Indonesia Parliament Speaker denies graft

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Golkar chief a suspect in the alleged state loss of at least S$236 million

JAKARTA The Speaker of Indonesia's Parliament yesterday denied allegations that he helped cause big losses to the state in connection with the issuance of electronic national identity cards.

Mr Setya Novanto, chairman of Indonesia's second-biggest political party, Golkar, said this to reporters after a meeting with leaders of the House of Representatives.

He said he read media reports saying he was named by the independent Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) as a suspect in the alleged state loss of at least 2.3 trillion rupiah (S$236 million) from the identity-card programme.

Late on Monday, KPK head Agus Rahardjo told reporters that a legislator with the initials "SN" was suspected to have abused his authority to benefit himself or others while the electronic identity card, known as e-KTP, was put in place in 2011 and 2012.

The KPK always refers to suspects by their initials and never confirms their full names.

After Mr Rahardjo's statement, many Indonesian media reports named Mr Setya as the suspect the agency is investigating.

Yesterday, Mr Setya told reporters he would obey the legal process but was "shocked" by the allegations and denied any wrongdoing.

"Whatever I'm accused of is not true," he said. "If they say that I received funds, I have never done that. The sum of that money is incredibly huge. How was it transferred, how was it received?"

The KPK has been investigating allegations that sums ranging from US$5,000 (S$7,000) to US$5.5 million - money generated by marking up the costs of the e-KTP procurement - were divided up in Parliament.

In March, two public servants on trial for corruption linked to the e-KTP case named at least 37 people, including Mr Setya, who they said had benefited.

The KPK's large-scale investigation, which also implicates members of Indonesian President Joko Widodo's own ruling party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), shows the independence of the anti-graft agency, political analysts said.

Despite repeated efforts by politicians to undermine it, the KPK has remained independent and popular with the Indonesian public.

It is also seen as crucial in Mr Joko's drive to battle graft in the country that ranked 90th out of 176 in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions index last year.

The decision to designate Mr Setya, whose Golkar party is part of Mr Widodo's coalition, as a suspect is "a very positive sign", said Mr Keith Loveard, a Jakarta-based analyst at Concord Consulting.

"This most certainly demonstrates how tough the KPK is," he said, adding that Mr Joko is unlikely to get in the way of the KPK's investigation.

"While all the parties are virtually implicated, including the PDI-P, public support for the KPK remains extremely high. So for him to attempt to slow the process or to create obstacles would be very damaging to his popularity," he said. - REUTERS