The scandal surrounding disgraced Constitutional Court chief justice Akil Mochtar mounted on Friday as the nation’s antigraft agency seized luxury cars and narcotics, and placed a travel ban on a Provincial governor in a corruption case that threatened to critically undermine Indonesia’s reputation for electoral integrity.
“This case is a disaster for law enforcement in Indonesia,” Tama S. Langkun at Indonesia Corruption Watch told the Jakarta Globe. “During this period in the battle against corruption, the Constitutional Court was one of the few institutions that the public in this country could still rely on…”
Following Akil’s arrest by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) on Wednesday night for allegedly accepting bribes at his house in South Jakarta, the KPK’s list of suspects stood at six by Friday night, while Banten Governor Ratu Atut Chosiyah was issued with a travel ban.
“The KPK has issued a travel ban for Ratu Atut Chosiyah. The letter was sent today and is valid for the next six months,” KPK spokesman Johan Budi said on Friday afternoon, adding that the restriction was related to a disputed election in Lebak regency, Banten.
“We will surely [question Ratu Atut], but we don’t know when,” Johan said. “A travel ban is issued for investigation purposes.”
The KPK has arrested three suspects in relation to the Lebak district head election case — Akil (who is also a suspect in a case linked to a local election in Central Kalimantan), lawyer Susi Tur Andayani and Tubagus Chaeri Wardana.
Tubagus is Ratu Atut’s brother and the husband of the South Tangerang mayor, Airin Rachmi Diany.
Tubagus and Susi are suspected of having given Rp 1 billion ($87,000) worth of kickbacks to Akil to persuade the chief justice to issue a favorable ruling in the case.
Tubagus and Susi were seeking a ruling that would have ordered the General Elections Commission (KPU) in Lebak district to scrap the results of the district election held in August and call a revote.
KPK officials found numerous luxury cars parked in Tubagus’s home during a raid on Thursday, including a Bentley, two Ferraris, one Lamborghini, one Nissan GT-R, one Rolls-Royce, a Lexus and a Harley-Davidson Sportster, in addition to a Toyota Camry, a Toyota Innova and two Toyota Land Cruisers, Tribunnews.com reported.
A security officer named Husni said that Tubagus had been living in the area with wife Airin since 2003.
“They owned those luxury cars since they first came here,” Husni said, as quoted by Tribunnews.com. “Pak Wawan [Tubagus] often drives those cars, sometimes alone, sometimes with his wife.”
[quote author="Akil Mochtar, March, 13"]This is my idea, rather than sentence corruptors to death, it’s better to combine impoverishing them and cutting off one of their fingers.[/quote]
While antigraft officers continued to investigate the propriety of disputed regional elections in Banten and Central Kalimantan, Akil’s situation took a sensational turn after the KPK confirmed it had found ecstasy and marijuana at his Constitutional Court offices.
“The process of searching the Constitutional Court room was witnessed by some officials of the court… During the search, goods were found that we assume to be narcotics or illegal drugs. We don’t know the type,” KPK spokesman Johan Budi said on Friday afternoon.
A source at the KPK speaking on condition of anonymity, however, told the Jakarta Globe that ecstasy and marijuana were found at the Constitutional Court during a search on Thursday night, but declined to comment on exactly where in the offices the drugs were found.
As Indonesia digested the extent of the allegations against Akil, observers and legal professionals emphasized the seriousness of the implications for the country’s judiciary.
The Constitutional Court said on Thursday that it would investigate other justices involved in the Gunung Mas and Lebak cases, over which Akil has been named a suspect, but the Judicial Commission told this newspaper that such a review was essentially moot because the Constitutional Court could not be overruled on rulings over elections.
Constitutional Court Justice Patrialis Akbar said the court’s ethics council would review the Gunung Mas and Lebak elections, a statement echoed by the court’s deputy chief justice, Hamdan Zoelva.
“The ethics council will look into it,” he said at the KPK headquarters on Thursday, as quoted by news portal Vivanews.
Patrialis did not, however, specify when the court would begin investigating itself, while the Judicial Commission was dismissive of the merit of any internal review.
“Any decision made before Akil was arrested the other day was normative and cannot be questioned because the Constitutional Court’s decisions are final and binding,” Judicial Commission spokesman Asep Ralamat Fajar told the Jakarta Globe.
“The Constitutional Court justices will hand over the legal process of this case to the KPK,” Hamdan said. “In terms of its administrative process and internal investigation, the Constitutional Court will be handing that to the ethics council, while the justices will remain focused on managing the many other cases in the court.”
The case is made more controversial because the Constitutional Court decided in 2006 to remove the power of the Judicial Commission to investigate the behavior of its judges.
“There is no guarantee that, with the Judicial Commission’s supervision, this accident won’t happen again,” Asep said. “But on the other hand, we can say that with the Commission’s supervision, it [would be less likely to] happen again…
“Regarding the authority, I would prefer to review the recruitment of Constitutional Court justices,” he said. “In the future, it’s better if the Constitutional Court’s recruitment process is conducted independently to minimize the intervention of political parties. Also, external supervision is needed to oversee the justices’ behavior and ethics.”
KPK Chairman Abraham Samad said the anticorruption authority would continue to investigate the propriety of the Gunung Mas and Lebak regional elections.
“We will trace this and continue looking into it,” Abraham said on Thursday.
Abraham declined to comment on whether the KPK had found any evidence linking other Constitutional Court justices to the two disputed elections.
Prior to this scandal, the Constitutional Court had been considered a rare rose among judicial thorns — but legal practitioners emerged at the end of the week with anecdotal indications that this was a scandal that had some way still to run.
“I have handled many cases at the Constitutional Court,” said Roder Nababan, a lawyer in Medan. “My lawsuits that were supposed to be approved by Akil Mochtar would often get rejected. There are rumors of organized crime in the court.
“This crime is very organized. And the arrest by the KPK serves as evidence to this. There are many lawsuits regarding regional elections that were rejected by him. Some others were approved merely to cover up his deeds.”
Speaking for the first time since his arrest, Akil, who was exiting the KPK headquarters after nearly 24 hours of interviews on Thursday evening, denied being acquainted with Chairun Nisa and Cornelis, the two individuals who had also been arrested on Wednesday in connection with the Gunung Mas electoral dispute.
“Somebody came to my house last night at 9 p.m. and claimed to be from Central Kalimantan,” Akil said on Thursday evening. “I was still inside and was told there were guests.”
The guests were still on the front porch of his home when KPK investigators arrived, then “they carried out a raid and it is from this raid that they found [the money],” Akil said.
Akil will, by now, have learned the importance of watching what he says.
His personal Twitter account is awash with soundbites emphasizing the threat posed to the country by drugs and corruption.
“Good morning all, we’re under the emergency conditions of corruption, floods and narcotics: what happened to this country? Come on, wake up,” he tweeted on Jan. 29.
But the comment that has come back to haunt him was made to Indonesian newspaper Tempo on Mar. 13 of this year.
“This is my idea,” he said, “rather than sentence [corruptors] to death, it’s better to combine impoverishing them and cutting off one of their fingers.”
On Thursday night a reporter outside the KPK asked Akil if he stood by the comment. The video below shows Akil’s response.
The investigation continues.
—Benjamin Soloway, Camelia Pasandaran, Erwin Sihombing & Rizky Amelia contributed to this report.