Indonesia's former speaker gets 15 years in jail for corruption

SA prison. (Jackie Clausen, Gallo Images, Sunday Times)
SA prison. (Jackie Clausen, Gallo Images, Sunday Times)

Indonesia's former parliament speaker was handed a 15-year prison term on Tuesday in a victory for an ongoing clamp-down on widespread corruption.

Setya Novanto, once among the country's most influential politicians, had been accused of taking millions in kickbacks and bribes linked to the national roll-out of government ID cards.

His months-long trial came after a string of manoeuvres – including allegedly faking an injury in a car crash – that critics say the 62-year-old used to dodge serious charges.

Prosecutors had demanded a 16-year sentence, some $7.4m in fines and the seizure of Novanto's considerable assets if he failed to pay the penalty.

Novanto, who had managed to sidestep corruption allegations in the past, was accused of playing a key role in embezzlement from the $440m ID card project, with some $170m disappearing from state coffers.

Several other politicians, government officials and businessmen have been charged in the scandal.

Corruption is rife

The scope of the claims shocked many Indonesians even by standards of one of the world's most corrupt countries, where payoffs and bribes are rife at all levels of society and endemic in many state agencies, including the police force.

Novanto, who dodged questioning by Indonesia's anti-corruption agency for months, was arrested in hospital in November after he claimed to have been injured in a car crash.

The reported accident came shortly after a failed raid on his palatial estate in a ritzy part of the capital.

The verdict comes several years after the former chief justice of Indonesia's constitutional court, Akil Mochtar, was jailed for life after being found guilty of accepting bribes to issue favourable verdicts in local election disputes.

It was the heaviest ever sentence for corruption in the graft-riddled Southeast Asian nation.

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