July 6, 2023
JAKARTA – The Attorney General’s Office (AGO) is expanding its investigation into the graft-ridden 4G base transceiver station (BTS) project to look into other related crimes and perpetrators as three more suspects in the case are indicted.
The initial corruption probe into the BTS project was launched in July 2022, and the office of the assistant attorney general for extraordinary crimes (Jampidsus) has recently started probing money-laundering schemes potentially linked to the project.
It is now looking into whether attempts were made to impede the probe into the BTS project, following a statement from a suspect who claimed that he had paid a number of government officials to thwart the investigation.
“We will summon and investigate more people as long as they are linked to the case. The probe is still ongoing, we’re still learning and evaluating the information we have and whether or not we can further the investigation,” Jampidsus investigation director Kuntadi told the press on Monday.
Among the witnesses recently questioned in relation to the alleged obstruction of justice is Youth and Sports Minister Dito Ariotedjo, a politician from the Golkar Party who was serving as a special staffer for Coordinating Economic Minister Airlangga Hartarto at the time of the BTS graft scandal.
Dito maintained that he was not at all involved in the corruption, adding that he was happy to have an opportunity to explain the situation to the AGO investigators.
The 4G telephony project, which falls under the Communications and Information Ministry, is believed to have cost the state some Rp 8 trillion (US$533 million) in losses and has led to the removal of former communications minister Johny G. Plate, a NasDem Party politician.
Read also: AGO grills sports minister Dito
The AGO has brought a total of six individuals, including Johnny, before the Jakarta Corruption Court for either corruption or money laundering offenses. However, speculation continues to swirl around the possible involvement of even more perpetrators.
The latest rumor points to the alleged involvement in the scandal of Happy Hapsoro Sukmonohadi, the husband of House of Representatives Speaker Puan Maharani of the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).
The rumor emerged after the AGO named late last month Muhammad Yusrizki Muliawan as the eighth and latest suspect in the case.
Yusrizki is the president director of PT Basis Utama Prima, the company that provided the solar panels for the botched BTS project and in which Happy owns a 99 percent stake, according to Tempo.co.
The party’s lawyer Yanuar Wasesa has vehemently denied the allegation, calling it an attempt “to attack the PDI-P ahead of the 2024 general election”.
The corruption trials of three individuals who represented the project’s vendors opened on Tuesday, with prosecutors accusing them of colluding with government officials to manipulate the rules so specific vendors could win the BTS procurement auction at marked-up prices. They also charged the three separate defendants with money laundering and unlawfully enriching themselves and others.
Among them was Irwan Hermawan, the president director of PT Solitechmedia Synergy. He reportedly told AGO investigators during questioning that one of the recipients of the hush money was a man named Dito who had received a total of Rp 27 billion in November and December last year.
It remains unclear whether this “Dito” was in fact Dito Arietedjo, and Irwan’s lawyer claimed that his client only mentioned the initials of the “hush money” recipients.
Golkar executive Dave Laksono was not immediately available to comment on Irwan’s reported statement when contacted by The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.
The two other defendants are Galumbang Menak Simajuntak, the president director of telecom infrastructure company PT Mora Telematika Indonesia, and Mukti Ali, an account director at ICT infrastructure provider PT Huawei Tech Investment.
At an arraignment on June 27 at the Jakarta Corruption Court, prosecutors indicted Johnny for accepting Rp 17.8 billion in kickbacks from vendors and contractors in exchange for approving inflated quotations on the cost of building BTS towers. Prosecutors said the illicit compensation included golf outings and trips to Barcelona, London and Paris.
On Tuesday, Johnny’s lawyers lodged the defense’s objections to the charges, saying the former minister had no ill-gotten money in his possession.
In a separate hearing on the same day, Anang Achmad Latif, who is accused of accepting Rp 5 billion in kickbacks and laundering the money, presented his formal objections to the prosecution’s charges brought against him last week.
Anang is the president director of the Telecommunications and Information Accessibility Agency (BAKTI), an agency under the communications ministry that leads the graft-mired 4G BTS project.
Last week also saw the commencement of the corruption trial of Yohan Suryanto, a human development expert from the University of Indonesia, who has been accused of falsifying research to support the project’s marked-up prices. (nal/ipa)