Indonesian officials' wives playing greater role in graft

Indonesian officials' wives playing greater role in graft
North Sumatra Governor Mr Gatot Pujo Nugroho.
PHOTO: Jamiyah

Donning a long-sleeve green blouse with a black headscarf, Evi Susanti, the second wife of North Sumatra Governor Gatot Pujo Nugroho, looked extremely tired walking out of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) office at dawn after undergoing a marathon 15-hour questioning over the bribery case implicating her husband.

After the lengthy questioning session, Evi was named a suspect together with her husband on Tuesday.

Evi is not the first wife of a government official to be questioned by the KPK before being declared a suspect. Rather, her role in the bribery scheme reveals a recurrent pattern of wives, including second wives, playing roles in graft schemes in the past two years.

Prior to 2014, it was the wives of graft suspects who helped their husbands launder ill-gotten gains by becoming second party beneficiaries to hide the whereabouts of dirty assets. None of them however were charged with money laundering.

With the KPK failing to prosecute graft suspects' wives, the past two years saw the wives of state officials playing greater roles in graft schemes.

In the graft case implicating the North Sumatra governor, Evi allegedly provided bribe money to three judges at the Medan State Administrative Court in exchange for a favourable ruling that cleared Gatot from his suspected role in a corruption case involving the North Sumatra administration.

"Yes, the questions concerned the source of the money. I let Pak Gatot explain that issue," Evi told reporters after emerging from questioning on Tuesday.

Gatot's lawyers appear to have inadvertently confirmed her role in the scandal.

"Bu Evi just helps ease work levels for her husband because as a regional leader he is busy with official duties. It's an operational fee for lawyers, not for bribing judges," Gatot's lawyer Razman Arief Nasution said, revealing the source of the money that prominent lawyer OC Kaligis later used to bribe judges in Medan. Kaligis is Gatot's attorney for the corruption case.

Prior to Evi, the antigraft body has labelled three wives of government officials as actors in bribing state officials in exchange for favourable decisions.

In July this year, the KPK declared Suzanna, the wife of Empat Lawang regent Budi Antoni Aljufri, a graft suspect for helping him bribe then Constitutional Court chief justice Akil Mochtar.

Suzanna was later also charged with perjury after the KPK found that she tried to protect her husband in the case by giving false testimony during the trial of Akil in 2014. The couple is expected to stand trial soon.

In other graft cases, the KPK has also slapped bribery and perjury charges on former Palembang mayor Romi Herton and his wife Masyito. Both were sent to jail in May.

Meanwhile, in July 2014, the KPK arrested the wife of Karawang regent Ade Swara, Nurlatifah, for receiving bribe money from a businessman for delivery to her husband. The KPK accused her of extorting PT Tatar Kertabumi for money in exchange for her husband's support of a permit application for a housing project in Karawang.

"The regent extorted the company and his wife acted as the go-between," then KPK chairman Abraham Samad said in 2014.

Acting KPK deputy chairman Johan Budi said that the growing involvement of wives or family members in graft schemes was due to lavish lifestyles practiced by many government officials.

Johan said that members of government officials' families aspired to be a part of high society and did whatever it took to join the club.

"For example, one wife of a graft suspect has a Hermes bag worth Rp 960 million. It's worth mentioning that a bag like that is only owned by five people in the world. The wife also has other very expensive bags," Johan said.

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