Indonesia's 'court mafia' in the spotlight

Indonesia's 'court mafia' in the spotlight

INDONESIA - The bribery scandal involving Indonesia's top constitutional judge Akil Mochtar has cast the spotlight on the so-called court mafia, known for their prowess in fixing a desired legal outcome for a high price.

These "fixers" can be anyone with close access to court judges and their services can be had for upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Oct 2 arrest of Dr Akil, 52, the Constitutional Court's chief justice, is related to two cases disputing the results of district elections in Gunung Mas, Central Kalimantan, and Lebak, Banten. One of the court's chief functions is to handle electoral disputes.

In the Gunung Mas case, district chief-elect Hambit Bintih is accused of attempting to influence the court by sending two fixers - Golkar politician Chairun Nisa and businessman Cornelis Nalau - to offer Dr Akil 3 billion rupiah (S$330,000) to secure a favourable judgment.

Dr Akil, who took up his post only in April, is a former Golkar politician and Ms Chairun is an old friend of his. She was also arrested with several others.

In the second case, lawyer Susi Tur Andayani and a brother of Banten's governor are accused of offering 1 billion rupiah to get Dr Akil to rule in favour of Ms Susi's client Amir Hamzah, who is challenging the Lebak results. Ms Susi and Dr Akil were colleagues in a law firm.

Dr Akil, who resigned after being suspended from his duties, said he knew both women but has denied taking bribes.

Still, the scandal not only tainted the erstwhile corruption-free image of the Constitutional Court (MK), but also plunged the country into a crisis of confidence.

Moreover, it showed how easily intermediaries can gain access to judges and offer them bribes.

More than 500 disputed elections cases have been brought before the courts since 2008, of which only 12 per cent have been concluded, the MK's deputy, Dr Hamdan Zoelva, told reporters.

These two cases could be just the tip of the iceberg, according to Professor Saldi Isra, dean of the law faculty at Andalas University.

Already, Dr Akil's arrest has triggered a flood of allegations from local election candidates who revealed how the court mafia had a hand in rigging local poll results.

Mr Joncik Muhammad's win as district chief in the June 6 district elections in Empat Lawang, South Sumatra, lasted all of 55 days. His closest-losing opponent Budi Antoni Aljufri was declared the winner after he applied to the MK for a recount.

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