Opportunity there for KPK to take over BLBI probe

The Jakarta Post, 03/22/2008

The national graft body is legally able to take a major corruption investigation away from state prosecutors, a forum has heard.

Asep Iwan Iryawan, a legal expert from Trisakti University in Jakarta, said the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) had the authority to interfere in the investigation into the alleged embezzlement of Bank Indonesia liquidity support (BLBI) funds.

The investigation, currently being conducted by the Attorney General’s Office, deals with the alleged embezzlement of about Rp 144.5 trillion (US$15.3 billion) in BLBI funds.

“There is no legislation that forbids the KPK from taking over the case,” Asep told a forum held by Indonesia Corruption Watch on Wednesday.

“The commission has the power to do that.”

There is mounting pressure for the KPK to take over the BLBI cases following the arrest of prosecutor Urip Tri Gunawan, head of the BLBI investigation team.

Urip was arrested after receiving US$660,000 from businesswoman Artalita Suryani

Artalita was allegedly linked to a substantial BLBI debtor, Sjamsul Nursalim.

The arrests of Artalita and Urip came only a few days after the AGO announced it was halting the BLBI cases against Sjamsul and Anthony Salim because of a lack of evidence.

The KPK is reluctant to move on the opportunity, citing concerns about violating the principle of retroactivity.

However, KPK chairman Antasari Azhar said mounting public pressure would encourage his office to take over the BLBI probe.

Asep said the principle of retroactivity did not operate in the BLBI cases, as corruption had been defined as a crime long before the KPK was established.

“The KPK takeover of the BLBI investigation is only a matter of a transfer of authority and has nothing to do with the principle of retroactivity,” said Asep, a former judge.

Other speakers at the forum, Febri Diansyah from ICW, Arsil from the Institute for Independent Court Study and Advocacy and lawyer Iskandar Sonhadji, joined the call for the KPK to take over the BLBI cases.

Arsil said the country already had a precedent for prosecuting a corruption case that occurred before the establishment of the KPK, namely the investigation into graft involving former Aceh governor Abdullah Puteh.

The case occurred before Law No. 30/2002, the law establishing the KPK, became operational, but the commission was still able to charge Puteh under Law No. 31/1999 on corruption eradication.

Febri said the KPK could launch an investigation into the BLBI scandal even though it occurred before the 1999 anticorruption law came into effect.

“Although BLBI took place in 1998, the KPK can use Law No. 3/1971 on anticorruption,” he said.

Asep said the trial of BLBI debtors would have to continue even though some might have fled overseas.

“The most important thing is to confiscate their assets and determine their legal status,” he said.

The Supreme Court recently acquitted a BLBI debtor who had fled to the United States, David Nusa Widjaja, who had sought a case review. (alf).

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