Sex, lies and beef: racy scandal hits Indonesia's Islamic parties

Sex, lies and beef: racy scandal hits Indonesia's Islamic parties
Indonesian parliament member and chief of Partai Keadilan Sejahtera Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq talks to reporters after his arrest by the Corruption Eradication Agency (KPK) in Jakarta January 31, 2013.

JAKARTA - Clandestine hotel room sex, money laundering and huge bribes to import beef evokes a seedy, criminal underworld rather than conservative politicians in the world's most populous Muslim nation.

But they all feature in a racy scandal that has shattered the clean image of Indonesia's biggest Islamic party and could further damage already-unpopular Muslim parties at national polls next year.

"The scandal... has given Islamic parties as a whole a bad image," said Umar S. Bakry, from pollster Lembaga Survei Nasional.

The controversy that has shocked the country peaked last week when an anti-corruption court sentenced the disgraced former president of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) to 16 years in jail.

Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq was found guilty of bribery and money laundering after accepting kickbacks from firm Indoguna Utama in return for pressing the PKS-controlled agriculture ministry to increase the company's beef import quota.

Two executives from the company had earlier been jailed over the case, dubbed "Beefgate" by local media, which has given blanket coverage to a scandal of enormous proportions even by the standards of graft-ridden Indonesia.

Ishaaq, who resigned as president of ruling coalition member PKS when the scandal emerged, has said he will appeal the guilty verdict against him.

During their probe, anti-graft investigators uncovered juicy details that tarnished the clean, pious image the PKS has sought to cultivate.

They seized six cars from Ishaaq and prosecutors accused the 52-year-old of trying to hide his marriage to one of his three wives, whom he wed last year when she was still a teenager.

But an arguably bigger figure in the scandal is Luthfi's close aide Ahmad Fathanah, jailed for 14 years in November, who was a key middleman in efforts to get Indoguna's quota increased.

His arrest in January kicked the scandal off in dramatic fashion - anti-corruption agents caught the married man in a raid in a Jakarta hotel with a naked college student.

Fathanah had just collected bribe money and the student later admitted he paid her for sex.

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