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Indonesia: In showdown with police, the KPK blinks

The leaders of Indonesia’s independent anti-corruption agency decided Monday not to prosecute a former nominee to lead the national police.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) said it will hand over the graft case against Budi Gunawan to the Indonesia attorney general’s office.

The AG’s office has already said it will send the case back to the police. The police won’t prosecute Gunawan because they haven’t found enough evidence, they said earlier.

A KPK official told the FCPA Blog Monday, “I think the public are not happy with this news and I’m afraid that this decision will hurt the KPK’s reputation.”

Publc support for the trusted 700-person KPK has been enormous.

After Indonesian President Joko Widodo nominated Gunawan, a police general, to lead the powerful national police force, the KPK accused him of graft. Public protests then forced the president to withdraw the nomination.

The police retaliated. They arrested the deputy chairman of the KPK, Bambang Widjojanto for giving false testimony during a trial in 2010 about a disputed state election. The police released Widjoganto after protesters demanded that the president “save the KPK.”

The police then arrested the chairman of the KPK, Abraham Samad, and named him as a suspect in a case from 2007 related to a falsified document.

Two weeks ago, a Jakarta court quashed the KPK’s investigation of Gunawan. But the President Widodo, facing a huge public backlash, nominated another official to lead the police.

The president also appointed three new commissioners to the KPK to replace the former chairman and deputy chairman.

The KPK official told the FCPA Blog Monday, “The public has seen the KPK as independent and strong body that will not compromise in investigating corruption cases. We have proved this at least for these past 10 years. There are concerns that the public will start to doubt whether KPK will be able to investigate big corruption case involving top police officials again in the near future.”

“The answer mostly depends on the political will of the Indonesian government, especially the president and members of the house of the representatives,” the KPK official said.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

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