Graft suspect Amran Batalipu has admitted to receiving Rp 2 billion ($212,000) from a company owned by prominent Democratic Party adviser Siti Hartati Murdaya to support his bid for reelection as district chief of Buol in Central Sulawesi.
But Amran’s lawyer made sure to note that Hartati’s plantation alegedly gave several candidates unspecified amounts of money, and denied that the sum given to his client was a bribe.
Amran was named suspect by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) after investigators said they caught the district chief in the act of receiving money from executives of the Hardaya Inti Plantation, which was reportedly seeking a permit to operate a plantation on a plot of land owned by the state in Buol.
Amran fled the scene of the alleged graft on June 26, but KPK investigators managed to arrest him several days later; he is currently at the KPK detention center in Jakarta.
“Pak Amran received Rp 2 billion for the regional head election. Yes, it was from that company [Hardaya Inti Plantation],” Amran’s lawyer, Amat Entedaim said at KPK headquarters on Thursday.
But Amat added, however, that several other district head candidates also received money from the Hardaya Inti Plantation to support their recent election bids.
While the tally from the July 4 vote is still ongoing, Amran, a Golkar Party cadre, has reportedly lost his seat to Amiruddin Rauf, the director of local Undata Hospital backed by a coalition of several parties, including the Democrats and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).
Amat also dismissed an allegation that the Rp 2 billion was a bribe for the plantation’s permit.
The KPK has also named Hardaya Inti Plantation general manager Anshori and operational director Gondo Sudjono as suspects in the case, and has issued travel bans for some other officials with the company, as well as owner Hartati. The KPK recently said they paln to question Hartati, but have yet to set a date.
Hartati, a tycoon, is a renowned benefactor of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyonos, and is currently a member of the Democratic Party’s advisory board.
Hartati has admitted that she gave money to Amran, but called it a “donation” for maintaining good relations in the community, rather than a “bribe.”