The deputy chairman of Indonesia’s trusted independent Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) was arrested Friday morning when he brought his son to school in West Java.
Bambang Widjojanto was questioned at the national police headquarters in Jakarta. He was released Saturday after protesters called on Indonesia’s president to protect the KPK.
Police accused Widjojanto of giving false testimony to the constitutional court in July 2010 during a trial about a disputed state election.
Widjojanto’s arrest was apparent retaliation against the KPK. Last week the agency named Budi Gunawan, the president’s nominee to lead the national police, as a graft suspect. The KPK allegations forced President Joko Widodo to postpone the appointment of the three star police general to lead the powerful national force.
President Widodo, elected three months ago, has vowed a zero-tolerance approach to corruption. Protesters in Jakarta Friday called on him to “save the KPK.”
The police said Saturday after releasing Widjojanto that he’s still a suspect and will be questioned further.
Widjojanto tendered his resignation Monday, saying he’ll step aside temporarily. He warned of a campaign to “destroy” the country’s graft-fighting agency. His resignation still has to be accepted by the heads of the KPK and the country’s president. A 1999 anti-corruption law requires government officials to resign if they’re named as suspects in a graft case.
Stocks in Jakarta fell 1.2 percent Monday, the worst decline since December 16. The rupiah weakened 0.3 percent to 12,510 per one dollar, the biggest decline since January 7.
After Widjojanto’s arrest Friday, a KPK official told the FCPA Blog, “This always happens every time we investigate Indonesian police generals or top officials.”
In 2009, the chief detective of the national police, Susno Duadji, threatened the KPK after he found out the agency had tapped his phone during a graft investigation.
Within a year after his threat, the police had arrested three KPK commissioners. They charged two with extortion and bribery. The KPK proved through secret recordings that the police had created phony evidence against them.
The police arrested a third KPK commissioner for the murder of a businessman. But a witness came forward and said he was part of a police-led conspiracy to frame the KPK leader.
In 2011, Indonesia’s parliament cut the KPK’s annual budget by a third.
On Friday, President Widodo said: “I ask, as the head of the state, that there be no friction between the KPK and the police in carrying out their respective duties.”
In 2013, the KPK won the Ramon Magsaysay Award, known as Asia’s Nobel Prize. The award recognized the KPK for its “fiercely independent and successful campaign against corruption in Indonesia, combining the uncompromising prosecution of erring powerful officials with farsighted reforms in governance systems, and the educative promotion of vigilance, honesty and active citizenship among all Indonesians.”
The KPK started operating in 2003. It has about 750 staff members. The agency has achieved a 100 percent conviction rate in more than 80 bribery cases related to government procurement deals.
Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.