Top Indonesian judge arrested in US$250,000 bribery case

By Presi Mandari,AFP

JAKARTA — Indonesian anti-corruption investigators have arrested the constitutional court’s top judge for allegedly accepting a bribe of more than US$250,000 in a case linked to a disputed election, an official said Thursday. It was the latest high-profile corruption case in one of the world’s most graft-ridden countries, and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono expressed shock in rare public comments on the issue. “I can feel the anger and shock shared by the Indonesian people,” he said. Chief Justice Akil Mochtar was detained late Wednesday at his Jakarta home shortly after a businessman and lawmaker allegedly handed him around three billion rupiah, said Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) spokesman Johan Budi. “The bribery was allegedly linked to a disputed election in Gunung Mas district on Borneo island,” said Budi. The election was held on Sept. 4. One of the constitutional court’s main roles is to decide on electoral disputes. The lawmaker, a member of the Golkar party of former dictator Suharto, and businessman were also detained at Mochtar’s house, he said.

The head of Gunung Mas district and another man were arrested at a Jakarta hotel soon afterwards, added Budi. “The questioning of the five men is still under way,” he added. Yudhoyono said that constitutional court judges “have a very important role. They are required to have high integrity and are also expected to have the capacity to decide disputes properly. “The constitutional court’s ruling is final and binding… can you imagine if they make a wrong decision or if there’s a violation of their ruling?”

Mochtar’s arrest followed the detention in August of the country’s chief energy regulator Rudi Rubiandini and after several members of the president’s Democratic Party were caught up in corruption scandals. However Mochtar is a former Golkar party member. Golkar is in the current ruling coalition but seen as one of the main opponents to Yudhoyono’s party at upcoming elections. Rubiandini, head of upstream oil and gas regulator SKK Migas, was detained at his Jakarta home for allegedly accepting more than US$600,000 in bribes. In the past year, the president’s party has been hit by a flood of corruption scandals that analysts say have seriously undermined the party’s prospects at elections in 2014.