Haj travel agency owned by politician raided

Haj travel agency owned by politician raided
Muslim pilgrims pray around the Grand Mosque, during the annual Haj pilgrimage in Mecca on September 27, 2014.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) raided on Sunday a travel agency run by PT Al Amin Universal, reportedly owned by Democratic Party advisory council member Melani Leimena Suharli, in its investigation into alleged irregularities surrounding the 2012-2013 haj programme.

"The location of the raid was in South Jakarta. The raid was to collect more evidence in order to complete the dossiers of SDA," KPK spokesman Johan Budi said on Sunday referring to the primary suspect in the case, former religious affairs minister Suryadharma Ali, by his initials.

Suryadharma is alleged to have flown dozens of people, reportedly including his relatives, colleagues from the ministry and members of the House of Representatives whose names were falsely registered as Indonesian Haj Organizing Committee (PPHI) representatives, to join him on a haj pilgrimage using state funds in 2012.

Several of the lawmakers grilled by the KPK in the case have denied allegations that the pilgrimage was paid for using either pilgrims' money or state funds, but acknowledged Suryadharma had granted them haj-quota places intended for pilgrims who had been waiting for years to go on the haj. The lawmakers claimed they paid their own expenses during the trip.

At least 1 per cent of the 200,000 places in the haj quota every year are not taken up due to illness or death among prospective pilgrims or for other reasons. Suryadharma has repeatedly claimed it was his prerogative as minister to decide on how to allocate the unused places.

The KPK has rejected this saying that the unused quota had to be allocated to other prospective pilgrims on the waiting list, which currently amounts to 2 million, not given as gifts to those who are close to the minister.

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