KPK.”

The SBY way

Abraham Samad, the KPK chairman, warned that Joko was breaking with a positive precedent set by his predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who, though notorious for his indecisiveness, always ensured that top officials charged with graft left office quickly.

Three serving ministers in Yudhoyono’s cabinet were named suspects by the KPK in separate corruption cases, and each was made to resign shortly after.

“When the sports minister [Andi Mallarangeng] was named a suspect, he resigned. When Jero Wacik [the previous energy minister] was named a suspect, SBY asked him to resign immediately. It was the same when we named Suryadharma Ali [the religious affairs minister] a suspect; he was also asked to resign,” Abraham said.

He called on Joko to carry on the tradition by withdrawing Budi’s nomination.

“He hasn’t been appointed to the post yet, so if Joko wants to keep with the tradition, then he must rescind his nomination. If he doesn’t, then he’s breaking with the tradition,” the KPK chief said.

Abraham added that the KPK investigators would question Budi soon.

“There’s a process to follow. At the KPK, we have a system where a suspect is arrested once the investigation is at least 50 percent complete,” he said.

“But I must stress that the KPK has always arrested those who are named suspects. We also never drop a case, so [Budi’s] case will go to trial.”

That bodes ill for Budi: the KPK has a vaunted record of securing a conviction, whether in the initial trial or upon appeal, against every individual it has ever named a suspect.

Critics contend that nominating Budi was a concession by Joko to his party patron, Megawati Soekarnoputri, who Budi served as a security aide during her presidency from 2001 to 2004. His other security appointment, that of H.M. Prasetyo as attorney general, is also seen as a nod to another political backer, Surya Paloh.

Family funds

The KPK revealed late on Wednesday that it had applied to the Justice Ministry’s immigration department for a travel ban on Budi and his son, Muhammad Herviano Widyatama, as part of the investigation.

Two now-retired police officers — Iie Tiara, Budi’s former aide, and Syahtria Sitepu, a former general — have also been named in the travel ban request.

Budi continues to deny any wrongdoing in connection with the eye-watering sums passing through his accounts, handing out to reporters on Thursday copies of the results of a 2010 internal police investigation that cleared him of any criminal activity.

The document stated that the transactions flagged by the PPATK were business deals involving his son.

The transactions were made in July 2005 from a company named Pacific Blue International, which, according to Budi, agreed to provide $5.9 million in credit for Herviano’s business. The funds, he added, were wired to his personal account “for convenience.” Budi did not specify what business his son was involved in. Herviano was just 19 years old at the time.