Jakarta. Newly appointed Attorney General Basrief Arief on Tuesday said that although he had often worked with the president in the past, he was not on a mission to protect several Democratic Party members who were linked to ongoing graft cases.
“ ‘Once you become the attorney general, just focus on the law-enforcement job and don’t be afraid of political intervention or influence from political parties, ” Basrief said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had told him.
Speaking during his first media conference since his appointment on Friday, the 63-year-old said he received no support from any political party and therefore was not beholden to anyone.
He said the only message he would carry was to enforce the law and be clear of any political influence. “I will stick to that although the challenges ahead will be very tough for me,” he said.
Indonesia Corruption Watch, a prominent antigraft group, has criticized Yudhoyono for not taking concerted measures against members of his Democratic Party implicated in corruption cases.
The cases cited included the high-profile case of Bengkulu Governor Agusrin Maryono Najamuddin, who won a second term in office despite having been a graft suspect for two years. Prosecutors had suspended their probe until he was sworn in.
Another Democrat, Sukawi Sutarip, the mayor of Semarang, is suspected in a corruption case that remains on hold pending permission from the president.
And then there is Ismunarso, district head of Situbondo in East Java, who was sentenced to nine years in jail for embezzling state funds but remains free.
The ICW also noted in October that at least seven politicians facing graft charges had crossed over to the Democrat Party, apparently to seek “protection,” as they put it.
Basrief said his acquaintance with the president dated back to when he was still serving as the deputy attorney general for intelligence from 2001-04.
He often attended security briefings led by Yudhoyono, who was at that time the Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs under former President Megawati Sukarnoputri.
“We met at least once a month in meetings or on other occasions,” he said.
The new attorney general also vowed that his office would boost measures to recover embezzled state funds now held in banks overseas and to arrest graft fugitives hiding abroad.
“We will optimize measures to recover stolen state assets,” said Basrief, who once lead an interministry team set up in 2004 to hunt down graft fugitives and their assets overseas.
The team’s membership included officials from the AGO, the National Police and the ministries of justice and foreign affairs.
According to AGO documents, it is struggling to recover more than $15 million allegedly stashed illegally in Swiss bank accounts by two Indonesians.
Jakarta has requested that the Swiss freeze an account containing $9.9 million deposited by Irawan Salim, who fled justice in late 2004 after being implicated in a fraudulent mutual fund while he served as director of Bank Global.
However, Irawan has not been convicted of any crime in Indonesian courts.
Prosecutors are also pursuing $5.2 million in an account that allegedly belongs to Eduard Cornelis William Neloe, who is serving 10 years in prison for graft he engaged in while serving as president director of state-run Bank Mandiri.
Neloe has not paid the Rp 500 million ($55,500) fine that was imposed along. He has repeatedly denied having secret Swiss bank accounts.
The AGO is also working closely with the Australian government to extradite convicted embezzler Adrian Kiki Ariawan, who allegedly stole Rp 1.5 trillion from the central bank’s bailout funds in the wake of the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis.
In its latest case, the AGO believes assets worth over Rp 11 trillion stolen from Bank Century are being kept in Hong Kong by fugitive shareholders Rafat Ali Rizvi and Hesham al-Warraq.
The pair are accused of looting their own bank and fleeing with trillions of rupiah in stolen assets.
They are being tried in absentia for defrauding bank customers, and prosecutors have already demanded a 20-year sentence.