Indonesia’s corruption court delivered its heaviest sentence to date Thursday, sentencing a senior prosecutor to 20 years’ imprisonment and a Rp500m ($54,300) fine for taking bribes in return for dropping a multi-billion dollar graft investigation.
The jail sentence given to Urip Tri Gunawan was twice the previous harshest in the court’s three-year history.
Analysts praised the “shock therapy” against the prominent representative of an institution that is regularly ranked in surveys of public perceptions as among the most corrupt in the country.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has made fighting endemic corruption a key plank of his platform since election in 2004. While he has had some success, many more plaudits have gone to the independent Anti-Corruption Commission (KPK), which brought the latest case.
Teguh Hariyanto, chief judge in Urip trial, said that corruption, particularly by someone in Mr Urip’s position as head of an investigation into the alleged embezzlement of billions of dollars, was “an extraordinary crime that required an extraordinary punishment”.
Mr Urip was caught coming out of a house owned by tycoon Sjamsul Nursalim with $660,000 in cash shortly after his team dropped a probe into whether the businessman had abused Rp23,500bn ($2.5bn) loaned by the central bank in 1998 to prop up his bank, Bank Dagang Nasional Indonesia, during the Asian financial crisis.
BDNI was lent Rp28,400bn but Mr Nursalim only repaid Rp4,900bn. Albab Setiawan, Mr Urip’s lawyer, said his client would appeal because the judgment was “too severe” and “based on assumptions and not material evidence”.
Artalyta Suryani, who gave Mr Urip the money, was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment in July. Sjamsul Nursalim has fled Indonesia.
The case implicated three other senior prosecutors, including a deputy attorney general, who have been fired but are still awaiting prosecution.
Mr Urip was also convicted of extorting Rp1bn from Glen Yusuf, a former head of the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency.
Emmerson Junto of Indonesian Corruption Watch, a non-governmental organisation, hailed the verdict as “shock therapy for prosecutors”. “This will hopefully be a lesson for the country’s legal apparatus, especially prosecutors, that corruption does not pay,” he said. “It should also be a lesson for other [corruption] suspects to cooperate with authorities because one of the reasons for the harsh sentence was Mr Urip’s refusal to cooperate.”
Transparency International, an organisation that promotes clean governance, rated Indonesia’s legal apparatus as the third most corrupt institution in 2006, behind political parties and parliament, and second in 2007, behind the police.
Additional reporting by Taufan Hidayat