JAKARTA – Indonesian anti-corruption investigators have arrested the constitutional court’s top judge for allegedly accepting a bribe of more than $250,000, in the country’s latest high-profile graft case, an official said Thursday.
The detention of Chief Justice Akil Mochtar follows the arrest of the country’s top energy regulator in August and a string of corruption cases linked to President Susilo Bambang Yudohoyono’s ruling Democratic Party.
After the latest arrest, which was related to a regional election, Yudhoyono made a rare public statement on the issue, saying: “I can feel the anger and shock shared by the Indonesian people.”
Mochtar, 52, was detained late Wednesday at his Jakarta home as a businessman and lawmaker were allegedly about to hand him around three billion rupiah, said officials from the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).
“The bribery was allegedly linked to a disputed election in Gunung Mas district on Borneo island,” said KPK spokesman Johan Budi.
The election was held on September 4. One of the constitutional court’s main roles is to decide on electoral disputes.
The court was created in 2001 and also hears cases about the constitution and rules on any attempt to impeach the president.
The lawmaker, a member of the Golkar party of former dictator Suharto, and the businessman were also detained at Mochtar’s house.
The head of Gunung Mas district and another man were arrested at a Jakarta hotel soon afterwards, added Budi.
Yudhoyono said 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 took over as the court’s top judge this year and his predecessor Mohammad Mahfud M. D. urged him to “resign immediately without waiting for his sentence”.
“It will be difficult to restore the constitutional court’s image,” he said.
Mochtar’s arrest followed the detention almost two months ago of the country’s chief energy regulator Rudi Rubiandini.
Rubiandini, head of upstream oil and gas regulator SKK Migas, was detained at his Jakarta home for allegedly accepting more than $600,000 in bribes.
Mochtar is a former member of the Golkar party, which is part of the current ruling coalition although it is also seen as one of the main opponents to Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party at elections in 2014.
In the past year, the president’s party has been hit by a flood of corruption scandals that analysts say have seriously undermined its prospects at the elections.
The party’s chairman, treasurer and sports minister have all been caught up in in graft scandals — an embarrassment for Yudhoyono since he won a second term in 2009 partly on a pledge to fight corruption.
The KPK has been granted extraordinary powers to investigate the rich and powerful in Indonesia, including wiretapping suspects and probing bank accounts.
But it faces an uphill battle in a nation ranked 118th out of 176 in Transparency International’s list of least corrupt countries.
It has enjoyed some notable successes however, such as the jailing earlier this month of the former traffic police chief for 10 years after he built up an $18 million empire by accepting enormous bribes.
Djoko Susilo reportedly earned a humble police salary of $1,000 a month — but the country’s anti-graft agency seized assets from him, including houses, cars and even petrol kiosks, worth 200 billion rupiah (around $18 million).