Policeman guard as former Indonesian parliament speaker Setya Novanto (C) attends court for his verdict in Jakarta, Indonesia, April 24, 2018. Photo: Reuters/Beawiharta

With ex-House of Representatives speaker and Golkar party leader Setya Novanto headed to prison for 15 years, Indonesia’s Anti-Corruption Commission (KPK) is now turning its attention to the cast of other high-profile politicians and figures implicated in the country’s most blatant case of theft from the public purse.

Novanto’s sentence on April 24 came at the end of a four-month trial in which he was convicted of playing the leading role in the theft of US$244 million at the prevailing exchange rate from a US$667 million electronic identity card (E-KTP) project in 2009.

Trial testimony revealed that corrupt businessmen involved in the state project scam gifted Novanto with a US$135,000 Richard Mille watch, which he was wearing when US president-to-be Donald Trump notoriously introduced him to supporters in New York in 2015 as “a great man.”

While the once-powerful lawmaker is believed to be the scam’s mastermind, the KPK can hardly stop there given the wide circle of political parties, government officials, politicians and private companies who are also alleged to have benefited from the rip-off.

“From the beginning, the KPK was never going to stop with Setya Novanto,” said commission spokesman Febri Diansyah in an indication that his conviction would provide the basis for further high-profile trials that may continue to rock the nation’s political establishment ahead of next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections.

Then Golkar party leader Setya Novanto shakes hands with its chairman of the board of Aburizal Bakrie in Jakarta, Indonesia, November 28, 2016. Photo: Antara Foto/Rosa Panggabean/via Reuters

Novanto’s initial indictment was scrapped by a district court judge on tenuous legal grounds last September, but the KPK gathered new evidence, including incriminating tapes provided by an E-KTP vendor who subsequently shot himself in a police siege in the US city of Los Angeles.

Even after his indictment the 62-year-old politician continued to elude investigators. At one point he even injured himself in a staged traffic accident after ensuring his staff had pre-booked a room in a nearby hospital.

During the trial, Novanto denied any wrongdoing by pointing a finger instead at others he claimed were involved in a vain attempt to gain leniency as informants. In the end, he had only one year lopped off the term demanded by prosecutors, a sentence most activists thought was already too lenient.

Among those Novanto named was Human Development Coordinating Minister Puan Maharani, daughter of ruling Indonesia Democrat Party for Struggle (PDI-P) leader Megawati Sukarnoputri, whom he claimed had received US$500,000.

Maharani, 44, who only began her political career as an elected legislator from Central Java in 2009, is not yet among the scam’s list of suspects. Neither is Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung, another PDI-P legislator Novanto accused of being a beneficiary.

PDI-P legislator Pramono Agung in a file photo. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

One of Novanto’s fellow conspirators, businessman Made Oka Masagung, later denied the pair were involved and Vice President Jusuf Kalla weighed in as well, saying Masagung had never visited Novanto to report they had shared in the spoils.

Novanto is the fourth defendant to be found guilty in the case after jail terms were handed down to two senior home affairs ministry officials and two businessmen. But amid public expectations of further arrests, there are plenty of others who are now sweating over what may happen next.

The scandal first surfaced in 2013 when corruption convict Muhammad Nazaruddin, 39, the former treasurer of president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democrat Party, implicated Novanto and other politicians in 30 government projects where he claimed the budgets had been rigged.

Up until Nazaruddin’s emergence as the country’s first high-profile whistle-blower, the case had gone unnoticed. It took another four years before KPK prosecutors revealed that 37 members of the 2009-2014 parliamentary home affairs commission were under investigation.

Among those still to face questioning in the far-reaching case is former home affairs minister Gamawan Fauzi, 60, whose ministry initiated the project and who allegedly received US$4.5 million, a shop-house and other property, according to trial testimony.

The ministry’s then-secretary general, Diah Anggraini, the alleged recipient of US$2.7 million, campaigned tirelessly against the 2013 Bureaucracy Reform Law which among other things prescribes dismissal for civil servants accused of ethical violations and incompetence.

A woman holds a large stack of Indonesian rupiah bank notes in a street in Jakarta, April 27, 2018. Reuters/Willy Kurniawan

Fauzi was regarded as a new breed of democratic-era politician, a popular district chief and then governor in his native West Sumatra who became the first regional official to be selected for a Cabinet post and the first non-military figure to fill the home affairs portfolio since the 1950s.

He isn’t the only well-regarded politician apparently chewed up by a system that refuses to reform and literally places more value on personal and party interests than national ones.

Others include former sports minister Andi Mallarangeng, 55, now free after serving four years in jail for corruption, and Anas Urbaningrum, 48, an ex-Democrat Party chairman still serving an eight-year term for the same offense and who is accused of receiving 574 billion rupiah from the E-KTP scam as well.

While the once-powerful lawmaker is believed to be the scam’s mastermind, the KPK can hardly stop there given the wide circle of political parties, government officials, politicians and private companies who are also alleged to have benefited from the rip-off

Both had been part of the idealistic team of young academics which gathered each night at a South Jakarta governance institute in late 1998 to work on drafting the country’s post-Suharto political reforms.

President Joko Widowo’s PDI-P has two political heavyweights in the firing line – current Justice Minister Yasonna Laoly, who allegedly received US$84,000 and Central Jakarta Governor Ganjar Pranowo, now running for a second term despite claims he took US$520,000.

They are likely to be joined by former PDI-P treasurer Olly Dondakambey, a three-term legislator currently running for governor of his native North Sulawesi, who is alleged to have received US$1.2 million as a key member of the home affairs commission.

Others named in the Novanto trial were former Golkar Party chairman Ade Komarudin, 52, a four-term parliamentarian, fellow legislator Markus Nari, 54, and National Conscience Party (Hanura) lawmaker Miryam Haryani, 44, now serving a five-year sentence for perjury after retracting evidence she gave against the now disgraced Golkar ex-leader.

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