Ex-minister escapes graft charges

Ex-minister escapes graft charges

After months of silence since the last prosecution, the Jakarta Prosecutors' Office finally acknowledged on Monday that it had given up on an investigation into former minister Syariefuddin Hasan for a high profile graft case during his time as a government minister.

The Democratic Party politician will not face any charges, never having been questioned by prosecutors during the two-year investigation into the case in which he was heavily implicated.

The graft case in question centred on the Rp 23 billion (S$2.2 million) procurement of jumbotrons (giant-screen TVs) for multimedia digital advertisements at the Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises Ministry, in which Syariefuddin served as minister.

His son, Riefan Avrian, who won the tender for the project, was found guilty in the case and sentenced to six years.

"The last prosecution in the case is Riefan; we can no longer go ahead with any further prosecutions as the other suspect in the case, Hasnawi Bachtiar, who was the head of the committee in charge of the project, is dead," Jakarta Prosecutors' Office spokesman Waluyo said on Monday.

"The death brings an end to our investigation [into Syariefuddin's role in the case]. Another suspect, Kasiyadi [of the Ministry] is currently standing trial in the case," he added.

Hasnawi died in the Jakarta Prosecutor's Office detention centre in Jakarta in May 2014 a few weeks after he was arrested in the case. The cause of death remains unconfirmed.

Although Syariefuddin, as minister, held ultimate responsibility for the embezzled project, the Jakarta Prosecutors' Office insisted that it had yet to find strong grounds to summons Syariefuddin in the case.

The case made headlines in September 2013 when prosecutors declared an office boy, identified as Hendra Saputra, a suspect along with Hasnawi and Kasiyadi although evidence showed that Riefan had used the three men to orchestrate a scheme to rig the project for his company.

After months of public outcry, the Jakarta Prosecutors' Office finally named Riefan a suspect in the case in May 2014. In December, the Jakarta Corruption Court sentenced him to six years in prison.

According to Riefan's indictment, Riefan, who had another company called PT Rifuel, appointed Hendra, an elementary school dropout, as the director of Imaji Media in order to keep his own name out of Imaji Media.

Later, both companies participated in the jumbotron tender, but Imaji Media was awarded the project. Imaji Media then handed the project over to Rifuel, though the two companies did not have a subcontracting agreement.

Although Riefan's company failed to fulfil the terms of the tender and procure the items stipulated, the ministry paid out the full amount stated in the contract by instruction of Kasiyadi and Hasnawi.

According to the Development Finance Comptroller (BPKP), the state lost around Rp 4.8 billion on the items Riefan's company failed to procure.

Nonetheless, the ministry declared "the project was successfully completed and the procured items fulfilled required specifications".

Despite concluding in their verdict that Hendra was an unwitting victim in the case, the court nonetheless sentenced him in August 2014 to one year in prison for taking part in his boss's scheme to rig the project.

"The defendant was used as a tool by Riefan, who masterminded the scenario. This verdict is a lesson for others to reject any offers from those who have power and also a lesson for those who have such power not to victimize the weak," said presiding judge Nani Indrawati, reading out her verdict to the court.

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