Indonesian corruption trial sniffs at SBY’s doorBy AP News Sep 07, 2013 3:16PM UTC
Beef scandal figure claims a presidential “friend” is connected to bribery, reports Asia Sentinel
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has found himself ensnared personally in a major scandal involving quotas on beef imports to the country.
Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq, the former chairman of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), has already been arrested in the case and it has tarnished Hilmi Aminuddin, the party’s chief patron, agriculture ministry officials and a variety of others. PKS is the country’s largest Islamic party.
The president’s name surfaced in testimony last week before Jakartas’s anti-corruption court, where an aide to Luthfi is on trial in a wide ranging scandal centering on whether various PKS figures accepted bribes in exchange for raising beef import quotas. In Indonesia’s politicized cabinet system, PKS, which is nominally allied with Yudhoyono, holds the powerful and lucrative agriculture portfolio.
A witness in the trial, Ridwan Hakim, the son of Luthfi, claimed in court last week that a wiretapped conversation he was caught having with the defendant involved a discussion about a man named Sengman, who he alleged was a courier acting on behalf of the president.
The extraordinary thing is that Yudhoyono was mentioned at all. With his term ending in 2014, the president’s lame duck status and a wide-open race for the top job next year are combining to make him vulnerable to such allegations, whether they are true or not.
The court testimony follows the recent arrest of the head of the country’s top oil and gas regulator on bribery charges related to oil imports. That case has already touched senior figures in the powerful energy ministry and led to rumors that Energy Minister Jero Wacik, a close advisor to the president, could himself be named a suspect.