Graft activists call for inquiry as prosecutor caught taking bribe
Fabio Scarpello in Denpasar
Indonesian anti-corruption experts have welcomed the arrest of a state prosecutor, allegedly caught red-handed taking a bribe.
Urip Tri Gunawan was caught with US$660,000 in cash last Sunday in a raid conducted by the Corruption Eradication Commission, a state anti-graft unit established in 2002 to pursue high-profile cases.
Gunawan is in detention as a corruption suspect, as is gem trader Artalita Suryani, the woman who allegedly gave him the money.
Frenky Simanjuntak from the global watchdog Transparency International said Gunawan was probably part of a larger scheme that needed to be uncovered.
'Now we urge [the authorities] to assess whether the bribe is linked to the termination of an investigation into two Bank Indonesia Liquidity Assistance (BLBI) debtors, Sjamsul Nursalim and Anthony Salim.'
Bank Indonesia paid out almost 145 trillion rupiah (HK$128.2 billion) in bailouts amid the Asian financial crisis in 1997. The bulk of the lending flowed to three private groups: Salim, Gadjah Tunggal - partly owned by Nursalim - and Danamon. The government recovered only a small percentage of the funds disbursed and state auditors have found that 80.4 trillion rupiah, distributed to 48 banks, was embezzled.
Gunawan had been heading an investigation into Nursalim's alleged misappropriation of funds.
Nursalim's bank, Dagang Negara, owes the government 30.9 trillion rupiah. Bank assets confiscated and sold by the state have only yielded about 1.8 trillion rupiah.
However, the cases against Salim and Nursalim were controversially dropped last Friday by the state prosecutor who cited lack of evidence. The decision angered anti-corruption activists, who see the BLBI case as a symbol of high-profile corruption in a country regularly rated among the world's most corrupt.
Following Gunawan's arrest, Attorney General Hendarman Supandji told parliament that he was shocked and upset. He also ordered an investigation to check the possible involvement of other prosecutors, and urged the graft agency to continue its probe.
Mr Supandji, however, said his office would reopen the graft case involving Nursalim only 'if it is proved that the prosecutors received bribes to suspend the investigations'.
Graft agency chairman Antasari Azhar has said the group was investigating possible links between Artalita and Nursalim.