Indonesian corruption watchdog finds chief guilty of ethics breach in bribery case

Firli Bahuri, a former police general whose 2019 appointment to the KPK’s top post was mired in controversy, has faced several other internal probes over alleged ethical violations, most of which he escaped unscathed.

Nur Janti

Nur Janti

The Jakarta Post


Firli Bahuri (centre), the suspended chairman of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), gestures to waiting reporters on Dec. 21, 2023 as he leaves the offices of the KPK supervisory council in Jakarta. PHOTO: ANTARA/THE JAKARTA POST

December 28, 2023

JAKARTA – The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) supervisory council has handed down a severe punishment recommending that suspended chairman Firli Bahuri resign from his post, after it found that he had committed an ethics violation in relation to the antigraft body’s investigation into Syahrul Yasin Limpo.

At a hearing on Wednesday, the council ruled that Firli had violated the KPK’s code of ethics when he met with Syahrul while the former agriculture minister was being investigated for alleged corruption at the Agriculture Ministry. It deemed the action presented a conflict of interest.

“Firli Bahuri has been proven guilty and convincingly of violating the code of ethics for having close contact with Syahrul Yasin Limpo, whose case is being handled by the KPK, and failing to notify other fellow commissioners,” council chairman Tumpak Hatorangan Panggabean said while reading out the ruling on Wednesday.

The KPK supervisory council also concluded that Firli had met with Syahrul at least three times since the commission started looking into the former minister in 2021, though the formal investigation only commenced in January this year.

The pair first met in February 2021 at a house Firli rented on Jl. Kertanegara in South Jakarta. They met again in May that year at Firli’s private residence in Bekasi, West Java.

Firli and Syahrul’s final meeting took place in March 2022 at a badminton court in West Jakarta, a photo of which went viral after the KPK named Syahrul as a bribery suspect in October.

Syahrul has been in the KPK’s custody since he was named as a suspect for allegedly receiving up to US$10,000 in illicit monthly payments from Agriculture Ministry officials. He and his subordinates are believed to have used the money to pay credit card bills and installments for Syahrul’s private luxury car.

Firli had allegedly maintained close contact with Syahrul since 2021, even when the minister was reported missing after extending his work visit to Europe in October of this year.

In addition, the council found that Firli had failed to submit a complete wealth report as required from 2020 to 2022.

His wealth reports for those years omitted several assets, including several plots of land he had purchased between 2021 and 2022 as well as cash in foreign banknotes totaling Rp 7.8 billion (US$506,143).

Both the 2019 KPK Law and the KPK code of ethics prohibit any of the commission’s employees from directly or indirectly communicating with individuals who are under investigation.

The KPK Law mandates a five-year prison sentence for any commissioner found guilty of violating this provision. Meanwhile, a KPK regulation stipulates punishments for commissioners found to have committed severe ethical violations, which include a recommendation to resign from their position.

Addressing a press briefing after Wednesday’s hearing, council chair Tumpak said that only the president could fire a KPK chairman under the law.

Council member Albertina Ho separately said that the council had send its ruling to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

Firli had previously submitted a resignation letter to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on Dec. 18, but the State Secretariat rejected it, saying it did not conform to procedure.

He then sent another resignation letter on Saturday, to which the palace responded that the letter had been processed under the applicable rules, reported.

While the police have named Firli as a suspect for allegedly extorting money from Syahrul in relation to the KPK’s investigation, they have yet to arrest him.

Firli, a former police general whose 2019 appointment to the KPK’s top post was mired in controversy, has faced several other internal probes over alleged ethical violations, most of which he escaped unscathed.

The one exception before the supervisory council’s latest ruling was in September 2020, when it handed him a written reprimand for showing off a “hedonistic lifestyle” for riding in a helicopter during a private trip in South Sumatra.

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