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Female tycoon's political fall now official: Indonesia

Siti Hartati Tjakra Murdaya, once one of Indonesia's richest, was sentenced to 32 months' imprisonment for bribing the regent of Buol, Central Sulawesi. -Jakarta post/ANN
Hans Nicholas Jong

Wed, Feb 06, 2013
The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network

INDONESIA - Siti Hartati Tjakra Murdaya, once one of Indonesia's richest women, cried on Monday, as the Jakarta Corruption Court sentenced her to 32 months' imprisonment for bribing the regent of Buol, Central Sulawesi.

The sentencing of Hartati marks a meteoric plunge in the tycoon's fortunes since her arrest by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in September.

Hartati, who once had strong political connections to five of the nation's presidents, was accompanied by only a small group of relatives and employees in the courtroom.

Her close relationship with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose campaigns she provided immense financial support, meant nothing during her trial. Yudhoyono and all her former political connection distanced themselves from her after her arrest.

Hartati, the chairperson of the Indonesian Buddhist Council (Walubi), cried as presiding judge Gusrizal Lubis read the verdict of the panel of judges hearing her case. "Siti Hartati is guilty of committing the crime of corruption [....] The defendant's actions have harmed the government's corruption eradication programme, and that it is counterproductive to good governance."

However, the decision read by Lubis also praised Hartati. "She has contributed to the economic development of Buol, shown good behaviour during the trial and she has never been convicted before."

The court found that Hartati, whose husband, Murdaya Poo, was ranked as the nation's 19th-richest man by Forbes Indonesia last year, had paid a Rp 3 billion (S$382,000) bribe to Buol Regent Amran Batalipu to expedite the issuance of a permit needed for her oil palm plantation company, PT Hartati Inti Plantation (HIP). The court also sentenced Hartati to pay a fine of Rp 150 million (S$19,000).

The sentence was less than the five years' imprisonment sought by prosecutors.

Meanwhile, Amran is waiting for his verdict after prosecutors demanded that the court sentence him to 12 years' imprisonment in the case.

The KPK has named two other suspects in the case: Hartati's aides, Gondo Sudjono and Yani Ansori.

According to prosecutors, Gondo, a general manager at HIP and Yani Ansori, an operations director, were ordered by Hartati to deliver a Rp 1 billion instalment of a Rp 3 billion bribe to Amran at his home in Buol.

Gondo and Yani have each been sentenced to two-and-a-half-years' imprisonment and to pay Rp 50 million (S$6,300) fines for their role in the scandal.

Speaking to reporters after her conviction, Hartati, a former member of the Democratic Party's patron board, said that she was innocent.

"I never made a plan, gave permission, or agreed to the bribery," she said after the verdict.

"The regent asked for money, and we couldn't give it to him. But I was afraid to turn down his demand blatantly. That's why I used the term of 'kilos' to refer to the money," Hartati said.

Hartati has 14 days to file an appeal of her sentence.

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