JAKARTA: Indonesia’s anti-corruption agency has named the country’s speaker of parliament as a suspect in a major graft scandal which is estimated to have siphoned around $170 million out of government coffers.
The Corruption Eradication Commission named house speaker Setya Novanto as a suspect late Monday in the giant graft case that has also implicated other senior politicians, including the justice minister, ex-interior minister and several governors.
The head of the commission, Agus Rahardjo, said Novanto “allegedly abused his authority and position for personal gain or for the interest of a corporation.”
Investigators allege that Novanto was among many politicians who received kickbacks from funds earmarked for a government project to issue new ID cards to the country’s 255 million inhabitants.
“The accusations are all untrue,” Novanto told a press conference Tuesday.
Indonesia’s special anti-corruption court has said that more than one-third of the 5.9 trillion rupiah ($443 million) fund was embezzled by a network of politicians and businessmen in a scheme that allegedly ran from 2009 to 2015.
Novanto, who is also the chairman of the ruling coalition party Golkar, is the fourth suspect announced in the case, which could turn into a test of President Joko Widodo’s willingness to take a tough stance against corruption since many of those implicated are government officials.
Novanto was previously named a suspect in another corruption case which forced him to quit as speaker in 2015 when he was accused of extorting a stake from US mining giant Freeport-McMoRan in exchange for extending the company’s right to operate in the archipelago.
He was cleared of the allegations and was reappointed as speaker in 2016.
Indonesia was ranked 90th out of 176 countries and territories in NGO Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index last year. A number one ranking represents the least corrupt.